Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Everyone I Needed To Meet, I Met In ...

Some more fun topics for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week!
1.) How did you meet your best friend?
(inspired by Kati from Country Girl, City Life)

2.) What are you feeling guilty about? or Memories of your childhood home.
(inspired by Josie from Sleep Is For The Weak)

3.) Tell why you are ecstatic "The one that got away" got away.
(inspired via twitter by Jay from Halftime Lessons)

4.) Have you found your bliss? What path did you take to get there? or are you still searching)
(inspired by Carma from Carma Sez)

5.) Create a conversation between one of these three couples:
(inspired by myself)

Since I have a bit more time this week, let's take a stab at all five topics.

#1 - How I met my best friend applies to most of my friends. The candidates for best friend are all people I met in school - be it grade school, junior high, high school, or college. Given that school is also how I met L, it seems that everyone in my life must have some connection with school.  I'll limit my description to my friend Tom.

Tom and I first met in grade school via wrestling and football. He attended a different grade school and so his team was one of the rivals of my team. In junior high school, we drifted into a state of apathetic "non-entity-ship". It was strange because I was also developing a respect for him. We'd have discussions on the team bus back from matches and he seemed to have a more interesting outlook on life than most ne'er-do-wells. (Which even Tom would admit described him at the time.) 

Tom and I went from apathy to dislike to outright hatred over the course of high school. I attribute much of that to the effects of Tom's growing alcohol addiction. Of course I didn't have a clue about the alcoholism at the time. The relationship reached its nadir when I almost killed him one day our sophomore year.

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

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

#2 - I'm not feeling guilty about anything at the moment so that is a non-starter. The childhood home could refer to any of several abodes that I remember from roughly age 2 up. We lived in the basement of a house with big wagon wheels for a fence in my earliest memories. The wheels fascinated me and were painted white and green. Although the house still stands, the wagon wheels are long gone now.  The first house all our own was a small stucco house with a paned picture window that overlooked a dry-land wheat and sunflower field. I remember flying kites and playing with the neighbors. I also remember that the rural paper delivery guy kept trowing the paper through the picture window, breaking the glass panes all the time. That house still stands, but has been remodeled to the extent that is is almost unrecognizable. Then just before kindergarten, we moved to a small town in Nebraska. But that is a story for another time. (If you are interested, here is the story of my first day of school in the small Nebraska town.)

#3 - I'm not sure that I really have one who got away. I was lucky and got the one I wanted when I me L in high school. I suppose the closest to the one who got away would be a young lady named Loretta who went by the nickname Lori or (when she wasn't in the room) Luscious. I met her at a summer science institute in my junior year of high school. She lived in Denver, and we carried on a {*gasp*} snail mail correspondence for about a year. I only saw her once more after that summer, and that was when I was in Denver with another friend from the science institute and we dropped by her house to say hi. I think she was trying to impress us when she answered the door in her cheerleader uniform. {*grin/2*}

Why am I thankful that Luscious got away? Let me count the ways:
  1. She was only four feet tall. I am 6'5". Let's just say the chiropractor's bills would have been stupendous.
  2. She was always correcting my Latin declensions in the post scripts of our correspondence.
  3. And last but not least, she went stark raving bonkers. The last time we talked was a phone call while I was in graduate school (and already married to L) in which she was undergoing a psychiatric schism in the telephone booth at a truck stop. She had somehow found me via her mother (who was a Bell Telephone operator) and talked for several hours. Then she abruptly said she had to go and that was the last time I ever heard from her.

#4 - I don't think anyone ever truly finds their bliss. The very act of finding bliss leads to a redefinition of what bliss is. Trust me on this one. Bliss is a lot like quantum mechanics - when you think you understand is when you are most likely to be wrong.

#5 - Couple conversations.

She: Just because you are 7 feet tall, weight 400 pounds, and are built like a brick outhouse doesn't mean you can stare at my butt! My boyfriend will pound you to a pulp!

He: <silence>.

He: I tell you there was a sprinkler head right here yesterday!

She: I don't see one.

He: But there was! I think the neighbors stole it last night.

She: Do I need to call your shrink again?

She: What do you think you're doing?

He: What do you think I'm doing?

She: I have too much to do at work to fool around. Stop it!

He: Fool around? I was just licking off the grape jelly junior smudged on your neck before you left for work!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Popourri Of Oddness

Yippeeeeee - no jury duty for me today. When I called last night, the trial was indeed called off. So I missed out on the coffee and donuts, but my health thanks me for that.

Tonight was a preliminary look at the budget for the city. In one of those strange oddities that I have never understood, the budget for next year will be set and the public hearing held and the budget adopted just before the new mayor and council are seated. So the newbies get an already done budget when they are seated. Of course, they could chose to start over, but I cannot remember ever hearing of a newly seated council wanting to open that can of worms. Not to mention that by statute, the budget has to have been set, public hearings held, and the budget adopted all within a two week period. Thus we have work sessions like this to kick the tires and get the glitches fixed before the clock starts ticking with the official "presentation" of the budget. Are you bored enough yet?

