Thursday, May 28, 2009

Five Out of the Ordinary ...

Time once more for

Five Out of the Ordinary Things Experienced Today

The sight of the United Way executive from the big city to the west actually admitting he had no clue why the program we (the city) funded two years ago is not operational. Needless to say, the funding organizations are not interested in contributing further monies until the program is working and a full explanation of the current vacuum is forthcoming.

The look on the face of the Chairwoman of the School Board when I asked her what she thought of the budget for the upcoming year. (School funding in Colorado has been uncertain from the state, leading to really convoluted attempts by school boards to estimate income for the budget.)

The transforming look of joy on the face of the lady in line in front of me when she replied to the checker's question, "Going or coming?", with a hearty "All done for the day and going home!"

The look of astonishment when the speaker at the meeting tonight discovered that the brochures for the service organization he represents had neither an address nor a phone number anywhere to be found. Makes it hard to contact them for services or to volunteer. Maybe the perfect service organization?

The behavior of the software updater on one of my computers. Can you spell cyclic dependency graph? Don't you wish the update programmer could have?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Anthem and The Rest

Time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the topics are:

1.) What is your life's anthem? You know...that song that is ALWAYS in your head. The one you'd go to sing first if someone told you to sing a song right NOW. What is it and what does it mean to you? (inspired by Tattooed Minivan Mom)

2.) We love telemarketers don't we!?! Describe a memorable experience you had with one. (inspired by Literal Dan)

3.) How much does focusing on weight affect your daily life?
(inspired by Musings Of A Blond Mom)

4.) Describe in what ways you expect too much from your significant other. Do they deserve an apology? (inspired by Carty Party Of Three)

5.) List ten things that make you HAPPY. (inspired by our irritation at our own complaining from last weeks "Sick Of" posts.)

6.) Ok I was going to end it with five, but Laina just got out of bed as I was finishing this post and I SWEAR she is sleep walking. It's creepy. I keep asking her what she is doing and she's staring at me...but not directly at me...kind of just a centimeter to the left of my head. I KNEW she was a sleep walker. I just knew it. SO! Share a sleep walking story of your own!! (inspired by my scary four year old)

So here are my "answers" to the topics.

#1 - My Anthem(s). I have several anthems, depending on the phase of the moon and the part of my life we are talking about. For life in general, I'll go with Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Life has a lot of similarities to a psychedelic quasi-love song. That is what makes it interesting. (And note that I chose the short version, not the 17 minute long original that I love.) For my anthem of marriage, I think I'll go with Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight.
It encapsulates so many of the feelings and emotions of marriage and relationships in such an emotionally satisfying way, that I think it is perfect.

#2 - Telemarketer(s). The other day I was at Mom's when my cell phone rang. The caller id showed a cell phone number, but no name. My office phone auto-forwards to my cell phone, so I suspected this was a call to the office phone. When I answered, some rather deluded gentleman tried to convince me that a) he was calling from a local business, b) that I really needed siding regardless of the fact I have a brick house, and c) that we somehow had a prior relationship, thus making the call not a violation of the do-not-call laws. I hung up and remarked to Mom that she should be getting her call in a few minutes. Sure enough, her phone rang and so far as we can tell, it was the same deluded gentleman. I think he may have been a bit surprised at how abruptly the conversation was ended. It looks like idiots that want to try telemarketing to small towns would be smarter than to claim the business is local. Most residents are cognizant of the names of most local businesses.

#3 - Weight. My perspective here may be a bit different than most people. From childhood on I have always been large. Even when I was playing football, I was well outside the norms of a height-weight chart. Today at 6'5" and 300+ lbs., nothing much has changed. I am not one that spends a lot of time focusing on weight. Given that I have lived with being outsized all my life, I don't worry about it much.

Does that mean that I wouldn't like to be thin or even normal once in my life? No, I think it would be really neat to be normal sized for at least a few hours. Perhaps long enough to fly on a plane without my knees being crushed and without hitting my forehead on door closers, etc. Of course I also think it would be fun to experience life as a short person and perhaps even the opposite sex for a few hours as well. So I spend about the same amount of time worrying about all of these possibilities - none.

I am also a long term diabetic. One of the things that keeps me from obsessing about weight is that when I try to modify my weight (changes in diet and/or exercise) it becomes next to impossible to keep my blood glucose levels under control. Given the long term consequences of excess weight versus loss of glucose control, the decision is easy - glucose control wins everytime.

As an aside, one of the more interesting aspects of growing older is watching people adapt as they age and cannot maintain certain physical aspects without a lot of pharmotherapy and surgery. Some people age with acceptance and grace, others fight every symptom of aging to the point of obsession. I find it amusing because I hear my cohort complaining about maintaining weight and losing hair and turning grey and no longer looking like they did thirty years ago. As someone who would never have been described as attractive even at my peak, I dealt with many of the issues they now face 30 years ago. It is interesting to watch them grapple with issues that are truly superficial like appearance. Some resort to the plastic surgeon trying to look like they remember. Some become fanatical gym rats trying to maintain a body look that the changing chemistry of their body no longer supports. And some realize that you cannot go back and so reach acceptance and enjoy the things that are different. What is really fun is to get a group trying all of the alternatives sitting around a table talking and noting how standard life events are interpreted differently by the various groups.

#4 - Signicant Other. The most obvious over-expectation of L that I have is that she should read my mind. I expect her to be thinking along the same pathways and reaching the same conclusions that I am. It fits in with my rather pedantic bent, but doesn't make it any fun for L. So do I owe L an apology. Yes, at times. In any long term relationship, there will be over and under expectations running both ways. Part of having a good relationship (or perhaps even to having a relationship?) is that the two way flow of expectaion and apology just works without too much friction. As L once rather emphatically expressed it to me: "If I have to ask then it doesn't count!"

