Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trip Report

The weekend was spent in Vail playing corporate spouse. Accommodations were nice:
 and the hotel had some nice sitting and conversation areas:
 with typical Vail village architecture surrounding us:

The weekend went as expected.
  • Leisurely late breakfasts with the other spouses.
  • Walking and perusing the hideously over-priced art and craft show going on in the village. 
  • Odd discussions with the other spouses, ranging from the difference between military service in the Korean War and Iraq and Afghanistan to the joys and pains of raising kids of all ages.
  • Mandatory oh'ing and ah'ing over all little ones less than a year old. Seeing little ones always pulls the heart strings, but then you remember diapers and poop containment system failures and ...
The spouses divided 23 and 7, female to male. Much better than in previous years. Ages ranged from mid-20's to late 70's. (See war service discussion above.) Makes for a diverse group, with everything from retired military to former ballerinas. Rabid Republicans to raving Democrats. Parents of kids ranging from close to 40 to not yet a year old. I.e. a general mixed bag thrown together while the spouses went through the meetings.

Saturday afternoon a lot of us headed out and drove up the mountains on an old dirt track for about 10 miles to get to Piney Lake, a little lake in a valley at about 9,300 feet. You can tell the the group is mostly mountain based - we all had pickups or other vehicles with adequate clearance to make it over the rocks and holes in the path. Those that were using regular vehicles had to hitch a ride.

We spent the afternoon hiking and picnicking, etc. L was able to get her canoe fix, canoeing around the lake with another attendee and her son. (Her husband was another spouse named Dan and neither one of us canoe - so it worked out well to send the spouses and offspring out on a canoe.) Here is a poor quality cell phone picture of L and her fellow canoeists out on the lake:
Anything better will have to await the emails of those with digital cameras. {*grin*}

Of course, Saturday evening was the big banquet and awards ceremony. Everything from absolute formal to casual dressy. Ties and coats for the men and dress plumage for the women. Sunday began the journey back home. Over Vail Pass and back to Breckenridge where L's office is, then me heading up to the tunnel and then down to the high plains. I was early enough to beat the traffic, so I got home about 5pm.

One anomaly that struck me was the difficulty the lowlanders from corporate had with the altitude. The group L is a part of are mostly mountain based at altitudes ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 feet. So the altitude at Vail (8,022 feet) isn't a problem, but the corporate people came from near sea level, so they experienced much of the standard tourist version of altitude sickness.  Out here on the high plains, we are still at more than 4,000 feet, so it isn't nearly as much of a transition.

Time to check and see if the temperature has dropped enough to open the house up. It reached 105 today and was still well above 80 at 10pm. Forecast is for more of the same all week, typical July 4th type weather. Ugh!

I'm Back

I got back from playing corporate spouse last night. More on that later.

Just before I left, I learned of the death of my life long friend G's mother. (G was my wing man when I first went out with L and one of the groomsmen in our wedding, amidst other things.) Since G and I have been friends since 4th grade almost 45 years ago, it also meant that I spent a lot of time at his house and around his mom as we grew up. In any case, her funeral was this morning and I got back in time to attend and then spend time with G and family.

The service was interesting because, rather than the usual sorrow and loss, there was a great sense of relief that Shirley (G's mom) had passed on to better things. She suffered from aggressive Alzheimer's and had reached the point where she no longer even remembered how to feed herself. As G's sister, who had cared for Shirley at her home for the last several years said, "I lost my mother years ago, I just followed my nurse's training and took care a body that reminded me of her." So it was a bittersweet affair. We all had memories of the person who was Shirley, but had already gone through the loss of that person.

The burial was at one of the local rural cemeteries.  Of course it was already 95 degrees and the sun was blazing on the treeless prairie around the cemetery at the time. Then there was a lunch at the Masonic Lodge for family and friends. (Shirley was a 50 year member of Eastern Star.) It was there that I got a chance to do some visiting up with G. On top of the death of his mother, tomorrow he finds out if he still has a job. He is an engineer on the NASA booster project that has been used as a political football of recent months. Think positive thoughts for him.

Good night for now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm Off To ...