(As I type this, my station is playing Cream's White Room. Given the stellar music Cream produced in the short time they hung together, I've always wondered what heights they would have scaled if they could have stood each other for just a bit longer. Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce were the epitome of heavy music of the period. And perhaps the greatest guitarist, drummer, and bassist of the time all in one band. One relatively unknown pleasure I still love from college was Baker-Gurvitz Army, Ginger Baker's follow on group. And of course you already know I love Clapton.)

So here is a set for your enjoyment! First up Cream and "White Room":

Followed by a little up tempo "People" by Baker-Gurvitz Army from my graduate school days:

And then for the penultimate experience of the music of the time - Cream with "Sunshine of Your Love" (check out the facial expressions on Ginger during his drum moments and contrast that with the early heroin addition glaze of Clapton):

My job here is done. Time to get ready for the radio show in the morning.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Good Graces Return.

Sunday morning I was a panelist on an interesting panel on rural economic development and community involvement. My fellow panelists were the president of the local community college and the executive director of the local economic development corporation. One of the reasons for our presence is that we have created a very successful economic development effort out here in the flatlands that is a partnership between the city, the county, the community college, and businesses.

Our audience was the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union "Leaders of the Future" group. The group consists of people in the 20-30 year old range that have been selected by their (predominantly) rural communities as the next generation of leadership material. So the Farmer's Union hauls them off to a series of "best of" and "good examples" over a year in the hope they will import and use the knowledge in their own communities.

All in all a fun morning with some very good questions and lively discussion. But the really ironic part is that less than three years ago this city and I personally were the target of the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union's (RFMU) wrath over the topic of water rights law. They didn't like the fact that we were standing up for enforcing the water law equally across all water right holders and users - they wanted preference to farms that had in truth tried to pull a fast one and got caught. But now we have had a couple of years for the truth to come out fully about what was really happening and all of a sudden the city and I are back in good graces (and occasionally even applauded for doing the right thing). It's a classic example of the fickle nature of attacks related to politics - the person or entity under attack today on the basis of incomplete or incorrect information or understanding may be the hero for exactly the same stance tomorrow. It's one of the reasons that anyone in a leadership position has to expect the arrows in the back and be able to continue on in spite of the pain. It is the hardest concept to get across to people who spot the bleeding back and wonder how you can go on. {*grin*}

In any case, I'll close with an interesting problem brought before the panelists Sunday. A gentleman from a county near Denver wanted to know how to overcome the problems associated with the proximity of a large city on what is and will probably forever be a rural county (too mountainous for much more development landwise). From our point of view, we are far enough from the front range to avoid those problems. But in this gentleman's case, the county only has two incorporated towns and they are both well below the 200 person level. But, there is a population of 1000s that live in the unincorporated tip of the county and commute to Denver and environs to work and shop and ... And because they have an income level very different than the rest of the county, they skew the census data to make it look like the average person in the county makes a very large income, which means that the vast majority of the county is ineligible for any type of grant or aid programs to help with development. In fact, he mentioned that the county did a survey and people living in the commuting tip could not even name the two towns in the county. It makes the problems of a truly rural area like this seem easy to handle in comparison.

Time to call the number and see if I have jury duty tomorrow or if the case has been called. I hope it has been called off since we have a city council work session on the budget tomorrow night that will need a clear mind. Besides, it is county court and getting empaneled while in office is about as likely as a lawyer getting impaneled on a district court jury, so all I'd do is go kill a few hours eating donuts and drinking coffee. Healthier to stay out of it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Five Upcoming Events

It's time once more for

Five Upcoming Events

  • Grand Opening of the Xeriscape Gardens Project
  • Five Year Anniversary Open House of The Legacy (assisted living center)
  • District 1 Colorado Municipal League Meeting - My last meeting as President
  • Jury Duty for Me - Next Tuesday no less
and finally, and perhaps the most important
  • My One Year Blogoversary. I started blogging on September 25th, 2008. Now 311 posts later I am still at it. Too bad for you! {*grin*}

For extra credit, what do the first three events have in common? The answer is in the first comment.

The Case Of The Missing Post

Some more fun topics for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week!

This weeks topics:
1) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

2) Moxie is defined as the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage; bold energy. Describe a time when you showed moxie.

3) Write a poem about a loved one who has shown you moxie. What have you learned from them?

4) If you were a super hero, what would your super power be and why?

5) A superhero can save you from what ails you....what is your request?

(I got this far last night before heading off to a meeting. When I got back from the meeting, I laid down and didn't wake up until this morning. In the panic of getting going this morning, i completely spaced finishing this post. So for this week, please journey over to Mama Kat's Linky and read away. Thanks.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Too Much To Do Tuesday

Tonight will be a quick post since the pre-council meeting and then the council meeting with the water issue public hearing took up a lot of time. At least the public hearing went well. We had people from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) present to explain what happens if the issue doesn't pass on the ballot and the engineers present to detail all the options and treatment methods we considered and their estimated costs, etc. There were less than a half-dozen citizens that testified and asked questions, so I think the public informational meetings along the way really helped. But we did have a nearly full council chambers for only the third time in the last 6 years.

When I came home, it was really beginning to rain and the temperature was already down to 45. The higher altitudes to the east (up around and beyond Denver) were predicted to get snow tonight. I guess fall really is here. Of course when I got home, Molly was waiting and wanted to go out. So I let her out and went to grab a towel or two. There are few things less pleasant than an affectionate greeting from a soaking wet long haired dog, towels in hand or not.

