Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Quickie

(Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about a short post here.)

Today was odd here. I woke up to snow falling and even a bit accumulating on the ground. Quite a change from the upper 80s of a couple of days of ago. I just wish the weather would settle down to normal here, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope.

L was in town for some meetings and to take care of some business, so we had an early supper of soup and salad before she left for the mountains this evening. Along the way to the mountains, she was going to meet the Son in Denver to pass on some papers he needed and also some workout clothes he requested. Given that he will be back in the mountains for work tomorrow, it probably won't be a major deal if the miss each other - except that they both like to talk and it does them both good. {*grin*}

The barometric pressure here has been rising and falling severely here for the last week. As a consequence, my shoulders have hurt constantly, especially the one I crushed a few years ago. I have a swan neck barometer here in my office:

This year is the first year it has encountered highs and lows severe enough to alternately spout out the top of the neck and suck air down through the bottom. It has been hanging there for years, but the weather here is definitely getting more changeable. Yesterday the air pressure was so low that the swan neck  was spouting out the top. Now it is so high that the swan is sucking air and bubbling. I vote for a return to some moderation.

Well, I've got some stuff to get done yet tonight, so until tomorrow ....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Volunteer Dinner

This evening was the Tourist Information Center volunteer dinner. This is an annual dinner hosted to reward the loyal volunteers who staff our tourist information center / rest area near the interstate. The center is a joint project of the city, county, and state department of transportation and tourism. The city supplied the land and services, the county the maintenance and non-volunteer staff time, and the state the grounds maintenance and the buildings. The volunteers all tend to be sociable and gregarious retirees who serve donuts and coffee, supply information and maps, and generally act like a concerned parent for people traveling on the interstate and in the area. The volunteers are a fun group and I have attended their dinner every year that I have been mayor just to say thank you for their efforts. This was my final such dinner as mayor since I am term limited out of office in November.

Knowing that I won't be doing things like this next year makes it more fun - you can enjoy the event and say hi to all the great people without having to worry. There are a couple of volunteers below the age of 60, but most are between 65 and 95. So every year there are remembrances of one or two who have passed away in the preceding year and the welcoming of a few more new volunteers to fill the ranks. It can be pretty interesting to see the combinations that form in volunteer teams. Each team typically has a time such as Tuesdays from 12-3 or Fridays from 8-12 that they cover. Then there are a few floaters that fill in whenever a regular team cannot cover their slot or are ill or ... One team that has been active for at least the last 15 years is a pair of gentlemen who have known each other for more that 50 years and still find they enjoy the time they spend at the center each week with each other. One of the saddest things is when someone reaches an age or state of physical health so that they can no longer volunteer. One often spots what looks suspiciously like tears in the eyes of both the afflicted and the their fellow volunteers when they attend what will likely be their last volunteer dinner.

One of the old railroaders that worked with my Dad (in fact I believe he was stationmaster long before Dad ever started working on the railroad), Earl, passed away a couple of years ago in his mid 90's and is still missed by the volunteer crew today. Of course Earl was a real joker and live wire even in his 90's. Everyone remembers his jokes, usually because they were odd and funny and told exceeding well by Earl. I remember Earl because he introduced me to the hobbyist version of fanaticism when I was in grade school. Earl had a model railroad setup that covered a whole basement at the time. It was amazing to me to see a grown man so into playing with "toy" trains. In memory of Earl, I'll repeat the joke he was fond of telling the year before he passed on:
Ma and Pa went to the doctor for Pa's annual physical on his 90th birthday. Pa went into the room to see the doctor and duly answered the doctors many questions. Finally the doctor asked him a question that left Pa a bit confused, so he asked for a moment to consult with his wife.
Pa stuck his head into the waiting room and yelled, "Ma, do we have intercourse?"
Ma immediately stated railing at Pa with, "No! You know I told you that we have nothing but Blue Cross and Medicare!"

The moral of the story - if you get old enough, you will forget even important things.

With that, I'll leave you to have a good night.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Five Oddest ...

Time for Friday High Five hosted by Angela

The Five Oddest Phone Calls I Received This Week

  • The rather confused gentleman who, when I answered,  introduced himself and then wanted to know if I desired to purchase his nearly new snow blower. Once I got over the utter confusion of why a stranger was calling me to peddle a snow blower on an 89 degree day, the story quickly came out - he knew I shoveled by hand and so he thought I might be the one to buy his beloved snow blower since he was moving to Florida. I had to tell him that I shovel for the exercise, so no I didn't need hos snow blower.

  • The unknown lady who purse dialed me not once, but three times this week. Listening to her attempt to discipline her children might have been interesting, but the episode of kissy face with Mr. Unknown was a bit too much. I am tempted to call her cell and make a rude comment, but ....

  • The mechanical voice that sounded like a 1940's movie robot. Once I finally had time to listen to the call all the way through, it was from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) reminding me that they had special renewal offers for early renewal this year.

  • The gentleman who called me and wanted to know if the city might not want to buy or have him buy the regional medical center. He was convinced that the current system would sell it to him cheap and that we (the city) could make a mint owning and running the hospital.The county finally got rid of the hospital in the 1980's because it was such a money pit. Current conditions are no better, so I don't think we want to do it. The problem is that the gentleman in question could very well shell out a few $million$ from pocket change and then give us the hospital. So I had to spend some time convincing him not to do anything rash.

  • The Spanish speaking senorita who called for three straight evenings at precisely 9pm and refused to believe me when I tried to explain the there was no one named Jose at this number. Evidentially Jose gave this number to the senorita and she desperately wants to talk to him. Wonder what the back story is there?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Is It OK ....

This week Mama Kat asked the question, "When is it OK not to listen to the words?" The problem I have with this particular Writer's Challenge is that, to me, it is almost always OK not to listen to the words. Music is meant to drive the primeval soul, to reach the core of our being at a deep level, not to be absorbed intellectually like a debate. (OK, OK, bad example, but you know what I mean!) So the real question becomes: which of the many songs that I love do I want to shred for their poor use of lyrical poetry and other such arcana? I decided to compare two of my anthems from a misspent youth, since one has lame lyrics and the other has lyrics worthy of a master poet.

The first song in this deconstruction is one of my favorites from the psychedelic 60's, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. This was my anthem in the late sixties and early seventies. Even today, it is not an uncommoon occurance to find me listening to the 17+ minute original version of the song. But the lyrics? Well ... it is with a deep sense of guilt and quasi-shame that I admit to loving a song that runs for 17+ minutes with these lyrics:
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey,
don't you know that I love you?
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby,
don't you know that I'll always be true?

Oh, won't you come with me
and take my hand?

Oh, won't you come with me
and walk this land?

Please take my hand!



So there you have it, a song that it is eminently OK to not listen to the lyrics in any detail. It is hard to explain how moving and powerful this song is to me, how evocative of a certain mood and time, and then have to present those rather pointlessly pitiful lyrics.