I'm off to play corporate wife (or spouse as the case may be). It is time for the annual meeting for the group L works with, so I get to go and loiter about the resort during the day while L and crew spend time in meetings, then dress nicely to eat, smooze and booze in the evenings. (It's good work if you can get it!)

It'll be back to the old grind by Monday. At least I don't have to wear a costume like this (nor look quite like this):

Although, come to think of it, some of the people I loiter with during the day do bear a certain resemblance to the picture. Imagine how disappointed they must be to be stuck with me. {*grin*} I just don't seem to be able to contribute much to the conversation when it comes to shoes and handbags and yoga class and .... Oh well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Toad's For You

This Toad is for you L.

L is always concerned about how the toad(s) that live in our flowers and lawn are doing. Today I got the answer while mowing the lawn. After the rains of earlier weeks, it was clear momma and papa toad had been busy as there were lots of little toads the size of the tip of my finger hopping about:
(Not my picture or finger! Both are from here.)

On the other hand, I only briefly spotted momma toad looking more like this:

I can safely say that the toad family seems to be thriving in the current odd weather. Hopefully they enjoy the bumper crop of bugs hatching daily. Because it is clear that Molly and I don't.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why Life In The Age Of Social Media ....

I have decided to share my thoughts from tonight's walk with you. I hope you are ready to be edified and amazed. {*grin*}

It struck me, as Molly and I sprinted home from the sudden rain and lightening storm, that life in the age of social media is a lot like being a clerk in a 7-11 store. In support of this rather strange analogy, consider the following:

LITAOSM (Life In The Age Of Social Media 7-11 Clerk
Random people come and go ditto
Regulars become acquaintances ditto
Regulars disappear with no explanation ditto
The stories told by people may or may not be true ditto
You come to feel you know certain people ditto
Regulars and randoms compete for your attention ditto
Some people are trusted less than others ditto

Now notice the similarity of expression in the prototypical blogger and 7-11 clerk:

The list can go on and on. In fact, your assignment is to add additional experiences that LITAOSM and being a 7-11 clerk share. I can think of at least ten more right off the top - can you?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Black Kitty?

It is that time of year once more. The black kitty cats with the charming white stripe are back in force. Last night as Molly and I were walking, at 10:30pm when the temperature finally dropped to bearable, we had the joy of renewing our acquaintance with our fine furry friends.

We came around the corner and there were a not-so-shy pair of these fine creatures
frolicking in the grass and trees beside the path. Of course Molly desperately wanted to go make friends and I just as desperately wanted to leave the area without making introductions. I was very happy that Molly was on the leash so I could convince her to journey on without saying hello.

Another half mile down the path, we ran into a friend and his dog out walking and stopped to chat. Given the friend had undergone the joy of a fully sprayed dog a few years ago, he decided that a return to the homestead might be the better course of action for the evening. As we walked together, what should we see but another skunk scurrying across the path in front of us.

It is the season of the year to keep one's eyes peeled. The skunks are coming out in force as grub season arrives and they go foraging. It normally might not be too bad, but this year there have already been attacks on humans and animals by rabid skunks in the region.  That means that the normally timid skunks may now charge rather than sauntering off.

The thing that amazes me is the number people who walk within feet of a skunk and think it must be a kitty cat. When you warn them that those kitty cats are skunks, they tend to look askance at you. Maybe their night vision is gone?

In any case, the real question is whether to endure the heat by walking in the light or to endure the risk of skunk by walking in the cool of the night? Which would you do?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wet and more Wet

It was sunny until this evening - a real rarity given the rain we have had for the last four days. Nothing like getting inches of rain in the desert to bring on the flash flood warnings and sucking mud in the fields and gardens. At least Molly and I got out for our walk before it rained again this evening.

It has been amusing weather. Last week Molly and I were walking after 10pm so that it would be cool enough to get our 5 miles in without sweating to death. This week we are walking mid-afternoon to stay warm enough not to shiver in the cool. L reported that they even had snow up in the mountains this morning. In a few words, really strange weather of late. At least our melons and squash in the garden seem to be liking it.