Molly told me about her day as I fixed my late supper. Her discription consisted mostly of woofs and growls from what I could understand. There were also squeaks of the chew toy and a few low rider sprints through the house as well. Of course, as soon as I sat down at the table, she wanted to rest her wet head on my lap.  I'll leave it to you to imagine just how thrilling that is.

Finally, two readers have signed up to follow my twitter account in the last week. Proof positive that people have too much time on their hands. If you want to follow, I'll save you all the detective work of those two - I am djones666 on twitter. Just be forewarned that I twit (note that I called it a twit, not a tweet) very seldom and on very random topics. Someday I may even put a button over on the side to let people follow, but for right now you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.

Time to put together a couple of notes for the radio show in the morning and then hit the sack. Probably better get the names of the CDPHE people written down so I can attribute them correctly. {*grin*}

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Is Coming!

Today is definitely a harbinger of the fall to come. Saturday for the garage sale and yesterday for my booth duty at Sugar Beet Days, it was in the 80s and sunny. Later in the day yesterday it turned rainy and started cooling off. Today it drizzled most of the morning and reached a high of 54 degrees as the northern cold front settled in. Definitely fall weather. L reported that it was snowing in the mountains today. Fortunately, it is supposed to be back in the 70s by the weekend and not freeze yet down here, although it will be in 30s the next several nights. Guess we picked the ideal day for the garage sale!

In the aftermath of the garage sale, it's amazing how one finds odds and ends laying about the house that were intended to be in the garage sale but never quite got hauled out. Oh well, it gives one a start on the stuff for the next sale seven years hence. After a day of no more heavy lifting, my knees are returning to normal.

Tomorrow is yet another public hearing on the water issue here in the city. This one will feature the engineering report on the technical details of the new treatment plant. Other meetings have have concentrated on the community impacts and and non-technical overviews. It will be interesting to see what the tenor of those who actually attend this meeting will be. Engineering reports tend to be a bit dry {*grin*}, but they also attract all the "but if you just did this illegal thing or that illegal thing it would be cheaper" crowds. Because of the size of this project, we had two separate engineering firms look at the plan and estimate the construction costs. They were in agreement to less than 1% on a $27 million dollar project. That tells me the numbers are right and have little wiggle room.

In any case, the engineers and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will be in town and so I'll be tied up in meetings before the council meeting and public hearing. Given the full agenda to follow the public hearing at the city council meeting, it may be a late evening. (Just in case you are wondering, CDPHE is the agency responsible for administering the EPA front line enforcement in Colorado. They have been a good organization to work with thus far - I often feel sorry for them and the EPA heat they have to take through no fault of their own).

It will be interesting to see if the young man who called me last night to inquire when we met for city council will be in attendance. He needed to attend a council meeting for one of his Boy Scout requirements. I got a laugh out of it since I sit on the committee for another troop and knew exactly what requirement he was working on. I still asked him to explain it to me and he did a very good job. That's why it will be interesting to meet the young man. I was reminded of his call since I was preparing a proclamation for another young man's Eagle Scout ceremony next week. (I issue proclamations for Boy and Girl Scouts who reach the highest rank - it's my personal abuse of the power of mayor if you will. Actually, the power of proclamation is one of the few unfettered powers a mayor has. My policy has always been that if it isn't illegal or immoral, I'll probably proclaim it.)

Time to resume cleaning up the aftermath of moving out the junk fine consumer goods for the sale. In other news, I got lucky enough to get a password into the second level of the Rockies ticket raffle for the playoffs. L and the Son both got the "Thanks, but you lose" emails. Maybe I am heading into a streak of good luck. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Great Garage Sale of '09

Time for another rare weekender from me. That is partially because I am too tired and sore to do much else and partially because the helpers (Hi mom, MIL, L, and Marlene) want to see how the pictures turned out.

Our great garage sale of '09 was slated to open at 8am, but that meant little to the pushy-loos who tried to get early cherry picking rights. {*grin*} As I was setting up tables shortly before 7am, the first of the people I had to tell repeatedly that we didn't open until 8am came driving up. In any case, by 8am it looked like this:

(Note my MIL heading back to the cashiers table and my mom in the blue jacket putting the finishing touches on the items on one of the tables. Also note that yopu can see a lot more detail if you click on the pictures and look at the full resolution version.)
A view of some of the other stuff as the crowd mills about, anxious for me to proclaim that we are open for business  These picture omit the furniture we also had for sale. Big heavy furniture. Furniture I got to move yesterday and then later today as people came to pick it up.

When I finally proclaimed us open for business, one of the ladies in the crowd would have made any linebacker proud. She quickly grabbed a color TV, a VCR, a DVD Player, and shouted she wanted the water cooler as well. She did all this while talking on her cell phone calling for the large transport support (her mate driving a pickup truck). Sales and visiting stayed brisk for the next several hours. (After all, one of the real points of garage sales in a small town is to visit with everyone!)

By the time the steady rush was slowing down around 10:30, we had sold a lot of the junk solid consumer goods on hand. Part of my collection of mice and engineering books were still available, along with some old computers and printers and decorative doodads.