Lest you think it is purely a by-product of the era that the lyrics to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida are so lame but the overall effect is so moving and downright good, let me present a song in which one should not only listen to the lyrics but study them: Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.This song is another anthem of mine from roughly the same time period, in roughly the same style of music, but the lyrics are true poetry and carry meaning well beyond any musical association. Thus I give you Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin:
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
and it makes me wonder
really makes me wonder

And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter


If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May Queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, Ooh, it makes me wonder

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady, can't you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind


And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all is one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying the stairway to heaven
To my analytical mind, it makes no sense that two such powerful anthems that speak to the listener so deeply and personally can be so radically different in lyrical content. In my college years, it was not an uncommon occurrance to hear these two songs played one after the other. There was no sense of cognitive dissonance or unease - they both seemed perfect and fit in well with each other. But if I were to present just the two sets of lyrics, you'd think the one was written by a master poet and the other by a rushed schoolboy. Couple the lyrics with the music and they can suddenly stand proudly, side by side.

So what is in your guilty trove of songs where it is OK not to listen to the words? Do you have favorites, like me, that are lyrical diametric opposites? What are they?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Hath Sprung

(I am trying an experiment here. I've included the music playing as I compose this opus between brackets for your perusal. Interesting? Or not?)

 <Music: I Can Hear The Grass Grow by The Move>
You know how it is. In the spring a young (and not so young) man's fancy turns to the great outdoors. (Get your mind out of the gutter - I wasn't going there at all! {*grin*}) On the basis of my experience today, it is definite that Spring with a capital S has arrived. The moisture from the rain and blizzards of the last few weeks coupled with the near 80 degree sunny days of recent times has caused green to break out. The grass has started to grow and turn green, the weeds are rioting, with the dandelions adding a splash of color in the front yard. Even the trees are starting to put forth some leaf buds.

<Music: Stop Stop Stop by The Hollies>
It was so nice out today  that I decided to make a big walking circuit of my errands this afternoon. I walked cross town to a bank to make the monthly deposit for the Boy Scout troop (the committee meeting was last night). After that I walked to another bank to sign a form and pick up some papers for L and myself, then walked across town to the credit union to pick up some papers for Mom. It was a wonderful 80 degrees with crystal clear azure skies and just enough of a breeze to keep it from becoming too hot in the sun. The sun here can be very intense when the sky is cloudless. Even though we are in the flat lowlands of Colorado here, we are still at an elevation that qualifies for the high altitude baking directions. {*grin*} Thus higher UV levels than lubbers from down around sea level are used to.

<Music: The Letter by The Box Tops>
My freewheeling mind has forgotten what I was going to originally write about, so I'l just have to make do with what the last paragraph suggests. I was interruted by the phone and then the dog and then ...

<Music: Angie by The Rolling Stones>
First topic, the Boy Scout troop. This town was founded in the late 1800's and the Boy Scout troop that I am on the committee for (and serve as treasurer of) was founded in the early 1920's. It has been continuously chartered and operational since that time with the exception of a three year span in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It is the troop I was a scout in during my youth. The people on the committee with me include several of the scouts I was a scout with. I often feel a bit left out in that crowd since I am the odd man out - I am the only one of the group who did not attain the penultimate rank of Eagle Scout. I opted to leave and go to a science institute at a nearby university and so stopped just short of completing my Eagle. It is also the troop that the Son followed a similar path through. Three of us who were scouts together in the 60's and who now serve on the committee also all had sons in the troop at the same time. That sense of continuity and community is so rare any more. So what kind of organizations are you a part of with that kind of generational continuity?

<Music: I Can't Control Myself by The Troggs>
Second topic, altitude (and cooking). Although we are at a paltry 3,935 feet here, the place in the mountains where L and the Son are is at roughly 9,200 feet. So down here there are only some moderate altitude effects on cooking, whereas up there the effects can be radical at times. Most of the effects are related to the boiling point of water and how it decreases with altitude and air pressure (lower air pressure -> lower boiling points) The relationship is non-linear and can be approximated by a quintic equation. Since I am aware that some of you are math phobic, I'll protect your fine sensibilities. {*grin*} The pertinent data are are approximated by these boiling points of water at various altitudes:
  • 212 degrees F    Sea level
  • 205 degrees F    4000 feet
  • 194 degrees F    9200 feet
You can see that there is a sizeable effect at altitude. Anything that counts on the boiling point of water for thermoregulation is not going to work well at altitude. In fact there are some foods that it becomes impossible to adequately cook by boiling alone. Even if you can, the cook times are much  longer due to the lower maximum temperature reached as the water boils off. Do you do much cooking at altitude? Got any good tips or hints to share?

<Music: Layla by Eric Clapton (non-acoustic version)>
<Music: Hotel California by the Eagles>
I once more got distracted, but I was essentially done anyway. (I cannot hear Layla without thinking of and missing L, so by the time my mind returns to reality, the chain of reasoning is long gone. {*grin*}) How do you like the inline music tags. Are they helpful in following my shifts of mood and thought?

Monday, April 20, 2009

It Must Be Spring

Spring must be here even if it did attempt to blizzard again last Friday and Saturday. Why do I say that? Well, when Molly and I were out walking in the park today, I saw my first winged insect of the season. That is a pretty sure sign of the arrival of Spring in the local area. It wasn't much of an insect as such beasties go, but it was a sign the the masses will be appearing shortly. I could have taken the cognitive leap last week and trusted that the fly I spotted buzzing the sink in the house was a harbinger of Spring, but I worried that it was a false positive since it was still snowing and blowing outside at the time. Fruit flies and other such annoyances seem to hatch out occasionally in the temperate climate indoors. But the bug that flew off today was clearly an outdoor bug.

So with the winds blowing and the temperatures back into the 60s after the attempt to join Denver and environs in the cold and snowy blizzard, a lot of people were out in the park. Molly got a chance to sniff and whine at an incredible number of dogs. Not only that, but there were a ton of kids out in the park doing everything from playing football and catch to attempting to fly kites. The winds were a bit too shifty for good kite flying, but the kids were trying anyway.

Last Friday was the official Arbor Day celebration here in town. Since the city has been a tree city USA winner for the past 21 straight years, you can count on the mayor being out to plant a tree for every Arbor Day. (Part of the criteria for being a tree city is that the forrester has to get printed publicity about trees in the local media every year. So that usually devolves to sending in the picture from the papers with the mayor planting away.)  Given how miserable the weather was here on Friday, there were only a couple of us in attendance at one of the city parks to plant the Elm cultivar. In only 50 or 60 years, it will be big enough to replace some of the beautiful trees we have lost over the last decade to Dutch Elm Disease.

The planting was in a park about a block from where I grew up. Other than the restroom and an old non-working cement water fountain, there isn't a part of the park that is the same today as it was when I was growing up. The playground equipment has been replaced twice and is currently being replaced for the third time. The merry-go-round and teeter-totters have gone the way of the dokey bird in the mania of litigation fears and ADA accessibility. Even the swings and play sets no longer have sand under them, but have a special wood fiber product called Fibar that is both injury reductive and ADA approved.