Today as Molly and I walked, I listened to "Phantom of the Opera", the original London cast recording version. I have never heard another version where the voices of the phantom and Christine are so piercingly perfect. It gives me goosebumps repeatedly as I listen to it. (I also like it because the full soundtrack is just about the perfect length for a 6 mile walk - the music ends just as I hit the front door step, arriving home - no jarring letdown of other music in mid-walk.) "The Phantom of the Opera" is the best music Andrew Lloyd Webber ever wrote - at least in my opinion.

So here is "The Phantom of the Opera" theme sung by Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, the original cast members from London:


Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Murphy is alive and well (and seems to be living with me).  You know Mr. Murphy - the man behind the famous law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. He and his eponymous law were in fine fettle today.

It all began when Molly and I decided to go for our walk mid-afternoon since the weather was relatively cool. We got just far enough to get sweaty and stinky, but not far enough to get any real exercise, when the cell rang. It was the artist making some prototype logos for the 5k pet walk/run we have coming up. So Molly and I turned back to meet with the artist. I really hope he enjoyed being couped up with sweaty and stinky me across the table from him.

Then I set out to fix the slow drain in the bathroom. It had reached the point of slowness that I was afraid it would overflow soon if I got distracted while the water was running. So I gathered the requisite equipment and got ready to go to town. Guess what? The drain wouldn't go slow. It was draining perfectly. Nothing I could do would make it revert to it's slow moving way of only a few hours ago.

I won't even mention what happened to the hamburger I fixed for supper. Let me just say that Molly the dog dined exceptionally well tonight. The only good out of it is that Molly is sitting here making gooey eyes at me in utter admiration for the fine meal.

With that, I think I will go to bed. Assuming the bed doesn't up and run away as I try to lie down.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June It Is

Yesterday was a typical day except ...
The severe thunderstorm warnings started in late afternoon.
The tornado warnings started in early evening
Blogger had troubles that prevented posting and/or commenting

In any case, Molly and I headed out for our walk after the storms passed at 9pm. And then it became clear that this was indeed June. Every patch of lighted ground we walked on was covered with spastic june bugs, natures proof of concept that intelligence is not needed for survival. For those unfamiliar with these beetles, they look like this:
They spend the first couple of years of their life as grubs underground looking like this:

Then they emerge from the ground in June as beetles to feed and mate.

June bugs are really stupid. They and fly to any lighted area and make amazingly loud buzzing sounds as they try to use their wings while laying upside on the sidewalk or up against your window screen. They are so dumb that they often crash on landing and end up upside down, buzzing like mad as they try to get turned back over.

Likewise they like to mate on the ground under lights. Exhibitionist? Maybe. Stupid? For sure. Every bug eater around gorges on them to the point that they won't touch them any more. And so the rest are safe to mate and propagate the species, continuing on with no evidence any intelligence. They make bugs like cockroaches look like tiny Albert Einsteins.

But the real reason I dislike them, beyond the fact that they fly directly into your hair and face, is the the horrible crunching sound they make as they sit on the sidewalk and you walk on them. They are so dumb they make no attempt to flee - they just sit there and get crunched. At least Molly dog is smart enough not to eat them. Our previous dog, a Basset hound, used to snuffle them up and come home with his jowls full of beetles. Nothing worse than a dog laying on the floor with beetles crawling out of the mouth. Ugh.

Time to listen to some music to get that horrible crunching sound out of my head.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Drunken Birds?

My sense of the absurd was grabbed and throttled today by reports of drunken birds falling from the sky down under. In particular, red-collared lorikeets seem to be eating something that leaves them too drunk to fly and/or stand. It is not like a red-collared lorikeet is that inconspicuous of a bird to begin with:
Red-collared Lorikeets
(Credit: Mitch Reardon)

Now picture these guys falling out of the sky and trees drunk. As the original report in the Australian Geographic Journal reports:

SEEMINGLY DRUNKEN AND HUNGOVER parrots are dropping out of the sky in the Northern Territory and experts are at a loss to explain why.
The red-collared lorikeets lose coordination and pass out after eating a mystery food, Lisa Hansen, of the Ark Animal Hospital at Palmerston, near Darwin said on Thursday. Red-collared lorikeets are an NT subspecies of the rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis).
"It happens every year around this season, they lose all balance and we find them fallen out of trees and the sky," she says. "Unless someone intervenes, they can't fly and will get picked up by predators."
Read more: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/drunken-parrots-falling-from-sky.htm#ixzz0pwQbWM7r

I can't wait until the crows and robins around here learn which plant leads to intoxication. Think of it - hundreds of crows and robins crashing to the ground all around. The cats would be in seventh heaven. (Unless they decide to hit the catnip instead.)