#5 - Ten Things That Make Me Happy.
  • Spending time with L
  • Enjoying a good meal and conversion with friends
  • Walking the golf course
  • Writing a program that works like I imagined
  • Understanding how something works at a deep level
  • Ending a day physically tired and satisfied
  • Working a crossword puzzle
  • Designing robots
  • Seeing the light turn on when you finally get someone to understand
  • Spending time with family

    #6 - Sleep Walking. No one in the immediate family sleep walks, so no good recent stories. However, if you are willing to go back to days of yore, one of the occupants of the dorm I lived in freshman year was a sleep walker. It was a common occurrence to come stumbling back to the dorm after a late night out to find him leaning on the door to the outside, sound asleep on his feet. Usually dressed in thin cotton PJs. We'd guide him back to his room and let him go from there. The biggest fear was that he'd go walking out the front door and into the 5 feet of snow and -20 degree temperatures some night, but he never seemed to make it out the front door. I've often wondered if he still sleep walks all these years later.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Do you ...

    Do you ever find some authors that you know are good, possibly even great, are highly esteemed, are lauded by others whose judgment you generally agree with, that you just cannot stomach? If you are still with me after that convoluted sentence, let me explain. This past weekend I tried to once again read several novels by John Dickson Carr. I have had five of his novels around for twenty years and make periodic attempts to read them. It never seems to work.

    For those who don't know Mr. Carr's work, he is widely considered to be the absolute master of the locked room mystery. His protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, is highly educated and erudite. He is also a man of considerable size and girth. Given that I am a fan of detective fiction, intelligent protagonists, and always root for big guys (maybe a bit of personification), it seems that the Carr novels should be some of my favorites. But they aren't. I struggle to read more than a chapter or two. And it drives me crazy because I know that if I could just get past whatever is stopping me from enjoying these books, I'd get the chance to enjoy some highly reguarded literature. This is the author that Dorothy Sayers once remarked "... can lead us away from the small, artificial, brightly lit stage of the ordinary detective plot into the menace of outer darkness." He was the president of the Mystery Writers of America and a Grand Master recipient from the same organization.

    I think what really drives me crazy is the fact that the only Carr novel that I like is one that is closer to a romantic comedy than the normal Carr novel. "The Case of the Constant Suicides" is one of my favorite locked room reads, exceeding even the Sherlock Holmes stories in my esteem. When I read that story, I experience new vistas opening before me that I know must be lurking in the other novels that I cannot stand. But it is no good. Years and multiple attempts to even tolerate the other Carr novels have fallen short.

    So answer the question! Do you have authors like Mr. Carr that you know you should like and yet you just cannot do it? Who are they? And perhaps more important to my personal decades long quest: did you opinion ever change to the point you came to like that author?

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Memorial Day

    It rained off and on here all day. (Hooray, water!) L has headed back to the mountains and I am listening to an old Richard Lewis tape. I always find it amazing how well standup comedy works on audio tape with no visual references.

    Since this is the first time in several years I haven't been a speaker at one of the Memorial Day services, I figured I'd take the opportunity to publish the text of my last Memorial Day speech. Enjoy.

    Memorial Day Speech (from 2008)

    We are gathered here today to honor our comrades, friends, and family members who have given their lives in defense of our freedom.

    In 1868, when General John Logan (the namesake of this county) officially proclaimed Memorial Day as May 30th of each year, he was recognizing the very human need to honor and remember our dead, to reconcile our hurts and come together to honor those who gave so much for us during the Civil War. To quote from General Logan's General Order No. 11 proclaiming Memorial Day:
    Let us, then, at the time appointed gather round their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those who they have left among us ...
    From the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and all other actions between and after, brave men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice for us. We must remember them. We owe them a debt of honor that can never be repaid.

    Over the years there have been changes, for better and worse, in the ways we observe Memorial Day. The attempts at healing of the post Civil War divisions by General Logan was the beginning. WWI led Moina Michael to respond to John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" with her own poem:

    We cherish too, the Poppy red
    That grows on fields where valor led,
    It seems to signal to the skies
    That blood of heroes never dies.

    And she went on to found the national poppy movement using the traditional red poppies to honor the blood of heroes spilled in our defense on Memorial Day. The late 1950's saw the beginning of the tradition of placing American flags on the individual graves of our fallen heroes. The fourth Monday in May was officially established by Congress as the date of remembrance in 1971. This service today continues this tradition of remembrance and honor.

    Through all the changes, the importance and meaning of this day has not changed. It is the day we remember and honor those who have fallen for us. We must remember them. We owe them a debt of honor that can never be fully repaid. Let us honor and remember them today and throughout the year.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Have You Ever ...

    Have you ever wondered what is going through the mind of your pet? Do you ever wonder if they think along lines recognizable by the human thought process? I do.

    This particular revery was brought on by Molly the dog's reaction to the thunder this evening. We had a couple of pretty good booms after a quiet day of overcast. When the booms happened, Molly sprinted into my office, put her paws on my leg, and stood up with her head buried in my chest. She was literally shaking like a leaf. So my first thought was that she was frightened. But then I began to wonder if that was just my human brain thinking. What makes me think that the thought processes of a dog should follow my expectations of human norms?