Our town is rare in that we are small, rural, and have a lot of parks. Our four largest parks range from 40 acres down to 3 acres. Then we have a half dozen to dozen minor parks that range from a fraction of an acre to a couple of acres. The overall goal is to have every household be within walking distance (with toddlers) of a park. We succeed in general, but there are some areas where we don't have all the parks we would like.

I will close by asking what the park situation in your area is like?  Do you have easy access to parks and facilities in the parks? How about tennis and basketball courts? Walking paths and nature trails? If not, why not?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Prison Ministries Fundraiser

Tonight was the night of my guest appearance on the panel for the Good New Jail & Prison Ministry fundraiser. This has become a crucial time for the organization since all charitable donations are down in this economy. This program is one that is entirely donation based, accepting no grants or government funds, so the ability to garner donations is critical to the services they provide.

The panel consisted of a real mixed bag: myself as mayor of the town, the chief of police, the county sheriff, the assistant warden at the prison, the pastor of a local church, and an ex-con who is now an ordained minister at a church about 50 miles from here. We were asked three questions and each person got a couple of minutes to give their answers to each question. It was amusing because the panel was seated up on the ballroom stage, towering over the audience seated on the ballroom floor. So after our meal of prime rib and stir fry, we panelists traipsed up on stage to entertain the audience before the real motivational speakers and the auctions got underway.

The questions and my summary of the responses ran as follows (please note that the chaplain that wrote the questions was a a bit over the top in his wording, but we all gleaned the real intent) :

Good News Jail & Prison Ministry was invited by the Department of Corrections to establish quality trained chaplains to serve as non-paid staff. Give your view, based on the economic climate of today, of the chaplaincy at the XXX Correctional Facility?

The assistant warden had the most telling things to say on this topic. She had the interesting statistics about the lowered rates of violence and the lessened discipline problems in the areas where chaplains serve. She (the AW) also brought up the fact that the chaplains work with the staff. Prison workers tend to have high stress and high domestic violence rates because of the spill over from the work environment. Chaplains help reduce that stress and make it easier to retain good staff. I have to admit that i had not thought of that aspect.

My main point was that having a full time professional chaplaincy supported by groups on the outside supplied hope and a connection to humanity for the prisoners. I have been inside the prison a number of times, usually to speak at graduation ceremonies and/or to meet with staff about programs that have a community interface. The prsion is also a customer of the city as they buy their water and sewer services from us. The environment on the inside is intentionlly designed to isolate and remove hope. Knowing that someone, anyone, cared enough to supply a chaplain is often the difference maker in the prisoners' attitudes.

Given that XXX Correctional facility is the largest prison in Colorado; what value do you see from qualified chaplains serving behind the walls?
Offenders returning to society, what value do you place upon Faith Based Programs in the jail and prison? How do we stop the cycle of recidivism?

There was a spectrum of answers given to this topic, so I'm going to stick to what I had to say. I doubt I could do justice to all the others' views. (Although we all did comment that the size of the prison had little to do with the issues at hand.)

I concentrated on the fact that the chaplains are one of the few groups working hard to prepare the prisoners to leave the prison environment and thrive in the real world. Those preparations include:
  • Introduction to a moral system - many prisoners have no moral system when they enter, especially how to treat others and expect others to treat you.
  • Introduction to the skills of planning and calendaring and preparing. In prison, life is not under your control and very regimented. Many prisoners do well in that environment and then fail in the real world. Many times it is because they have never learned to schedule their own time and efforts. The chaplains teach classes in how to do that even within the confines of the prison system.
  • Introduction to an accepting community of faith. Many prisoners feel that no one will ever care about them as people again. Just the fact that there is a community that cares for and about them and can act as a support group helps keep parolees out of trouble.
I also noted that although faith based systems have the lowest measured recidivism rates, the rate is still abysmally high. Prisoners in Colorado who are  part of a faith based system like Good News  have an 85% recidivism rate. Other programs run about 90%. Those that are part of no program run a recidivism rate of 95% or more. To me, that is one of the real glaing problems in the US. No other country in the world imprisons a higher percentage of its population and no other penal system suffers the same abysmal recidivism rate. I cannot fathom a system that has people serve their debt to society, relases them, and sees somewhere between 8 and 10 of every 10 released be re-imprisoned within 2 years.

So that was how i spent my Saturday night - how did you spend yours?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Five Rare Words That ...

Time once more for Friday High Five hosted by Angela.

Five Rare Words That I Have Never Used Before

balnearii - People who steal clothing from public baths.

bathysiderodromophobia - The fear of subways.

ventripotent - Having a fat belly, or being a glutton.

yaud - A worn out or old horse.

zenzizenzizenzic - A number raised to the eighth power.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interesting Experience

This evening I was the guest speaker at the League of Voters meeting. I believe that this group used to be called the League of Women Voters, but like many organizations has begun to refer to itself as the League in a sex neutral way. That is undoubtedly a good thing for this group as the crowd was more than 50% male in composition.

The evening was in an informal Q&A format. I had asked the other city council members to attend, but none of them did. Pretty much typical - it is hard to get the council members out to an occasion where they might have to speak. I seem to be the only member that actual enjoys public speaking from time to time. Anyhow, the evening started at 6:30 and the next time I consulted my watch it was 8:30. Seemed like no time at all because I was enjoying having an interested and involved audience who asked intelligent questions. I only wish I ran into such crowds on a more regulatr basis.

The interesting event didn't happen until the meeting was over and I was chatting with the chairperson before heading off into the roaring wind and stormy weather. (Yes, we may indeed be on track for yet another spring blizzard tomorrow.) The chairperson made the offhand remark that he was so happy I was blogging and that he really enjoyed reading the blog. It took me aback for a second or two because I don't know the chairperson well. But he evidently enjoys the writings herein. I told him thanks and gently made sure he knew that this blog is a personal effort and not any official organ of the office. He said he understood. Coupled with running into one of my Very Important Teachers from this post at the post office today, it made for a strange day. Meeting two people in the flesh who like my writing, one of whom keeps trying to convince me to write a full length science fiction novel rather than my occasional forays into the sci-fi short story, in the same day, could cause me to get a big head! (Alright, an even bigger head. {*grin*})

The question that has been rolling around on the tip of my mind for the last couple of hours: Have you ever met an unknown blog reader in real life? Have they commented to you about your writing? How was the experience? I ask because after I got over the initial shock of a local, non-family member, non-political friend or foe, reading this blog, I rather enjoyed the experience.

(I am scheduled to plant a tree in one of the parks tomorrow for Arbor Day. It will be interesting to see if the ceremony gets blown and snowed out. One of the predictions from global warming is drier winters and more violent spring weather here on the plains. So far it fits in perfectly.)

(Do you think I abused the poor comma too much in this post? I'm to lazy to go back and re-write it, so abusive or not, they stay. {*grin/2*})

What would you buy?