Over the next hour a lot of this stuff sold as well. The chalk board was a late addition to the field since we forgot to put it out. It had been sitting in a family room closet for years, untouched by human hands. In fact, when we pulled it out, it had this on it:

It had been a back prop for a play/movie by the Son and Sarah, his cousin from Connecticut. To give you an idea of how long it sat there, the Son is now in college and Sarah started college this fall and this had to have been during their grade school years. Because we put it out so late, no one bought it and we got to keep it for another timeless string of years. Probably just as well since L and MIL were both pretty sentimental about it.

Spent the afternoon cleaning up and packing the remaining stuff suitable for charitable donation up to wait for the time later in the month when they are in town. Time now for me to to sit back and get ready for tomorrow since I have booth duty all day at the local Sugar Beet Days (harvest festival) for the EMS Authority ballot issue. I'll see some of you there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Garage Sale Ho!

It's Friday and I'm in the throes of preparing for our once every seven years garage sale. Thus it's time for

Five Hazards Of  Garage Sales

  • Seeing just how much junk you have accumulated. Neotoma cinerea has nothing on me.
  • Realizing that many of the items you treasure for their emotional importance to you are quite literally priceless - as in no one would pay a wooden nickel for them.
  • Finding that particular doodad you stored away so carefully so that you wouldn't have to buy a new one when the one in use died. Of course you have already replaced said doodad several times, buying a new one each time because you couldn't find the one you so carefully stored away.
  • Feeling gritty and dirty because of all the dust you keep digging through in the stacks of junk that hasn't seen the light of day for years. After all, who moves and dusts their junk stacks unless it is time for a garage sale?
  • Dreading the coming of the Saturday morning early-lookie-loos. You know, the people who believe that if you said you were opening at 8am, they should be able to stop in and cherry pick at 7am. The same people who will ring your doorbell continuously until you stumble to the door at 6:45am just to inquire if you won't let them have a quick look before they start lobbying for the 7am cherry feeding frenzy. Those people.

What I'd Really Like To Know

Some more fun topics for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week!

My time is short as I sort out junk priceless items for our garage sale this weekend. After all, who knew I had more than twenty old mice in a cupboard, even some that might be computer antiques. It is not like I will be using them in the future - some of them even have the old serial port interface. Try and find a modern computer with a nine-pin serial port in this day and age. {*grin*} But someone may find them useful for building their next robot!

Because of the time situation, I am going to break with my tradition and only going to address one of the topics this week. But you should hurry over to Mama Kat's and join in the fun while I dredge yet more junk priceless items up to display and sell.

4.) If your pet could talk, what would you want to know? (inspired by KK from Kamp KK (but not the KKK))

First off, i suspect Molly would take issue with the idea that she can't talk. After all, if someone can gaze at you with these guilt inducing peepers, how can you claim they can't talk?

In any case, here are three things I'd really appreciate Molly deigning to answer for me. It's not that I haven't asked her, it's more that I haven't been able to grok the answer. (Go ahead and look that word up, we'll wait. To all the Heinlein fans out there who caught the reference, let us share water!)

The first question is simple: Why do you find it vitally important to try and herd the birds and squirrels in the back yard? It's not like you have any purpose in bouncing around like mad trying to get them to obey you. Admittedly, it may serve as your doggie version of a daily aerobics class - after all, jumping higher than your head a few hundred times a day has to keep you in pretty good shape. But you are a much smarter dog than that. You have to have figured out by now that you cannot reach the power line where the squirrels run to and fro and you certainly can't catch the birds as they twit back and forth.

The second question is a bit more philosophical: What do you think about as you spend hours scanning the horizon? I know that you are hoping that a bunch of sheep will suddenly materialize in front of you to fulfill your inbred herding fantasies, but like me and my fantasy of a beautiful harem of lovely ladies suddenly appearing in my den, it just isn't going to happen. We're both old enough to realize that now. So why do you sit and stare for hours like this?

And finally, what is it that turns you from she-who-must-investigate-everything and she-who-must-protect-all-in-her-domain into the quivering mass of nerves acting like a needy 2 year old when there is thunder in the area. It's not that I don't enjoy the quivering wet nose on my leg. It's not that I dislike the whimpering and the putting of your head and then paws on me to make sure I'm ready to give you reassurance. But it just doesn't fit in with the fearless way you investiate every thing you see and the protective way you guard L and myself from the unknown. Besides, it leaves you so worn out after the storm. It's really hard to see you looking so wasted after the storm has passed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Contentious Evening

Tonight I was a speaker at a voter information meeting about the city water treatment plan and then the proposed county wide EMS Authority. The meeting was contentious and full of hot air from all sides. What really gets my goat is that we have been holding public meetings and talking to the press about the water issues for the last three years and yet none of the armchair idiots concerned citizens was willing to even attend a single engineering meeting, council meeting, meeting with the EPA, heck, even a meeting with me. Now that it is clear what the whole issue will do to water rates (raise them to a level similar to other communities in the area for a start), the people are up in arms.