    In any case, Molly has not ventured more than a foot from me since the incident. I suspect she can still hear subsonic rumbles from the now distant storm. If I stand up, Molly is right there with me. If I sit down, Molly is laying at my feet (but only after first pawing my leg and making sure she is not going to get more head rubs first).

    The "attached at the leg" syndrome makes me think back to the Son's toddlerhood when there were the days that you could not be separated from him by more than inches without a fit being initiated. I am sure that all parents have been through those tag-a-long days where there is no relief from the continuous attachment of the young ones. Somehow, it is a bit more tolerable when it is your child attached to you than when it is your big strong dog. Not only that, but this is a new behaviour for Molly compared to last year. So this summer when the thunderstorms really fire up should be an interesting experience.

    Back to the initial topic. I am really curious as to what goes through the mind of Molly. Given she is at least partially a herding breed, it is tempting to attribute thoughts to her as she sits with her ears alert scanning the yard. Likewise when she is trying to herd the squirrels on the powerlines in the alley.

    Oh well, at least Molly hasn't picked up the habits of her late predecessor, a Bassett Hound named Beauregard. Beau used to go out in the back yard and come back with his jowels full of crickets, which he would then carefully release alive in the house. Once Beau finally caught on that the crickets were verbotten (Bassetts are not the worlds brightest dogs, it only took him about five years to get that idea), he switched over to bringing the occasional live toad in and letting it go in the house. So far Molly has been much better behaved than that.

    I'll leave you with this picture of Molly huddling at my feet:

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Five Oddities Spotted ...

    It's time once more for

    Five Oddities Spotted at the Meeting I Attended Tonight

    • Although the meeting was about a development in the far rural reaches of the county, there were more city officials in attendance than officials from the county.
    • The engineering/consulting firm for the project actually had an approximately equal male/female ratio in the engineers attending. Given that the project is geologic and oil and gas related, to see that kind of equality warmed the cockles of my scientist's heart.
    • The code of ethics for the FERC representative prevented her from even sampling the food buffet put out for all to enjoy by the project backers. That sounds to me like a policy in need of some sanity, especially since they sent the representative out for a evening meeting without many other options for food. (FERC = Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) 
    • The landowners adjacent to the project attended the meeting because it was a social event. They were there to exchange gossip and crop news more than to ask questions about the project. (So related to the above, the representative from FERC was probably the loneliest person at the meeting.)
    • Nothing will perk the ears of the Emergency Coordinator and the Fire Chief quicker than an off-handed discussion of tanker trucks loaded with highly flammable explosives following a HazMat route through the area.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    I Love, I Hate, I Don't Do

    Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge for this week features an interesting panopoly of juxtaposed ideas. The topics are:

    1.) Share a love letter.
    2.) Memorial Day Weekend plans?? Do share!
    3.) List ten things you are currently sick of.(inspired by Jenny)
    4.) Put an outfit together using pictures you found online and show us what you'd LIKE to be wearing today.(inspired by Lace)
    5.) What have you been too busy to pay attention to? (inspired by Chris)
    So you can see that some topics are almost diametrically opposed. So herewith is my attempt at rising to the topics.

    #1 - Share a love letter. That one is a bit tough. L and I have been married for more than 33 years and have known each other for close to 40 years; digging the old love letters out would be a monumental task. One of the things we did when we were in college (attending colleges a few thousand miles apart) was to send small gifts to each other to remind the other of our love. Now more than 35 years later, I still have some of those gifts and trinkets on my dresser. One that never fails to warm my heart is this one:
    This was a gift from L, way back when. Each time I see it, I am reminded of the emotions I felt then and still feel now. It has no intrinsic value; it is just a cheap trinket from the early seventies. But ... every time I see it I am reminded of the most priceless thing in my life, L. I think that makes it pretty valuable in and of itself and I count it as a love letter all by itself.

    #2 - Memorial Day Weekend plans. Since I am not speaking at the services at the cemetary this year, my weekend is pretty much open. I know L has plans for us to do some yard work, including removal of the volunteer elms and the first pass at the weeds in the pine trees. I know Mom has been making plans to have L and I and the MIL over for a meal, but the full details are as of yet a bit sketchy. I suspect the Son will be working up in the mountains, so I doubt we will see him. The weather people are finally forcasting normal seasonable weather here for the weekend, so it should have highs in the seventies and enjoy a really pleasant weekend. If you feel like pulling some weeds or raking pine needles or cleaning gutters, please feel free to stop by and help.

    #3 - Ten things I am sick of.
    • Pulling weeds from the squash beds in Mom's garden patch (Done at last!)
    • The blister on my thumb from pulling weeds (Even with heavy leather gloves!)
    • High temperatures
    • Low barometric presures (I ache in every joint I have ever broken!)
    • How needy Molly the dog is when it thunders
    • Rising gas prices
    • How weeds seem to win out over desired plants
    • Uncertainty and unpredictability
    • Abrupt seasonal change (2 weeks ago snow, this week 100+ degrees)
    • The thought of the coming of the long hot days of summer (Just get here already and be done with it!)

    #4 - Put an outfit together. Given my distinct lack of style and clothing sense, that just isn't going to happen. I'll just wait and see what others choose to put together. Besides, I'm a guy. My closet could have 20 of the same outfit in it and I'd be perfectly happy. After all, the only reason a guy wears a different outfit is that his favorite is in the laundry. (Or he has a rather insistent girl friend.)