It is time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the prompts are:
  1. If I sent you four hundred dollars today what is ONE thing you would spend it on and why. P.S. I want my change.
  2. What are your kids talking about?
  3. Tell us about a local news story that's all the buzz right now in your neck of the woods.
  4. Share some blogging advice.
  5. Tell us about that time at the playground when that thing happened.
I felt a bit odd trying to answer some of these. No real obvious theme came to mind, so you get to watch me blither in a real time stream of consciousness way. Enjoy.

#1) I am torn. I could buy about a month's worth of one of the drugs I take for my diabetes, but that is strangely unsatisfying to me.

I could also sign on to EBay and buy some computer and/or AV equipment, but that would be hard to estimate the change to give Mama Kat until the auction ended and one found out what (if anything) I had won. I could also bid on a new KVM box to replace this one that randomly sticks sending the last letter typed over and over. (I sometimes lose a whole post when it sticks on backspace and I don't spot it in time.)

I guess I'll go for a visit to the meat market. Four hundred dollars worth of steak and brats and sausage would make for a mighty fine start to a barbecue. Then I'd invite some friends over and settle back for some good food and even better conversation. And sorry Mama, no change left over. But you are welcome to come to the barbecue. {*grin*}

#2) Given that the Son just recently turned 19, it is hard to say for sure what he is talking about. One topic would likely be his job and the hours over the next few months until summer tourist season arrives. Another might be his plans for the coming year, including school, work, and the possibility of joining the National Guard. Beyond all that, it depends on his mood and what is going on in his life. Since I know he reads this blog, maybe he'll leave a comment and tell us directly.

#3) The headline in todays paper was about a proposed real estate development that is before the city council. Since it is an active matter before council, I cannot say anything further.

Another headline notes that police responded to a vandalism call and found a mushroom growing operation. Samples were sent off to the state labs for identification and tox scan. The police chief noted that although no arrests had been made, leads were being pursued. It wasn't clear to me from reading the story exactly what was happening other than some vandalism and presumed trespass. The materials found at the site were "organic", so the question of the legitimacy of the mushrooms was left hanging. I'd suspect the unstated question is whether the mushrooms were of the illegal hallucinogenic species or just someone growing an edible species for fresh mushrooms. I suspect the answer will come out in the coming weeks.

#4) My only blogging advice from the production side is to just do it. I try to write most of my stuff like I was writing a letter to an acquaintence. I know it still comes out stilted at times, but it does seem to resonate with some of the readers. I never started this site with the goal of massive readership, so I am suprised at the number of people who actually read my drivel.

On the reading side, I might be considered an expert since I read about 200 blogs with my various reading software packages each day.

My number one gripe is the sporadic blog. I like a blog to be published regularly, at least once every other day. Given that is seems that at least a third of all the blogs are written by someone with a variant of the name Jennifer (Jen, Jenny, ...), if it isn't written regularly, I confuse the authors and backstories.

My second gripe would have to be the people who decorate their blog page to the point where the universe could go into heat death before it completes loading. Please recognize that most serious readers will be using reading software which strips all that fancy stuff out. The only time I actually visit your site is to comment - usually clicking in from one of my software readers because I found what you were asking or saying interesting enough to drive me to respond. So please don't make it a test to see just how interested I am in commenting by forcing me to wait for the universe to reach heat death before your site loads completely. (And by the way, I also dislike the author approval for comments. If you are going to squirrel them away before publishing, why not just turn the comments off?)

#5) I'm not sure what you were hoping happened, but I do have one precious (to me) memory from the playgound. I was in the first grade at the rural Nebraska school I attended for K-3. The playground there was built up against a bluff that formed one wall of the valley the town was situated in. On top of the bluff was where we played games like Red Rover. After school, there was a group of us that played on the bluff before walking the one to four blocks home. (Small town living at its best - first graders able to walk unescorted to and from school and to each others homes.)

One day we were playing a variant of War, running like mad across the grass and bare dirt of the bluff. I remember running at full speed, loving the feel of the wind in my face, enjoying the endless energy that comes with being that age. And then I tripped. I went flying through the air. It was like time stopped. It felt like I was truly flying and the ground was never going to rise up and slap me in the face. Even after coming roughly to ground and getting up and dusting myself off, I was in awe of that feeling of flight, the feeling that one could just launch oneself into the air and fly. I spent many years from then on seeking to regain that experience again and again and again. The older and bigger and heavier I became, the harder it was to attain that feeling. It finally reached the point where the only time I experienced the feeling was while playing football. I suspect that was one of the reasons I loved football so much.

Well, that will do it for now. I have to get ready for tomorrow. I have my dental checkup and then a speaking engagement for the League of Women Voters meeting in the evening. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bicentennial Post Tuesday

This is the 200th post here at The Art of Panic. Who would have believed one could write that much drivel in a half year? I certainly wouldn't have.

The weather here is overcast and in the mid 70s today. What a change from the blizzards of the last couple of weeks. Maybe the snow and blow season is finally coming to a belated end. I can but hope! Since the weather is boring, I will take this opportunity write instead about something that has caught my fancy from the news - Google and its ownership of YouTube.

How many of you have followed all the bruhaha about the amount of money Google is losing running YouTube? If you want to see a really depressing view, read this. The basic factoids are that Google will make about $240 million in ad revenue on YouTube, but it will cost them about $711 million to operate the site. Some simple math then leads to the $470 million dollar loss for the year. No company can long afford to lose a half billion dollars on a single property and enjoy it. Heck, most of us couldn't afford it even if we moved the decimal point 6 places over.

The most interesting thing to look at is what the effective CPM (Cost Per Thousand) would have to be for YouTube to break even. The estimates I have seen posit about 75 billion video streams being fed this year by YouTube. Even if we are optimistic and believe that Google can find an ad for every video (hard given the idiocy of some of the content) and assume that Google actually gets to keep the revenue on the popular copyrighted works, we come up with something on the order of $10 CPM on average. That is almost impossible to achieve. Add to the dilemma that current estimates claim that only 3% of the available ad slots are sold and you see a real problem.

To quote the Silicon Valley Insider's analysis:
The economics are hard to overcome. Assuming YouTube delivers the 75 billion streams that Credit Suisse projects for 2009, and assuming YouTube manages to slot an ad for every stream (which is practically speaking, impossible, given the nature of much of their content), YouTube would have to achieve a $9.48 CPM for every video impression shown. Presumably, the videos YouTube is already monetizing represent the best content available, with diminishing returns as they reach deeper and deeper into a repository rife with copyright violation, the indecent, the uninteresting, and the unwatchable. Hulu claims to be charging a $30 CPM, of which roughly 70% goes to the copyright holder. Averages for other proprietary content hover around the $10 CPM mark. CPMs for user-generated content, assuming you can attract the advertisers, tend to be measured in fractions of a dollar.