What really bothers me is that they don't seem to grasp that this is a no win situation where trying to deny the issue just makes it worse and more costly. Some points are conceded by all sides:
1) The EPA standard is capricious and has no scientific basis.
2) Treating to handle 1) will obviate the need for home water softeners and reverse osmosis units.
After that, it is a toxic mix of coffee shop rumor and non-thinking knee jerk reactions. The plain facts are:
1) We are under EPA edict to do this. It is not an "if you want to", it is a "it will be done on this timeline" situation.
2) If we don't start construction by the end of the year, we can be declared non-conformant by the EPA.
3) If we are declared so, then a whole bunch of bad things happen and we still have to do it, but with no help and no time. That basically means a $29 million dollar effort will become an estimated $110 million dollar court ordered action with no ability to control costs.
So all the aforementioned armchair idiots concerned citizens get up and rant about how we should show those government people who we are and how we should get Obama $$$ to do this, etc. The last city who tried to show those EPA and government critters is 150 miles from here. It looks like people would have at least followed the news as that city's $18 million dollar water treatment plan became a $72 million dollar court supervised disaster that had to be built in 6 months (by court decree) which doubled the cost yet again. All because the voters were going to show those government people. Seems to me the government showed them - and left them paying for it for a long, long time.

The real stick (there is no carrot) in all this is not the fines ($2000 to $20,000 per day) if we don't get voter approval to do this. It is not that we are the only city in Colorado with a charter provision requiring us to get voter approval for revenue bonds (bonds issued against water plant revenues - in any other city it is already a done deal and construction has already started which reduces the costs appreciably to meet the EPA deadline). It is not even the fact that the mayor may be jailed for being in contempt of federal court for being the nominal leader of the non-compliance rebellion. (After all, I am term limited out in November, it won't be me! {*grin*}) No, the real issue is that if a town like ours is declared non-conformant, we become ineligible for *all* federal funds (like fire and security and 911 systems and ...) and FHA and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financing of real estate sales is prohibited. And property cannot be sold without going through a lot of hoops even if no bank financing is needed. And that in turn kills business financing since they can't use their property as collateral. So during the months while everything sorts itself out in court and the treatment plant is built under court supervision and time line, the town goes through throes that might kill it and the very livelihoods of those same people who are going to tell the government to take a hike.

All I have to say is that I sure hope the sane voters who understand what the consequences are come out to vote. Actually, I hope they put marker to paper in timely manner since the county wide vote this year is by mail-in ballot only.

In any case, another 3 hours of my life wasted and I get to do it again tomorrow afternoon. And all for $500/month whether I like it or not. Just declare me insane now and send out the men with the big butterfly nets! I'll be waiting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Short and sweet

Now that the Monday night double header of pro football is over, I can drop a few words off here.

Spent part of the afternoon mowing the lawn that I couldn't this weekend and then picking tomatoes from the garden. You can tell fall is fast arriving. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash are about all that is left in growing fettle. Picked the first of the winterish squash today and it was delicious. Maybe it will make up for the fact that our acorn squash crop looks like it might not make it before the freeze. Not only did we have a heck of a time getting the plants to grow at all this year, they have been really slow to fruit and mature. It has been an especially odd year for cantaloupes and watermelons, they are still not fully ripe and normally they are mostly harvested by this time. I suspect our lone surviving Honey Dew plant with a number of melons will not get them ready before the frost comes.We will see.

Time to get back to putting things together. I have a couple of machines in pieces strewn about the place and need to put them back together before I lose some parts. Not that I'm saying Molly might run off with them. {*grin*}

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meloncholy Fall and Dogs Of Our History

A definite tang of fall was in the air today. The cold front came in and the temperature never got much above 60 for most of the day. To top it off, it drizzled for major portions of the day. So much for my plan to mow the lawn today! As I buried my ears in the joy of listening to a couple of football games and occupied my hands sorting out junk valuable stuff for our upcoming garage sale, fall was in my mind.

One of the more interesting pictures I came across as I sorted was of our first dog, Sam (short for Samantha). That set me to thinking of all three dogs we have had over the 30+ years we have been married.

Our first dog was Sam:
We got Sam from the Los Angeles dog pound as a puppy. She was a mixed breed pit bull who was extremely loyal, like most of her breed. We choose her because she looked like she needed us the most - turned out that she was sick and the vet had to give her a few shots to bring her roaring back to full on friskiness.

The first night we had her, we put her in the kitchen with a plywood barrier to keep her in the kitchen since the rest of the place was carpeted. When we got up in the morning and came downstairs, who was out of the kitchen but Sam. She had considerately jumped over the barrier so she could poop on the carpet rather than dirty the kitchen. {*grin*}

We thought we'd lose Sam when she went through teething. She ate an entire wooden doghouse and didn't leave a scrap. We spend days anxiously waiting for her to die from an internal splinter. Sam was with us for years, until a bit after the the birth of the Son. Arthritis finally cut her spine and we had to put her to sleep.

Next came Beau (King Beauregard III):
The story of how Beau came to be with us was told here. Beau was with us from the time he was about three until his death of old age. He went from normal to deathly ill in just a couple of days. Beau lived a very long life for his breed and when he went down, it was fast. This was the dog that the Son was most deeply attached to.

Finally, we come to the current dog, Molly:
We got her from the local humane society. She is a border collie mix and quite a change from the sight indifference of Beau. If she can see it, she thinks she should be able to herd it. So not only is she the first sight hound we've had, she is also the first long hair. The long hair I could live without, but even short hairs of the breed shed a lot. I guess you just have to live with all the hair to have one of the most intelligent dog breeds. Sort of like people - you might have to live with a few warts to get the other good things.