    #5 - What I have been too busy to pay attention to. Both L and Molly. L because we aren't having long phone conversations during the week (which is both good and bad) and the dog because Molly is so needy when the sound of thunder reaches her very sensitive ears. In fact I just spoke to L on the way home from a meeting, but it wasn't a long conversation, just the essentials and then out. But L will be home for the long weekend, so maybe we can get caught up then. At the same time, since it is thundering in the distance, Molly is sitting with her paw on my leg and her head in my lap begging for a comforting rub on the head. In fact, here she is with me holding one paw while she begs for a head rub to make it all better.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Another Hot One

    This afternoon it was sitting at 101 degrees at about 3pm when the thunderheads started rolling in. Within moments the temperature dropped ten degrees to a balmy 91 and the breeze made it feel pretty good. So it was over to Mom's to continue planting the garden. Today was more beans, rutabagas, radishes, kohlrabi, winter squash, some of the summer squash, cucumbers and some other plants. So hopefully tomorrow we will get the rest of the drip system hooked up and continue on with the planting of various squash.

    We had to stop removing weeds from the one squash bed today because we had too many weeds pulled to fit in the garbage until after tomorrow's pickup. This was the second dumpster load of weeds pulled from the non-rototilled parts of the garden. I figure we have about one more dumpster load of weeds to pull in the garden area (and probably half again as many to remove form the flowers). mom finds out tomorrow if she can get rid of the boot and start getting out and about a bit. She can use the walker part time now so she at least escapes the wheel chair a bit now and then. On the other hand, she can't manuver in the soft soil area yet, so i suspect it will be an ongoing project for me to keep the weeds down and do the needed thinning. Oh well, at least some of the crops will begin yielding before too long.

    Remember up at the top where I mentioned the thunderheads? That is pretty typical weather out here on the plains. Heat building all day until mid to late afternoon, then all the thermal energy starts fueling thunderheads. They rise quickly to amazing heights, 10-20,000 feet. That brings on the thunder and lightning but rarely any precipitation. Later on in the year,  we may get hail storms, but generally not a lot of rain. But when the thunder clouds pass by, the shading and subsequent drop in air temperature causes gusty wind that I have loved all my life. The wind causes screens to sing in the breeze, a sound that is the harbinger to cooling and pleasant memories in my mind. I've talked before (here, for example) about how I loved that sound when out on the farm. Tonight was the first such occurance of the year here. I loved it!

    Well, time to get cleaned up so I can mosey down to the radio station in the morning. At least the weather critters are predicting a bit cooler day tomorrow.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    The Heat Is On

    The weather is once more being seasonably unseasonable. After having days last week where the high didn't exceed 50 degrees, today it was already up to 95 by noon. Nice and toasty. The weather people are predicting that it will continue hot and dry until Thursday night. Then we're supposed to have at least a few days of more normal weather with highs in the low 70s.

    Yesterday was yet another "plant in Mom's garden" day. We got the tomatoes and peppers planted and covered from the wind. This evening it will be time to put in the radishes and beans and melons and ... Plus hook up the drip system for the rest of the stuff so it will survive the next few days. All that will be left to plant after that is squash and cucumbers and carrots and turnips and a few afterthoughts like rutabagas, etc. Then it will be time to settle down to the ongoing battle with the weeds and weather and .... All that just harvest tons of yummy things.

    I am always amazed by the amount of biomass that can be generated from a given plot of land with the addition of a bit of water, a little fertilizer, and a lot of sunshine. Plants are amazingly efficient converters of solar energy into biomass. It also amazes me that with correct farming/gardening methods, the same plot can remain productive year after year. Of course, that means that you have to remove a lot of biomass produced by the weeds that have settled in from last fall to now. One of the rules of thumb this time of the year is that if it looks really healthy, it must be a weed. The desired crops haven't had a chance yet to really settle in and establish themselves in the pecking order. And because of the prevailing winds on the plains, weeds are *always* reseeded every year as the seeds get blown in from hundreds of miles away.

    In other business, I had a meeting this morning with representatives of the engineering firm putting in an underground gas storage field about 20 miles from here. It is interesting how they take an old played out oil field (about a mile to mile and a half under the surface), seal the drilled entries, and then pump gas into the cavity under high pressure for storage and load leveling in pipelines. What makes it more interesting out here is that a variant where they wash out a salt dome formation (at the same depths, but with no oil) and then use it as an air tank. They use the wind turbines to compress air into the storage area when grid demand is low and then use the pressurized air to run turbines to generate power when demand is high. Storing anything at several thousand psi is always an interesting engineering problem. Requires a fully stratified geology and some pretty good ideas of the structure of the strata.

    Well, time to get cleaned up since I am back from Mom's now. I left this in an open window before I mosied over to work on the garden, and just spotted that I hadn't posted.

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Random Thoughts For A Friday

    Today was one of those days full of random thoughts that lead nowhere but are too good not to blog about. Thus, you get to suffer right along with me.

    Random Thoughts For a Friday

    I was reading a Dave Berry column and was struck by the aptness of his discription of much current music: "it sounds like angry men clubbing a yak to death with electric guitars." Beyond the fact that Dave Berry is one of my favorite humor columnists, the way he captures the true gut level feeling of things is great. Besides, who else has the entry to their web site feature the quote "If you leave this web site, I will kill this defenseless toilet."

    My trackball is nearing the end of its life. This one has lasted five years and through several computers, so I guess i shouldn't complain. Trackballs are getting harder to find in the size and variation I like, but I dread the idea of going back to the three button + spin wheel mouse. Once you get used to having 7 buttons and a spin wheel plus the trackball, you really hate to go back. Not to mention it lets one avoid certain variants of carpal tunnel syndrome. Maybe I can cobble together one working one from the 5 or 6 carcasses I have stored around here. Twenty years of mousing technology encapsulated via the broken remnants. (I am a pack rat. I knew you'd never guess that.)