So the real question for Google is how to find a new way to monetize the ever growing traffic on YouTube. This seems to be one of the better known counter examples to the old adage that "traffic is everything on the internet." The adage only works when the traffic doesn't lose too much per visitor. It will be interesting to see what the year will bring for Google and YouTube. Even Eric Schmidt (Google chief) is sounding cautionary about YouTube as a potential loss leader for the foreseeable future. (Listen to Eric here.)

So what do you think? Is there a way for Google to stop the bleeding without killing the site? Do you view things on YouTube? Do you ever click on he ads on YouTube? Do you think Google should do the obvious and kill the amateur video and go to only commercial content ala Hulu? Inquiring minds want to know. (Besides, I'm just plain nosey!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mopey Monday Miscellanei

Today is one of those mopey days. The sun is out and it is nice outside, but my motivation to get going is lacking. Seems like those kind of days happen sometmes. Maybe the solution is to add an extra day each week that can be used in any way one chooses. If this is a good day to mope around and do little else, you can use the extra day as a mope day. Of course, there is always the ongoing issue of using your "personal/mope" day too eary in the week and then discovering that it was really needed later in the week. {*grin*}

The discussion of mope days reminded me of a gentleman I haven't thought of in years. Paul was a work colleague long ago. He was very senior in the company at the time I knew him. He had worked essentially his whole life at the company, was one of the original 10 employees of what had become a Fortune 100 company, and with his seniority, he accumulated vacation time at a rate exceeding 1 day a week. The problem that Paul had was that he was not often in the mood to take time off. So he was always up against the corporate cap on accumulated vacation time. The entire time I knew him, he had to take one day a week off or lose the paid day off as he hit the corporate cap. Paul was one of those people who couldn't stand the idea of "donating" the day back to the company, so he spent some time programming a spreadsheet/database to automatically chose which days would be best for him to take off. He would then put in the paperwork for those days but still come to work as if it was a normal day. It pleased him not to "donate" the day to the company and yet not have to skip work for a day. He would have loved the similar problems associated with the personal/mope day idea.

Easter was good here. L was home and we had Easter dinner at Mom's. I suspect Mom was pretty tired after wheeling around preparing the meal in a wheel chair. Since she can't leave the house yet, she wanted to have Easter dinner at her place. So I did the shopping and then pulled some stuff out of the freezers Saturday night and came over early Sunday to help with the prep and setup. L and MIL both came over after church so we could follow the long standing family tradition of eating too much on Easter Sunday. MIL hurt her shoulder/arm in the blizzard#1 and blizzard#2 aftermath and so isn't able to use one arm right now. Hopefully that will get better when she starts theraapy later this week. Since Mom had the home care nurse coming by later in the day to change the surgical dressings, MIL was in discomfort with her arm, and L had to get ready to head back to the mountains, we were done and had it all cleaned up before 3pm. 

I took a spare CRT monitor over to the MIL's on Saturday to replace her dead LCD. She was undergoing computer withdrawal since it had failed last Tuesday. After getting it set up and verifying functionality, I brought her dead LCD back here. In keeping with my reputation as the computer whisperer, I have it back up and running. I'm going to keep it running on the bench system here for a few days just to make sure I really fixed the problem and then will journey back over to return it to MIL's computer desk. (I know she is having a hard time with the smaller screen and square pixels of the old CRT monitor she is stuck with right now versus the LCD with its 16:9 widescreen layout.)

It is amusing how dedicated both Mom and MIL are to their computers. Email, word procesing, and the web are an important part of their lives. Given that they both were drug, with at least some kicking and screaming, into the digital age decades ago, it is funny how important the computer is in their lives now. I often wonder what my grandfather would have thought of computers in day to day life if he had lived a bit longer. I still have a rudimentry computer game he built in the late '50s using relays and a vacuum tube for the computing power. I suspect he would have enjoyed the modern computer and its prescence in daily life immensely.

Well, time to get some meeting materials put together for tomorrow. Hope your Easter was good and this week is off to a good (not mopey) start.

I guess I'll go de-mope in the park with Molly. She's just about ready to rise from the "L left" mopes and check out the park for squirrels.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Do You Like Hokum?

I once again watched part of "The Ten Commandments" tonight and found myself pondering many questions. Like many Cecil B. DeMille creations, there are severe liberties taken with reality in order to make editorial and plot line statements. So herewith are some of the random questions that I either thought of or that someone else brought up about the movie.

Q1: Why did everyone wear mid 1900's clothing? 

So far as I can tell, gold and silver lame fabric didn't exist at the time of the movie setting. So why did we see all the players surrounded by people in lame? My understanding of the time is that yes, Pharaoh and his house might have had a few hundred seamstresses hanging about, but where did the raw cloth come from. There was an awful lot of silk being flashed on screen at a time when there was no established silk trade with China. And for that matter, the historical records of the time point to rather poor dress in coarse cloth as the norm for every day wear.

My suspicion is that DeMille recognized that people wanted to see a spectacle, not a bunch of grubbily dressed actors and actresses. But couldn't he have been a bit saner in the costume choice?

Q2. Why did the parted Red Sea not have a wet seabed?

One can always cop out and claim God dried the sea bed as he parted the seas, but surely someone who wrote the gospels would have commented on that even greater miracle. After all, a lot of them commented on the parting of the sea which is minor compared to instant drying of the sea bed. I think DeMille just didn't want to gum up the costume works with all that mud.

Q3. Why did the charioteers not try to escape as the sea closed on them?

It would seem that most sane people would at least make a token effort to get to shore when the walls of sea water started to close around them. But all the extras in this movie just stood there. Maybe there was a lower price for extras who didn't move around?

Q4. Why did Pharaoh keep trying to twit Moses after repeatedly getting his nether regions handed to him every time?

Most rulers are smart enough to go with the flow when it is clear which way the wind is blowing, but not Pharaoh. Now here DeMille is no worse than the record as recorded in the bible. But I really have to wonder if the congenital inbreeding of the Egyptian royal family hadn't already caught up to them. After all, lowered IQ's are one of the early symptoms of an inbreeding program.

Enough of my native sarcasm and quibbles.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The title is completely misleading ... this post has absolutely nothing to do with the celebration of Easter. Instead, as I was listening to music this evening (primarily some old Clapton, Cream, and Animals) from my misspent youth, I was struck by the evocative power that music has for my generation.

The point I've been pondering as a result of being so struck is this: I'm not sure that the same evocative power of music is present in later generations when the onslaught of video changed the listening and thinking habits of the generation. It seems that the IPod generation both gained more immediate access to their music of choice and at the same time are less driven by the music due to the prevalence of video in their lives. I think I'd like to claim that there is an analogy to reading as well. So what am I babbling about?