Time to get back to the junk valuable stuff sorting. {*grin*}

Friday, September 11, 2009

Five Odd Words ...

It's Friday and thus time for

Five Odd Words In Common Usage
  • Doodad
  • Thingamajig
  • Doohickey
  • Whatchamacallit
  • Widget

Just so you understand how odd these words are, let's look at some of the definitions of doodad:
  1. An un-nameable gadget of some sort, possibly highly technical.
  2. Another meaning for father or dad.
  3. A father of Indian descent.
  4. For when you use thingamajig too much: used to refer to an object you can't remember name for.
  5. "Doodad" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective. Adjective: You add "-ish" to the end of this word to state an opinion if you're not sure if you like this or not and don't want to insult someone. Noun: You can use it for it's common, bland meaning as a nameless object, but you can also call someone a doodad to describe them as call or as uncool. Verb: You can use doodad as a verb to describe that you are doing something nameless and/or that you don't want to explain.

So I could emit any of the following three sentences and make perfect sense:
Adjective: "Eh, I suppose it's doodaddish."
Noun: "Oh my God, he was being SUCH a doodad!"
Verb: "Nothing much, just doodadding."
Your task, should you accept it, is to think of other odd words that have grown into similar catchall status.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Dream The Imaginary Dream

Some more fun topics for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week!

1.) What does marriage mean to you? (inspired by Jon Gosselin) :)

This is a timely topic for me since we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary on Sunday. So even though I may not be able to supply the perfect definition of marriage, I at least get to enjoy experiencing one!

Marriage is many things. It is a partnership through life, not just the good times but the bad times too. It is having a friend that knows you and your deepest darkest secrets and still wants to spend time with you and the converse. It is having someone you are still attracted to long after the bloom of youth has started to fade, and the attraction is not simply physical or purely mental.

It was once explained to me that (and I believe it to be a good explanation) there are a finite but not necessarily small number of people you can love and who can love you on the journey through life. The one you marry is the one you *are* in love with when you get the urge to be married. But, and it is a big but, from that point on it is part of each partner's duty to the marriage to stay in love and grow closer together. I think the crucial point is that both people have joined in a partnership and are dedicated to working together to advance that partnership.

Does that mean that marriage never has its travails? Of course not!

I can remember a time nearly thirty years ago when L and I sought out a marriage counselor since we did not seem to be able to grow closer together. The major problem was the clashing world views of a rationalist and a humanist. Add to that the job related stresses and living half a continent away from each other for a period of time and you can see that some work was timely in order. Going to counseling helped us to be able to see the world from the other's point of view, and thus allowed us to continue growing as a couple without the festering of perceived slights. Heck, we still remind ourselves of the lessons we learned then even today

2.) Scaredy Cat!!! (inspired by Brandi from Not Your Average Soccer Mom)

There are few things that can still provoke the all out fear reflex in me. I suspect part of that is reaching an age where the boogie men can catch me if they really want to and there is little I can do about it if they are big and strong enough.  That said ...

I have reached the age where I don't quite have tinnitus yet, but I hear things. When I go to bed at night and it is very quiet, my mind and ears seem to amplify every ambient noise and creak to the point that i am convinced someone is in the room with me or is creeping down the hallway.

Now add to that an overactive mind that creates patterns even when there is no pattern to be discerned and you have some interesting nights. Especially in the winter when the rushing sound of the furnace pushing air through the heating vents acts like a white noise mask and I hear voices. Objectively I know there is no voice talking, but my mind and ears reconstruct it as a voice talking just below the level of audibility. I've been known to get up several times in a night "just to be sure" that there is no one talking down the hallway. For a while I seriously considered the idea that the furnace duct work was picking up a local talk radio station. Add to this the fact that for a number of years I was on 24 hour call and trained myself so I could answer the phone, solve the problem, and not wake up, and you get some really strange moments.

I suspect that is why God inflicted men with enlarging prostates as they age so that they have to arise every few hours in the night. That keeps them from going insane hearing things that aren't there. {*grin*}

3.) List the pieces of you that have come from those around you? (inspired via Tweet by Angela from My So-Called Chaos)

Where should I start?

I have the small round sunken eyes of one of my maternal grandfathers side of the family, otherwise know as the Pyle pig eyes. I have the Dumbo sized ears of both sides of the family. And from my father's side of the family I got that classic Jones build: a beer barrel perched on short stilts with gorilla arms and a neckless bowling ball head. Thus I can blame my huge paws and head on that side of the family.

Now there are some pieces that I have no clue about too. Where did my giant clod-hoppers come from? No one else wears size 16's. No one knows.

And, of course, one would be remiss not to mention the diabetes from dad's side of the family. Dad had 5 brothers and sisters; all of them that didn't die young were/are diabetics. Likewise his mother. What more could one ask for in a family tree?

But I also got a keen curiosity about the world and very high IQ from both sides of the family. My grandfather was an inveterate inventor who taught himself electronics via correspondence school and my dad was amazing at math (which is all the more amazing considering that dad never graduated from high school). My mom was the first in her family to graduate from a community college and I was the first to get a graduate degree. So one gets the good along with the bad. Something to keep in mind the next time you carp about your inheritance!