    It was windy here for the third straight day. 30 mph with occasional gusts up to 70 mph for days on end gets annoying, a bit like the Santa Ana wind when we lived in LA. In any case, the wind killed off going to nursery for some plants and other such oddities. (Mom is still in the wheel chair and decided that using the handicapped van in the wind was not her idea of fun. Since she was the plant picker outer, no need for me to go if she didn't.)

    I had an odd call from the CU Medical school this afternoon. They are bringing a group of medical students out here for a program and called to ask me to set aside an afternoon to speak to the students. I suspect it is for their rural medicine rotation, so it should be interesting to talk to the students. I figure I'll find out more in the coming weeks. Be interesting to see how the medical students differ from the pre-med students I used to teach college physics to long ago.

    The Son left a really strange telephone message last night. I assume it was an incident of butt dialing while he and his house-mates celebrated their last day together for this year. Not often you get a non-butt dial at 2:25 am, hence the diagnosis of butt dial. We'll have to see if he remembers the call this weekend. (I stored the message away for use in future embarrassments.)

    A good friend called and invited L and I over for Italian sausage and an evening of fine conversation, but it was too late when I got home and retrieved the message. L has client meetings in the mountains for the weekend, so it would have just been the trio of me, myself, and I that could have attended. Given that the friend cooks really good sausage and brats, it would have been tasty. Oh well.

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Five Beautiful Things ....

    Time once more for

    Five Beautiful Things I Experienced on Thursday

    • The wonderful fragrance of the lilac bush in the back yard. In spite of the fact that the wind blew at a steady 30 mph most of the day, the backyard remained fragrant as I mowed the lawn.
    • The tiny white flowers on the bush of unknown origins in the from yard. As I mowed the lawn this evening, I was captivated by the delicate features of each tiny bloom each time I passed the bush.
    • The purple and white wild flowers that are blooming beneath the pine trees. They take the brown barrenness of the needle beds beneath the trees and turn them into colorful abstract paintings.
    • The wonder of coincidence. Today as I walked out of a business meeting, showing one of the attendees a sculpture by a well known local artist, I ran into the local college president and one of the town benefactors. So I got a chance to visit with both entirely by chance.
    • The support of friends and well wishers. My phone has been ringing off the hook with people congradulating me on my innocence and standing up for what is right in the face of threats. Makes the pain of the whole process a bit easier to handle. (Read about it here.)
    (I thought about doing my five in photos, but by the time I finished mowing and cleaning up, the light was too far gone. Maybe next week.)

    I remember when ....

    This week, one of the topics posed by Mama Kat was to write on the topic of "I remember when ..."

    I remember when I saw my first small computer. I can't say it was a personal computer because it wasn't. It had about 1/1000 the power of the first PC and cost more than a house at the time. It was a special prototype lab instrument in the Hewlett-Packard research labs. I was attending a science institute during high school when I saw this beautiful desktop sized computer. It was love at first sight and I dearly wanted one of my own.

    Later on in graduate school. I drooled over the experimental group's hand crafted computers running the data acquisition software for the particle detectors. The price had dropped to the point where each little board on the detector cost less than $10,000.

    When the advent of the CP/M based hobbyist machines finally brought the price of personal computers down to the level I could afford, it was close to decade after my first sighting. My very first "real" PC had a blazingly fast 2MHz Z80 processor, 32 KB of memory, used an old character-only terminal as the user interface, and had one (1!) of the old eight inch floppy disks for storage. I could compile a program with only 8 swaps of the floppy disk for temporary storage and various passes of the compiler. I was in hog heaven!

    Over the next year and a couple of hundred visits to surplus and swap meets, I added 4 five inch floppy disks to replace the single eight inch disk. It made me the envy of all my friends since I could now compile a program without swapping the disks. Just start the compile and go to bed and it might be done by morning. I also added one of those new-fangled 1200 baud modems so I could call into the Bulletin Board Systems and the nascent Compuserv network. And I added another 32K of memory so that I had the full 64k addressable by the Z80. Still no hard drive since the technology for winchester disks was just starting to ramp up and even a 5MB drive cost more than $10,000 (and had a mean time between failures measured in months, not years).

    Now that I have put you all to sleep as I drool over my first techno love, let me put the capabilities of this beautiful little machine in terms that may be more meaningful:
    • The Z80 processor in the machine had less compute power than the chip in a  toaster today
    • 64k of memory is less than the amount of memory your toaster probably has in it today
    • The five inch floppy disks held 96K each. Thus all four disks together held less than .5 MB. A typial notebook today has 200GB of hard disk - more than 400,000 times the capacity of my little machine.

    What makes all the memories so remarkable is that today with literally thousands of times the memory and compute power, the only real change in computing is that all that power is devoted to the user interface. Things happen faster and are flashier, but are not fundamentally improved from the old days. It will be interesting to see what the changes are in the new few years and if they finally fundamentally change the underlying computing model.

    I am reminded of a collegue from long ago who once said that the only change in computing from 1980 to 2000 was that we made the machines faster and larger so that ever less capable people could write programs. There is some real truth to that view. (And it isn't necessarily bad either.)

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009


    Tonight I was declared innocent. While it is a relief, it should never have been necessary to even consider the converse.