Consider that when one reads a book, one is tasked by the author to use their imagination to create the detailed and vivid mental picture of the scenes and actions described in broad stroke by the author. Contrast that to seeing a movie. There the film maker has taken the imagination called for by the author of the original book or play and replaced it by *his* vision of what the author was writing about.  Watching a movie is in many senses an imaginative void for precisely that reason. Those of us who read a lot often find film deeply unsatisfying simply because we have a different or better or more vivid imagination than the film maker is capable of expressing. My claim would be that the loss of exercise of the imagination "muscle" as it were by watching video based works leads to atrophy and a certain lack of ability to imagine in the depth and vivacity common to those who read or listen to music. In music the difference is that the songwriter/performer is like the author using aural phrasing rather than words. The net result is similar - we build a vivid picture in our mind and then tie the imagery to emotions that we are experiencing.

So what do you think? Has the move to more video entertainment and less written and musical entertainment led to atrophy of the imagination muscle? Does the IPod generation get less from the music and perhaps more from the video than prior generations? I know the answer in my case, but I am admittedly an outlier and a bit insane. I really want to know what you think.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Five Things I Have Never Done ...

Without further ado I give you:

Five Things I Have Never Done That I Will Probably Never Do In The Future

(How's that for the title that ate Philadelphia?)
New and Improved - With Pictures!!!

I have never starred in a porno movie. As a teenage male this was number one on my hit parade of fantasies. Somehow, it just never happened. Now, all these years later, I look askance at the whole idea. {*grin*} I did once have a porno starlet smile at me at a party, but I think that was just because she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and was smiling at everything, including the potted plant she later became intimately acquainted with. Oh well.

I have never been arrested sans clothing outside a bar. In fact, I have never been arrested, period. (As regular readers know, that is my standard tweak to the local press as to how I will let them know I am tired of being mayor. {*grin*})

I have never yodeled the Gettysburg Address in the Swiss Alps. Heck, I've never even yodeled in the shower.


I have never ridden a pig bareback. For that matter, I have never ridden a pig with a saddle or tack. Going out on a limb, I doubt I will be riding a horse anytime in the future either (especially given it has been 40+ years since the last horse ride on my part)

I have never taken a art class featuring "anatomical studies". I did have a Nobel prize winning professor who used to go to topless bars to draw on his lunch hour. As he put it - "No one will ever admit to having seen me here and I can draw without interruption.There's no other place near campus where that is a true statement."

So that's my five for this week - what are your five?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Betrayal Thursday

Catchy title isn't it? It is time once more for Mama Kat's writer's challenge. The prompts this week are:
  1. Describe a moment when you realized you and your spouse were SO different.
  2. What is your role in the household?
  3. Write about how you felt when you discovered you were lied to.
  4. Describe a hard time you gave a teacher...what would you say to them today?
  5. What is an unpleasant experience you had eating? Write a poem, paragraph, or something else about the experience.

This is a tough group of topics, but here goes.

Number 1 is hard since I don't remember that there has ever been a time that I felt that L and I were that different. Call it a poor memory from getting old, acceptance after 33+ years of marriage, or just plain not being observant, but I really don't think that L and I are all that different. There are a number topics we hold very different views on and there are an uncountable number of things that we value differently in our lives, but those are mostly minor quibbles compared to the big things. Those are the differences that add spice to life and make it worth living. I can think of nothing more boring than a world where everyone was identical. Sounds a lot like parts of Dante's vision of Hell.

Number 2 is hard becuase the role is subject to change on spur of the moment. L and I have always been pretty fluid about who does what, which makes the roles a bit fuzzy. I was the one that stayed home with the Son early on because I could shift my hours around to work with a nanny (Hi Lynne!) where as L needed to be on the road. I cook, L cooks, I clean, L cleans ... The only real defined role is that I get stuck with the lawn mowing and L with the flower beds.

Number 3 has a quick answer: It all depends! You don't survive long in politics without discovering that there is a certain percentage of people who lie compulsively, especially if it is to their personal advantage. You also discover that there are people who will tell you a bald faced lie to your face while stabbing you, and not just in the back either.

Before I became mayor, I handled the issue in a simple manner. I gave everyone the benefit of doubt and believed them. If it turned out they were untruthful, that was generally the last conversation they ever had with me. It worked well as a personal policy. Since I have been mayor, that is not a feasible policy. So instead I have to apply all that I know and all that I can find out to determine the veracity of what I am told and then act accordingly. It is a more challenging policy to execute, but I can't picture any other way you could effectively represent the spectrum of truthfulness found in the electorate. Just because someone is lying doesn't mean that they might not have an important point to consider. Likewise, just because someone is telling the truth doesn't mean that it wasn't a waste of perfectly good time to listen to them. Oh well.

You'll note that I have thus far avoided answering the actual question of how I felt when I discovered someone was lying to me. And that is because it really does depend on the circumstances. The amount of pain and angst is usually directly proportional to the personal emotional investment I have in the statement. If it is someone I love and trust and/or the topic is very important to me, then my reaction upon being lied to is usually emotional hurt and pain followed by anger. Then with the passage of time, forgiveness usually enters the picture. If it is someone with no close ties to me, the reaction is usually amusement of some form. After all, if you are going to tell me lies, at least make it something that I can't tell is a lie. Otherwise it is purely entertainment and I treat it as such. (Has this been clear as mud to you too?)

Number 4 is too easy. I gave most of my teachers a hard time unintentionally. Because I was very bright and was earmarked by the IQ tests of the era as being extremely bright, teachers often arrived at class already intimidated. I had one psychology instructor who bordered on abusive in how he singled me out, because, as he put it, I was the one chance he would have in his career to examine anyone with an IQ that high. This was said in front of the whole class, so you can imagine how popular that made me. {*grin*} One of the joys of college for me was teachers that treated me as a peer and equal rather than some circus freak for being bright.

I didn't understand how miserable I made some of my teachers until recently. I was talking to the daughter of a late high school teacher at a memorial event and she immediately lit up when she heard my name. She remembered me because her father would come home and spend hours every night reading and studying so that he could try to keep up with the pace of questions I would have in class and the leaps of intuition as I tried to understand at a deeper level (her father taught chemistry to me). She also remembered that her father would  talk at supper each night about the questions I had asked that day and how he could find no answers for many of them. He was very relieved when I stopped taking high school classes and went to the local college for the rest of my curriculum. I think what ate at him the most was that he was also the athletic director of the school and so wanted me there to play football, but at the same time my presence in his class was making his life a living hell (mainly because he was too dedicated to simply brush me off and was unwilling to do a bad job of teaching).

Number 5 is interesting if only because it was a result of my not listening to sane words of advice. The background: When L and I lived in LA, I lived half time in LA and half time in New York for a period. I kept an apartment in Manhattan, so I'd fly in Sunday night, get settled in, and be set for the next week or two. When you commute back and forth like that, people to go out with and eat at restaurants with are a precious commodity, especially those not connected in any way to work. A good friend from college, David, introduced me to a friend of his wife that lived in the city and who was also a fanatical science fiction reader like me. Her name was Celeste. Celeste and I would meet up about once a month to go out and eat and discuss what we had read and what we were looking forward to reading. This went on for several years and we ate at a variety of restaurants all over Manhattan. One of the reasons for the varied restaurants was the fact that Celeste was a strict vegan and I am more a meat and potatoes kind of guy. So finding a place where we both found food of interest could be challenging. Finally, the inevitable happened and Celeste invited me over to her apartment for a "home cooked" meal.