4.) The first day of... (inspired by Mama Kat. again.)

The first day of snow is not far in the future. The nights are getting cooler and the days shorter. All clues that whisper to me that one of these days it is going to freeze. I keep hoping that it will delay until mid October, but mom and others are betting on a much sooner date. And anytime after that first freezing day, it might snow. Some years the first day of snow comes before the trees have shed their leaves and other years it delays until December or January.

I love that first day of snow. The joy of shoveling, that feeling of comfortable exertion and warmth. The pleased feeling of being able to set aside a few hours and curl up with a good book and a cup of soup. The unbridled joy of all the bugs dying off - no more insecticide needed to work in the underbrush. The smell of wood smoke in the air. The way that falling snow dampens all the sounds of the world, making it so serene and peaceful to be out walking. When I was in college, I used to go to a tower by the observatory and sit in the open top and watch the snow plows miles and miles away down in the valley as they battled to keep roads clear. There is nothing like a late night hike in the snow when the wind is howling and the temperature is dropping - especially when you know that you can get warm and curl up with a good book when you get back home.

Here is one of my favorite winter scenes from many years ago when the Son was but a tyke. It was taken on our driveway during the kind of snow storm of my dreams.

5.) Transcribe a recent entertaining conversation you recently had with someone. (inspired by Mama Kat...I'm so inspirational for myself.)
Me: Dan speaking.
Caller: Is <Spanish mispronunciation of my name> there?
Me: This is Dan.
Caller: Is <Spanish mispronunciation of my name> there?
Me: Yes, this is he. (with at least a little hint of disgust)
Caller: No, I'm looking for <Spanish mispronunciation of my name>. Is he there?
Me: This is he!
Caller: Are you sure?
Me: Yes!!!
Caller: Never mind. (Hangup and dialtone)
I'm pretty sure that the Caller believed I wasn't me because I don't mispronounce my own name like he did. Oh well, I figure he was a trade rag magazine solicitor - probably from Puerto Rico given the accent and traceback number.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Thirty four years ago, on September 6, 1975, L and I were married. Seems like a long time ago and yet it has passed in the blink of an eye. I still haven't figured out why a beauty like L married a mug like me, but I am certainly glad she did! The first 34 years have been great!

I Love You L!
Here's to the next 34 years being just as good.
L & Dan
September 6, 1975

(Yes, I do know that this is going up a few hours early, but I expect to be busy celebrating tomorrow. {*grin*})

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Five Odd Facts Vaguely ...

It's Friday and thus time for

Five Odd Facts Vaguely Related To Computers

  • 94% of all existing blogs have not been updated in four months.
  • 2 out of 3 Twitter users access Twitter only while at work.
  • Moderate Internet surfers are 9% more productive in their jobs than non-surfers.
  • World wide usage of electricity is projected to fall 3.5% this year; this is the first time since recordkeeping began in 1945 that the world wide usage has declined.
  • 82% of male British IT workers say they consider their sex partners' needs before their own; the highest of all industries.

Facts courtesy of Funny Times and Harper's Index.

The First Day Of School and Other Tales

Some fun topics for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge this week!

1.) Write about a time when you were wrongly wronged.
(inspired by Mama Kat herself.)

I can think of many times when I have been wrongly wronged, but episodes from childhood stick in my mind most strongly.

When I was growing up, the local movie theater used to run a Saturday Kiddie show featuring such classic films as Hercules Returns, etc. You know, the grade C- films that only a preteen kid in the early years of television would get excited about. Since the show was connected to the down-town merchants ("Mom and Dad, let the kids come to the show while you shop unencumbered" type of thing.), there were rules on who could attend. The show was free, but you had to be under the age of 12 to get in.

Unfortunately, I was a big kid. I was 6 feet tall and 200+ lbs. by the time I hit 5th grade. In any case, I was 10 years old and big. I wanted to go to the show in the worst possible way since the feature was one with Hercules and the Three Stooges. Everything that a preteen boy could dream of - he-men and physical comedy and of course a beautiful girl to play opposite Hercules.

So at the appointed time I walked down to the theater (only about 5 blocks from our house) and got in line. When the doors opened and we headed in, the manager put his hand on my shoulder and told me I was too old to attend. My protests that I was only 10 fell on deaf ears. I never did get to see the movie. I can't express how hurt I felt. It hurt that someone had not believed me when I told the truth. It hurt that I was being singled out based simply on size.

That was my introduction to several wrongful wrongs. Three lessons I learned that painful day:
1) People don't necessarily listen to the truth and are not there to make your world better.
2) Sizism is alive and well. I don't care if you are smaller or bigger than the norm, someone will use it as a handle to try and hurt you.
3) At some point you have to put on your big boy pants and ignore the hurts.

2.) Geriatric peeping Tom neighbors? Do tell.
(inspired by Angie from Seven Clown Circus via email. And I don't know what geriatric means either. Look it up.)

I don't have any geriatric peeping Tom neighbors, but I do have geriatric neighbors. In fact, I have geriatrics living behind and across the street from me. Until recently, the neighbor on one side was in his eighties. So far as I am aware, none of them are of the peeping variety.