    Thanks to a vicious campaign of slander, innuendo, libel and outright lies mounted by a person attempting to prevent my placing the review of their contract on the city council agenda, I was accused in secret of crimes that are personally odious (dishonesty, theft, etc.) to me. Because the claims also involved another city employee, I was bound by the city charter and civil rights issues from speaking out and dispelling the rumors floating around town. So the not-so-secret secret investigation was the topic of gossip in the coffee shops and numerous questions from friends and even some enemies. And all I could do was say "No comment." It had reached the point where I was prepared to ask the other people involved if I could force the whole issue out into the light. Nothing is more disheartening or more damaging than secret accusations that you cannot publicly refute without violating the law.

    So tonight, after the report from the outside counsel engaged to investigate me, I was declared to be innocent of wrong doing. The whole process was a waste of time, energy, and money. I was declared not to have commited any of the odious acts charged in secret. What is interesting is that although it was announced that I had done nothing criminal, the false and malicious charges that triggered this whole mess were never brought forth, including the person who did it and the reason they did it. So I have been declared innocent and it is up to others to figure out what I'm innocent of.

    Now the question is do I want to pursue legal action against the slandering and libelous person who instigated the whole incident or do I just let it die. I have a strong suspicion that some of the other people affected will be filing suit, since the person in question violated their charter and civil rights in a quite blatant manner. It will be interesting.

    Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now know why I haven't been my normal self on these pages for the last few months. Incidents such as this eat at your soul. Being falsely accused and then legally bound not to respond is painful beyond belief. It attacks a fundamental part of me - my integrity. It left me so angry, wanting to respond and yet not allowed to respond, that I couldn't sleep at times.

    At least the system worked and the trash was cleared away. That's probably about as much as one could ask for at the moment. It still doesn't do much for the anger and violation I feel, but I hope they will fade with time.

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    An Odd Mother's Day Story

    Yesterday evening, as L and I prepared to go out to eat with some old friends, I picked up my phone to find a rather long message queued up for me. So as we walked out the door, I was listening to the charming message. The message was from what sounded to be an older lady. She was waxing poetic about the beautiful roses she had received and how they were so beautiful that she wished she still had the energy to plant and grow an acre of roses. The message went on talking about how wonderful the roses were, how brilliant their colors, and how they were the perfect gift, etc. It was clear that someone had gifted this lady with a gift dear to her heart that she treasured and deeply appreciated. Finally, about eight minutes into the message, the caller started to wind down and mentioned that she knew Shauna had to work and that she hoped to talk to family later.

    Now I had a quandry. Clearly the lovely lady who had left this charming and gracious message on my phone had dialed the wrong number. She had either missed or ignored the intro message stating that it was I that her phone had connected to. Normally I do not call and tell people that they have not reached the number they must have been expecting. So should I use the caller ID and call back to tell the lady that her message was lovely, but had not reached her intended destination? Or ...

    A bit of back story first. The reason that I generally do not call and tell people that they have reached the wrong number is two fold:
    1. My answer message clearly states that you have reached the number of <my name> and that if you so desire, you can leave a message for <my name>. Thus you have to be a bit of a doofus to leave the message for someone else on my phone.
    2. My number is one digit off from the now defunct pig sale barn. For years I was plagued with 2-10 calls a day from people trying to reach the pig sale barn. The people that called to inquire as to the late day Chicago price of fat backs and other such arcana were amidst the rudest I have ever conversed with. I was accused of everything from lying to stealing the pig barn's phone when I would answer or return a call via caller ID to let them know that the barn wasn't going to know they were planning on bringing a truckload to the Thursday sale unless they actually called the pig barn. 
    Thus my policy of not calling people to tell them the bad news that they called my answering machine rather than whom they desired.

    In the end I did the only thing I could and have a clear conscious. I called the number and had a very pleasant conversation with the author of the original message. After her initial denial turned to acceptance when I delivered a brief synopsis of the message, we had a very pleasant conversation. It turned out she was trying to reach her daughter in Arizona (whose cell phone was indeed one off from mine) to thank her for the beautiful gift. When she was younger, she had always grown a large plot of roses on the homestead and missed them deeply now that she couldn't do it anymore. Her daughter knew that and so sent her the gift that meant the most to her - roses.

    So here is hoping the happy mother re-called the thoughful daughter and this time they connected. It makes my heart happier to think of that ending. In any case, I did my part.

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    What I Learned ...

    I saw one of the standard Mother's Day paeans in a newsletter the other day and was reminded how often the mushy sentiments in such articles leave a bit to be desired relative to reality. The newsletter version featured old standbys such as:
    My mother taught me to MEET A CHALLENGE ... "What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you! Don't talk back to me!"

    My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION ... "Just wait until your father gets home."

    My mother taught me LOGIC ... "If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

    My mother taught me ESP ... "Put your sweater on; don't you think I don't know when you're cold?"

    My mother taught me HUMOR ... "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

    But I think that some more realistic teachings can be extolled. Thus I give you ...

    Some of the Things I Learned From My Mother

    My mother taught me THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR ONE MORE ... "Just pull up a chair, you're always welcome to eat with us."

    My mother taught me THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT ... "If you don't hoe the weeds now, they'll go to seed. Then you have a real problem."

    My mother taught me IT IS BETTER TO GIVE, BUT LEARN TO RECEIVE WITH GRACE AS WELL ... "You've helped us so many times, let us help you now."

    My mother taught me ABOUT PERSONAL HYGIENE ... "Wash under your arms! Someday you will want to lift your arms in public."

    My mother taught me YOU NEED NOT DISCLOSE ALL THAT YOU KNOW ... "Yes I knew you and your brother broke the door. But you already felt bad enough about it so I didn't need to bring it up." And you'd be amazed at all the secrets that weren't actually a secret when you talk to your mother about those events years after the fact. {*grin*}

    My mother taught me TO LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY ... "People can't help how they look, but they can change their heart. So love the heart and tolerate the rest."