Now you need to know that when David had introduced me to Celeste, he had warned me that I should *never* eat at her place. No explanation, just don't go there to eat. Of course the warning had slipped my mind by this point and I was looking forward to the event. It had been weeks since I had been back to LA. and the idea of home cooking sounded good. The fateful evening came and the meal began with a really tasty salad. I'm a salad lover anyway, but this was spectacularly good. I was now really excited to see what would be next. The mystery platter that was the main course arrived and looked good. Then the odor hit. It made a feedlot right after a rain storm smell good. But I have had some food that smelled horrible and tasted really good, so was still game. Then I took a bite and had to struggle mightily not to gag or spit it out accross the table. Whatever the stuff was, it tasted just like cowshit! (Spend time around a cattle operation and you'll know precisely what cowshit tastes like. This stuff was the real thing!) Needless to say, I tried to be polite but avoid any more of the stuff. The rest of the evening is lost in my memories of trying to shove the stuff around my plate without being too obvious that no more was actually entering my mouth. At the conclusion of the evening, I had the taxi home stop at the nearest fast food joint to get a burger and fries and forget the lingering taste of cowshit.

The next day I called David up and informed him that I made the mistake of eating at Celeste's. He immediately broke out laughing and asked me if she served the cowshit. I asked him how he knew about that and what it tasted like. He asked me if I remembered the warning he had given me when he introduced us.  He said that was why he had warned me not to eat at Celeste's. He had been through a similar experience when his wife had first introduced him to Celeste. It seemed she served it to anyone she wanted to impress. And the only people she invirted to her place to eat were people she wanted to impress. It certainly left a lasting impression on me! So I'll close this post with the sage words of advice I should have heeded: Don't eat at Celeste's!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Politics Redux

I just got back from supper with Representative Markey. She was doing her meet and greet sweep of the area while Congress was out of session and invited local officials to join her for supper. So the county commissioners, representatives of the city council, the city manager and myself sat down to talk and eat with Ms. Markey and some of her staff. She is a real change from her predecessor and seems to be on the right track. Time will tell.

The most amusing part of the evening was at the end when it came time to pay the tab. The poor waitress had to give separate tabs to each of us. It is one of those written and unwritten rules that elected officials cannot pay for another elected officials meal at such events. The rule is another one of those odd rules that have a point in preventing some old time abuses and accusations of influence buying and selling, but which make less sense in practice than might be expected. It took longer than one might have expected to handle paying all the tabs once the dinner was over just for that reason. What is amusing is that every stake holder at the table would have been willing to foot the bill just for the crucial conversations and contacts at the meal. The city and the county since it gave us a chance to lobby for our needs versus the metropolitan areas of the front range, the Markey organization since she sits on the Agriculture committee and needs the input from the area farms, and the the city to lobby for help with the EPA and water treatment issues that Congress could be of immense help on.

On the senatorial side, our new Senator Bennett has already made one stop out here a few weeks ago. He started off on a good foot by retaining former Sen. Salazar's staff in the area. The area out here really misses Ken Salazaar. He understood agriculture and farming and was involved in the issues of the plains at a grass roots level. When he moved on to Secretary of the Interior for Obama, it left a real gap. Mr Bennett was a highly capable administrator in the Denver Public Schools, but the jury is still out on his effectiveness at representing rural issues with the efficiacy that Ken Salazaar exhibited. So once again we will have to see what the fullness of time unfolds.

(An aside on the effectiveness of Salazar and his staff. After spending months getting the run around from the EPA about the granite decay products in the water here, I briefly spoke to Ken at a meeting on a different subject. The next day I had calls and emails from his staff. Within three days I had the missing answers from the EPA. That is why having effective representatives and senators for an area is critical. It is one of the aspects of the office that many people overlook or just plain don't understand.)

Enough politcal hot air!

The weekend blizzard is now mostly a thing of the past. It warmed up today and the snows began to melt fast. The weather people are forecasting highs near 70 tomorrow, so most of the rest should melt in short order. The interstate and other highways finally re-opened on Sunday, so L could return to the mountains for work. The Denver Sunday paper got delivered this afternoon since they couldn't get the paper out here over the closed roads on Saturday/Sunday.. The parts of town without electrical power on Saturday were all back up and running by late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Sunday was also the day that the county started sending crews out to clear the rural roads. Reports were that there were 9-12 foot high drifts in places that made road clearing a bit of challenge. Overall we only got about 8" of snow, but with the winds scouring the open fields, it wasn't deposited uniformly. Some fields were left bare of snow to contribute to the drifts where the wind eddied.

Well, I'm off to read the Sunday paper. Gotta get that funnies fix! (BTW, I have been reading your blogs, I just haven't had time to comment. Hopefully that will get better soon.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday In The Howling Silence

It is quiet around here. The town was almost deserted when I was out to shovel walks earlier. It was strange to see the streets so empty. No traffic, no cars, and no one out and about. Of course that may be connected to the 50 mph howling winds and the snow and ice covering everything. It might also be due to the fact that the interstate and several highways were closed at various times during the day as well.

It started snowing around 6 am and kept it up for a good part of the day. The addition of the winds just made it all more harsh. The only thing keeping it from being a total white out was the fact that the snow was so wet that it stuck rather than blew once it hit something. At around 1pm this is how it looked:

Nothing like a little wet snow on top of some rain that was freezing as the temperature fell. When I went out to shovel, it was slicker than the proverbial snail's snot. The winds were howling enough over at MIL's house (it is more exposed on the edge of town than ours or Mom's) that I had to shovel facing one direction only because if I lifted the shovel the other way, it caught the wind, and I started sliding down the street. Sort of like an oil tanker under sail power.

After warming up and fixing supper, I sat down with L for a quiet meal and listened to the wind howl through the trees. I plan to stay inside in the cozy warmth and recover from the cold for the rest of the evening. Nothing like listening to the wind howl while you read with the dog sitting at your side. L has a bad cold so she is getting ready to veg out and drink some more tea. I figure I've got another 8 hours before the 48 hour incubation period is up and I find out whether L has given me her cold. I sure hope not!

I have but one final thing to say - the weather critters got it right this time!

Late Friday

L and I went over to the house of some friends for an evening of good food and conversation, so I am a bit late with this. Oh well. It was totally worth it to participate in the spur of the moment gathering. We don't get a chance to see these friends that often, so when we do it is an opportunity to be enjoyed.