In another episode of small town/world experiences, the neighbor beside me, Eddie, had spent his life as a railroad engineer. In fact he had spent much of it working with my father. All those years around locomotives and whistles had left him pretty deaf. That would be neither here nor there, but he had a pair of dogs that really enjoyed barking. If he was in the house, he could not hear the dogs barking outside. Thus he suffered a number of visits from the police and animal control about the barking dogs. It reached the point that the next time they were called out would mean that Eddie would no longer be able to keep his dogs. So Eddie asked me to call him if I heard the dogs barking.

Unbeknown to me at the time, Eddie's wife was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and I think Eddie was battling to keep her at home and using the dogs to help and to battle the loneliness. A few years ago, she finally had to be institutionalized. Eddie and the dogs continued on, with Eddie spending the days at the nursing home with his wife and the afternoons with the dogs and his grandkids. Earlier this year Eddie passed away and the kids took the dogs. Somehow it just seems too silent now. I think now it would have been tragic if Eddie had been forced to give up the dogs just when he needed them most. But they sure could be annoying. {*grin*}

Geriatric neighbors can be helpful. The other day one of my sprinkler heads broke and I had a water geyser in the front yard. One of said neighbors called the house phone here and then my mom to make sure someone knew and could fix it. Of course I already had it fixed by the time mom called, but the thought still counts.

3.) Mommy play dates? What's your experience with mom dating?
(inspired by Dana from Mommy Brain)

Wrong sex for me - have at it mommies.

4.) The first day of...
(inspired by Mama Kat.)

The first day of school was different for me. We moved from a very small town that had no kindergarten and no pre-school to the (huge) town of Curtis, Nebraska (population about 350 at the time). Curtis did have a kindergarten and our move was in the middle of the school year. My kindergarten school year in fact. Talk about being scared and facing a complete change of environment.

I remember getting to school and then to the classroom with mom in hand. But all too soon, mom had to leave and I was left all alone with all these strangers. It wasn't as if I knew any of the other kids, we had just moved to town. So of course I spent much of the first hour sitting and crying by myself in a combination of fear and terror and curiosity. And then Julie came over and started talking to me. She calmly explained there was nothing to be afraid of and it was OK. Then she introduced me to her best friend Jackie and then her cousin Jimmie and Jimmie introduced me to his best friend Michael and Michael had to introduce me to his twin sister Melody and ... Before lunch, I had met every kid in the class and was over my worries. This kindergarten thing was fun and there were so many new and interesting people.

The amusing thing is that we lived in that small Nebraska town until 4th grade when we moved again. By that time Michael was my best friend along with Jimmie. We went back to visit Curtis many times through the middle of my high school years since one set of grandparents lived there until then. When I'd go back, I'd sometimes see Michael and get a chance to talk, and in my teenage years I also got to talk to Melody who grew into a beautiful young lady. But that is neither here nor there. The interesting part is that when L and I headed off to college, I went to the east coast and L went to a school in Lincoln, Nebraska. Somehow L met Julie and Jackie there at the school and via the standard "do you know" conversations, they discovered they all knew me. Thus it was through L that I learned what my long ago savior was doing - I hadn't seen or heard from her since 3rd grade.

5.) Share your friendly advice for someone you think needs it (ie your mother-in-law, other drivers, cell phone users, etc.)
(inspired by Jill from Scary Mommy)

My problem is that I've shared pieces of my mind with so many people that I can't remember anything now. So I'll constrain myself to one piece of advice to you, my friendly readers: Do it now for tomorrow may be too late!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tomato Tahmahtoe Schlomo ....

Into the breach once more dear friends ....

I often think of that line. It's from an album by The Firesign Theater brilliantly titled "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers." This album may be before your time since it was popular when I was a collegian. But I have to agree with the Rolling Stone review more than a decade after it's release that called it "the greatest comedy album ever made."

I like that line more because it is, like most Firesign material, at least a double entendre. In this case, referring to the famous lines in William Shakespeare's Henry V, III, i, 1 "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more..." The play on into versus unto is great.

In case you haven't guessed, I am a big fan of double and triple entendres and puns. Unfortunately, telling puns is usually grounds for immediate execution by howling hordes of unhappy listeners. So I restrict my pun telling and most of my shaggy dog stories to close relatives and those who are unlikely to catch me as I head for the hills at the end of the experience. 

What brought the phrase to mind tonight was the discussion at a city council work session about setting water rates. If you set the rates and add a step structure to the rates to encourage conservation, people might actually conserve too much and so you would have to raise the rates again to cover the operational costs of the water treatment plant. On the other hand, if you set the base rate to cover the operational overhead and keep the per gallon charges down, you hurt those on low and fixed incomes disproportionately. And no matter what you do, people are going to be unhappy and think it was the wrong decision. I sometimes think that people fail to realize that council members pay the same rates as anyone else, so we understand the fiscal pain involved. 

Anyway, another two and a half hours of my life gone in a futile attempt to come up with some plan that doesn't gore anyone unfairly. I could have been doing so many other things during that time. Oh well, I only have until mid November and I am term limited out of office. I haven't decided if I am going to call my successor and critique every action of the new council and mayor yet. It might supply some deep winter amusement. {*grin*}  Maybe warm the cockles of my heart during the nights of frozen tundra?
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