    In honor of mothers (and mother-in-laws) everywhere, may you all enjoy a

    Happy Mother's Day

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Five Strange People ...

    Time once more for Fiday High Five hosted by Angela:

    Five Strange People I Sometimes See When Speaking In Front Of An Audience

    • The bored one. This is the person who is bored to tears by your very appearance before them. It doesn't matter that they were the one who invited you to speak and suggested the topic, it is still clear they would rather be anywhere other than listening to you. You have to be careful though, because sometimes it is these sufferers of ennui that ask the sharpest questions.

    • The perpetual yakker. They were talking before you started talking and they will still be talking long after you are finished. The joke telling variant of the yakker is the worst because they have those around them laughing at their jokes as you speak of serious matters. The worst part is that you'd dearly love to hear a good joke as well.

    • The overly attentive listener. They nod and mouth yes and no to every point and sentence you utter. If they were dogs, they'd be slobbering on your shoes and laying their heads in your lap. Unfortunately, they exhibit just about as much comprehension of the topic of your speech as your dog does.

    • The overly amorous couple. If the audience has a median age below 55, you can count on the show given by this pair. It can leave one with a mixed mind. On the one hand, there is a strong temptation to just shout "Get a room!", but that is probably a holdover from high school. Other times you're sure that a small camera and contacts with the right web site could insure your income for the next year or more.

    • The buffet nabber. This is the person that waits until you start to talk to make repeated passes back through the buffet. Given the amount of food that they carry back to their table during the course of your speech, you wonder why they don't weight 400 lbs. Then you wonder if they have the plastic lined purse and are stocking up for the week.

    So what kind of odd people do you see when you speak before crowds. If you don't speak (and I have to ask why not), then what about the odd people sitting around you in the audience?

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    I Wanna Be ...

    Once more it is time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the prompts are:
    1. Create a video for your blog (vlog) and participate in Tim's "vlogemotions" by talking about an emotion you've felt this week. You can link up here AND link up at Tim's place at Fort Thompson on Thursday. That's have my permission to double dip.
    2. Do you want a baby?
    3. Who got in big trouble this week?
    4. Write a poem for your mother.
    5. Time for a trip? Where are you headed this summer?...Or where would you go if you COULD.
    I know for a fact that #1 is not going to happen. By the time I shaved, trimmed my beard, got decently dressed, found a camera, made 6 million attempts to get four consecutive sentences out without an uh, duh or ahem, it would be next week. Besides, many of the phrases from my "You're So Ugly ..." post ring too close to true for me on camera. No point in killing the few readers i have! {*grin*}

    As for #2, been there and done that. It is neat to see the Son emerging into responsible adulthood now, but I don't miss the trials and tribulations of getting from toddler-hood to adulthood enough for the baby to toddler-hood stage that I loved to make up for it. I do miss the wide eyed joy of the first five or six years of life though. There is something great about settling down in the chair with a youngster on one arm and a book on the other for the bedtime story. It even makes up for reading the same story until your ears bleed every time you hear the second sentence. And baths and the games therein just can't be beat at that age. On the other hand, poop containment system failure is no fun what so ever.

    I don't know that anyone around here got into big trouble this week so it is hard to do #3 real justice. No one was caught doing things they shouldn't be doing, no one was calling me on the phone and screaming, and I don't think I can claim the weather got in trouble. I do have a friend who had to change pain medications as he waits for the FDA to approve the surgery he needs. Until then, he is on very high doses of pain killers and it finally reached the point last week that they were concerned about permanent liver damage and so moved him onto morphine. We (him, his wife, L, and I) were supposed to go out to eat last weekend, but due to the trials of adjusting to the morphine, he lost the weekend. (Literally - he doesn't remember much of it at all.) So I guess you could say he got into big trouble. He seems to be returning to normal now as they get the dosages and timing adjusted.

    No poems this week, so #4 is out. Poetry and the finer emotions just don't seem to be on the tip of my tongue this tonight.

    As for the trip, that one is easy. My nephew is getting married in Seattle this summer and the Son is in the wedding party. That is where I'd be travelling if I could. Instead, I'll be in the mountains of Colorado playing corporate "wifey" for L at the annual meeting of her company. It is one of those "not mandatory" but really mandatory appearances for spouses. It figures that the two events are the same weekend in June. At least I have had the pleasure of meeting my nephew's bride to be. They were out this way to visit Mom and me some months ago. You know how you see some couples and its clear that they just fit well with each other? That is my nephew and his fiancee. I think they make a great couple and wish them well.

    Time to get some stuff prepared for tomorrow. The District 1 CML (Colorado Municipal League) meeting is here and we are hosting, so I figure i should at least be a bit clueful about what is going on. Not only that, but it will be one of only two appearances by yours truly as District 1 President. You can read about how I got railroaded into that job here.

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Land of the Mini Rants and a Rave

    Today was a day of minor irritations. Most of them weren't enough to be rant worthy on their own, but there were several that made it to the level of deserving a good mini-rant. After all, one of the crossword puzzles I did last week had "blogger's self-indulgent prerogative"as a clue with the answer "rant". Since I am always for self indulgency, here is my collection of mini-rants for the day. Plus, to end on a positive note, a rave is included at the end.

    Mini rant #1: Weather. The air pressure fell to extreme lows today, meaning that I hurt. Remember a week ago Monday when I showed the high pressure on my goose neck barometer:
    Notice that the fluid in the neck has been forced all the way back to the body of the barometer by the high air pressure. That means I felt pretty good. Now contrast that to the same barometer this evening:
    Notice how the low air pressure has the fluid streaming out of the neck. That means I ache all over.