This afternoon/evening L and I went to the store and it was amazing to see all the people scurrying about in the 65 degree weather getting ready to batten down the hatches. (It was at the store that we ran into the above mentioned friends and the impromptu get together was hatched.) Why were the crowds frenziedly shopping on Friday afternoon? The prime impetus came from this little note and its predecessors:

Issued by The National Weather Service
Denver/Boulder, CO
9:34 pm MDT, Fri., Apr. 3, 2009



So now you know - the weather people are predicting yet another spring blizzard for the plains. Right now as I write this at about 12:45am, it is still in the 40s and raining a tiny bit. So they have a few hours to get the snow and blow going or they will miss yet another forecast. At least we have gotten .02 inches of precipitation thus far. That is better than many of the forecast accuracies out here! It was amusing - L likened the crowds to the Christmas shopping crowds in a really good year. It's been a long time since I have seen the parking lot that full, let alone on a Friday evening.

Time to mosey off into the land of nod. Take care.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Five Things I Have Learned About Life From My Dog

It is time once more for
Five Things I Have Learned About Life From My Dog

  • No one notices or cares if you have hair growing in odd places as you grow older.

  • You can scratch any itch, even if it involves rather interesting locations, without comment. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and with any amount of gusto and no one will say a word.

  • When the weather is miserable, you can lay around inside the house all day without guilt.

  • You never get in trouble for rubbing against other people. You can even put your head in their lap and no one will complain.

  • You can always be excited to see the people you love. Even if you last saw them only two minutes ago, it is perfectly acceptable to go wild when you see them again.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Over the River and Through the ...

Yesterday it snowed a bit. Then it snained a bit. Then it snowed a bit more. All of it didn't amount to a hill of beans, but it sure raised my hopes while it was happening. The dubious weather people have once again predicted snow and wind for the weekend, so we'll see if they come close to getting it right.

Molly enjoys any occurrence of snow or water, so she was once more overjoyed to get outdoors to play as it tried to snow. She likes to go out and jump around trying to catch the snow flakes as they fall. When there is enough snow on the ground, she likes to burrow into the drifts and then come exploding out like she is a hunter in a blind. But that means she gets all that long fur of hers wet. And muddy. And then she comes inside and tracks the water and mud all through the house. She knows it is wrong, but she just has to do a few victory laps on first coming back in and can't be bothered to wipe her paws. After the victory laps, she retreats to the back porch and gives me a look that screams:

"Don't look at me, I don't know who left those puddles on the floor."
But the flattened ears signal guilt as clear as day. So she then looks at me and says:
"Well, are you going to forgive me?"
And to seal the deal, she moons me with those big eyes as if to say:
"Come on, you know you want to!"
Which is immediately followed by the look that says:
"If you don't, I'm going to feel soooo bad."
So of course I forgive her and we resume our normal daily routine (with a bit of added mop action from time to time to get the worst of it off the floor.)

I Didn't Do It!

But it is time to answer the posers put forth by the all seeing and all hearing Mama Kat in her weekly Writer's Challenge! This week I decided to have a go at all of the questions, so ...

1.) Why did you do it?

I did it because he looked so lonely and forlorn; a bit like a puppy dog trying to get his first pat on the head. He had moved into our suite of dorm rooms in my sophomore year of college. Kevin would have been labeled with Asperger's syndrome in the label obsessed world of today. We just thought he was extremely inept in his people interface. I made sure not to ignore him through the year. When spring came around, I helped ensure that he rushed our fraternity and that he became a member. (It really would have helped our chess team if we had one since Kevin played at a Master level when you could convince him to play.)

Over the next year, Kevin's people skills became more acceptable and slightly more polished. Especially when he relaxed and realized he was amidst friends. I graduated from college early and after graduation I didn't think much about Kevin. In fact, I didn't see or hear from him until my 25th college reunion. L and I and the Son were in the cafeteria on the last day of the reunion when a gentleman from another class who looked vaguely familiar insisted on introducing his wife and family and thanking me profusely for making a difference in his life. In the course of our conversation, the light gradually turned on and I figured out it was Kevin. He was then the head of engineering at a very large company and was very clearly happy with his life. His social skills were still rough, but he didn't let that hold him back. And somehow he believed he owed it all to me and the fact that I didn't just ignore him.

Thus, I learned the very important lesson that even seemingly insignificant acts can have a major impact on others. It's something I try to keep in mind every day now.

2.) What is a common misconception about you?

That I am too brilliant to talk to. My friend T (from here) and I have played a lot of golf together over the years. Anytime I'd leave the table or group, T would tell me that others would then come over and quiz him on what we found to talk about; wasn't he afraid of looking dumb, etc. T would tell them that I was no different to talk to than anyone else. Given that T suffers from severe dyslexia and barely survived high school because of it, he is regarded as the antithesis of an intellectual. So the fact that he and I are friends and spend time talking about every topic under the sun seemed hard for them to understand. But the fact that I have a friend like T is one of the keys to breaking that ice wall of fear that had surrounded my interactions with the others. And for that I am thankful.

3.) Describe a moment when you felt afraid.

I was once involved in a fatal traffic accident. I was driving a truck loaded with fuel down a rural highway when a pickup truck drove out of a field, past a stop sign, and right into me. When I saw that the other vehicle was not going to stop and it was too late to do anything to prevent the crash, I was afraid, very afraid.

I remember how time slowed to a crawl as my knees shoved through the metal dashboard. I remember how the band on my watch expanded and broke and the watch and my glasses flew together into the windshield and then on out of the truck in slow motion. I remember gripping the steering wheel so hard and pushing against it so hard that it literally turned into a pretzel in slow motion in front of my eyes. I remember the intense pain once everything stopped moving. I remember falling out of the cab because my knees hurt too bad to stand. I remember seeing the flames start licking out of the engine compartment of the other truck. I remember crawling back into the cab of my truck and getting the fire extinguisher, and crawling down the road to try to put the flames out. I remember the frustration when the fire extinguisher ran dry and the flames continued to grow. I remember the other driver being unresponsive and having to pull him out of the vehicle as the flames shot to 40 feet in the air around us. And I remember crawling and pulling both us a distance down the road, attempting first aid, and praying for someone, anyone, to come along and help. (This was in the days before cell phones.)

I'll be forever grateful to the farmer in his field a few miles away who saw the plume of smoke and fire and called the police and ambulance and then came to see if he could help. I'll be forever sad that the other driver didn't make it. (He had evidently had a heart attack before the collision and may have been dead even as we collided.) I'll also be forever grateful that I survived even though it was the end of my football playing days and I spent months using canes to get around. It could have been so much worse. And I'm grateful that now, after a great deal of time has passed, that I can approach a crossroads in a vehicle without dying a mini-death of fear that it will happen again.

4.) In what ways are you turning into your mother?

I think the easier question to answer is "In what ways am I not turning into my mother?' Most of it is pretty simple: I don't quilt, I don't collect recipes, I don't call myself up to fix my computer, and I don't spend winter and early spring with the seed catalogs deciding what to grow this year. How's that for a brief answer?

5.) Are you always right?

Of course!. I have on the wall of my office a sign/plaque from L that reads:

Daniel's Rules
Rule No. 1
Daniel is always right.
Rule No. 2
If Daniel is wrong, see Rule No. 1.
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