    Mini rant #2: Medical tests and getting older. With every year older I get, the more and more "recommended" tests and tweaks happen during my annual exam. When turned fifty, it was time for the initial colonoscopy. This year I turned 55 and with that milestone came the addition of the infamous "manual rectal prostate exam" to the standard PSA blood test. I can hardly wait to turn 60 and see what else gets added. {*grin/2*} It didn't help any that the phlebotimist had trouble drawing the three vials of blood for all the blood tests and so had to poke and jab multiple times to get enough blood.

    Mini rant #3: Mail order fulfilment oddities. When you are my size and wear size 16 shoes, you seldom get to walk into a store and shop. Same goes for clothing. So you have to order from the few places that specialize in big and tall sizes. Last week I went online and ordered a pair of shoes and some other items. I specifically chose a pair of shoes that were shown to be in stock because I needed them *now*. Today the order arrived with everthing in it *except* the shoes. Instead there was a note saying that they were on backorder and would possibly ship later. Not only did the company lie about having the shoes in stock via their online order system which *should* have been tied directly to their inventory, but they are not even sure they will be able to get them to me at any time in the near future.

    Rave of the Day: Kudos to Country Bob's BBQ Sauce. Today they sent me a very nice BBQ cookbook and coupons for Country Bob's at a local store so I could gift friends and family who haven't yet tried County Bob's with a bottle. What an inspired word of mouth campaign!  I think this is a great idea. Not only do they have a great product, but they really understand grass roots marketing. Go Country Bob's!

    Time to figure out what I am going to talk about on the radio in the morning. Maybe I'll feature the radio show nude tap dancing team. {*grin*}

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Stiff and Other Things

    Yesterday was the annual Foster Parent appreciation event. May is the month of the Foster Parent, which I duly proclaim every year. The social services department and case workers and child professionals host an afternoon event to honor the foster parents. We eat way too many calories, drink coffee and punch, and then play bingo for donated prizes. I have attended this event every year since I became mayor. This was my last such event since I am term limited out of office in November. L was in town and able to attend with me, so we had a good time and got to say goodbye and thank you to the parents and staff.

    I always find it a bit sad that social services is a county department, but it is a too rare occurrence when any of the commissioners attend and say thank you to the foster parents. Foster parents have a tough (and heart wrenching) job in todays society. Many of the far western states like California have moved to an orphanage type system (under more PC names, but if it quacks like a duck, it's a good time to get out the shotgun!) due to the scarcity of qualified foster parents. It will be interesting to see what the system looks like in another 20 years everywhere.

    Today started off dull and dreary with bouts of wind and a few rain sprinkles. Not an auspicious beginning to getting the onions planted in Mom's garden. We had originally planned on planting Friday and then Saturday, but it was too cold and windy and rainy both days. But the weather cleared by 11am this morning and it warmed up a bit, so I spent the majority of the afternoon planting onions. For those who haven't planted onions, it involves spending a lot of time contorted into positions that would make a Sumo wrestler proud. By the end of the day, my thighs were giving out, so i sat on the ground outside the planting area and scooted along to plant the last couple of rows. Then it was time to hook the drip irrigation system up and finish applying the weed killer and fertilizer.

    That led to getting mom out to the back yard to supervise my efforts. I think she was a bit surprised at her ability to manuever the wheel chair on the lawn once we got her out there. Whereas I was tired and stiff and happy to be done, Mom was sitting there and with raw hunger in her eyes, wanting to get out into the soft soil in the garden area. If her hip heals up and the bones that were operated on in her ankle continue to mend, she might soon be out there. If not, she might be a bit cranky. {*grin*}

    Time to get some things done I have my annual diabetic exam in the morning and need to get some stuff ready. Don't do anything i wouldn't!

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    You're So ....

    I overheard a couple of youngsters berating each other the other day, obviously playing the ancient game of "You're so ugly!". Rumor has it that the original rules of the game were engraved on the walls of a burial chamber in the oldest of the pyramids. Some believe the Ptolemy was the figure of power behind the game salvos between the Greeks and Romans that led to some of the more famous battles of classical times. In more modern times, a friendly game between Lenin and Stalin escalated into some of the more acrimonious assassination attempts of the 20th Century. Much of modern history can be explained as as games of "You're so ugly!" gone awry.

    Given the popularity of the game and the power in its invocation, I herewith give you a short list of personal favorites. It should be enough to prime your mental pump to come up with more.
    You're so ugly ... that the weather satellites refuse to photograph your neighborhood.

    You're so ugly ... that your mother glued postage stamps over your face in the family pictures.

    You're so ugly ... that the Gorgon was turned to stone when she espied your mug.

    You're so ugly ... that your spouse wears sunglasses to bed at night - and refuses to allow night lights in the bedroom.
    You're so ugly ... that the gargoyles on the civic center voted to take up a plastic surgery collection for you.

    You're so ugly ... when you walk into the bank they turn off the cameras.

    You're so ugly ... when you were born they put tinted windows on your incubator.

    You're so ugly ... when you were born the doctor took one look at you and slapped your parents.

    You're so ugly ... you have to Trick or Treat by telephone.

    You're so ugly ... people put your picture in their car window as an anti-theft device.

    You're so ugly ... they call you Moses because every time you step in the lake, the water parts.
    You're so ugly ... you make blind kids cry.
    Now it's your turn. Leave your favorites in the comments!
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