Drunken birds do happen every once in a blue moon around here when berries ferment on the bushes and the birds imbibe, but it usually isn't to the point they cannot stand up - it just makes them fly a little funny and poop a lot.

Are your birds hitting the sauce as summer begins (actually winter down under)?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Odd Thinking Patterns

Lately a number of blog authors that I read are undergoing divorce. It is sad to see it happen. It almost always comes to light with a post announcing that the divorce is pending, seemingly out of the blue.

I always wonder what went wrong, could it have been avoided, is it for the best, etc. All the standard voyeuristic questions that come to mind when watching a train wreck happen in real time. Usually the announcement leaves uncertain whether the event is to be regarded as a good thing for the author or not, which leaves one to ponder how best to comment and react. I suspect that many of us remain silent until the situation is clearer.

It is interesting in another way to a scientist like me. The first  questions that come to my mind are:

  • Was there a definitive set of behaviors visible on the blog that preceded the announcement of the event?
  • Can I use those behaviors to predict other occurrences?

I.e. is there a pattern and can I use it to make predictions that are testable. (The basic definition of any theory in science - if you cannot make testable predictions, it isn't a theory but mere speculation.) 

Now that I have exposed my thinking, what goes through your mind when you read of divorce on some one's blog? Are your thoughts impacted by your personal experience of divorce?
(All images from Google Image.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Have You Ever Lost ...

Time once more for for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. Today we will attempt the death defying feat of tackling prompts 2 and 4. To wit:
2.) “What did you once lose? Write about your search to find it again.” (inspired by writingfix.com)
4.) Begin each line of your post with “have you ever”. (inspired by Vikki from Live. Laugh. Pull Your Hair Out)

#2 - I have lost many things over the course my life. Some have been trivial material things, some have been things that only come to mind in an odd moment, and some are of a more subjective nature (like my sanity?). Some have been people. Some have been abilities.

The most perplexing thing that I lose periodically is the ability to enjoy life as it happens. Like most scientists and engineers, I am sometimes obsessive about things going according to plan. When I am in that phase, it feels like I have lost the ability to enjoy life as it occurs in real time. I start planning everything and anxiously waiting for each and every event to happen. Even small deviations from the expected occurrence stream can suck the joy out of the whole sequence of events. Needless to say, it is not a good state to be in. Nor is it fun to hang out with me when I'm in the state.

It took me a long time to realize that the way out of that state of mind and back to enjoyment is to wear mental blinders. I have to consciously decide to experience each event without expectation and correlated observation. You might say it requires practicing Zen to achieve a zen-like state. I always thought that the explanation from the Wikipedia article on Zen captured the essence:
Zen emphasizes experiential prajñā in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct realization through meditation and Dharma practice.
So maybe happiness and enjoyment of life *is* Zen enlightenment. {*grin*}

#4 - Have you ever? I have.
Have you ever chopped alfalfa? With a 40 foot head on a Field Queen? While dragging a semi trailer behind?
Have you ever changed oil in heavy equipment, lying on the ground, in the field, at night, trying to get done before all the rattle snakes finish homing in on the heat of the cooling engine?
Have you ever set a new land wriggle and crawl record due to the above?
Have you ever been in a fatal automobile accident?
Have you ever won a science fair?
Have you ever gotten drunk? With your faculty advisor?
Have you ever had your work published?
Have you ever held elected office?
Have you ever lived in Colorado? New Hampshire? California? Illinois? New York?
Have you ever wondered what happened to your kindergarten classmates?
Have you ever had a hole in one on the golf course?
Have you ever broken a bone? More than one?
Have you ever had surgery? More than one?
Have you ever played college athletics?
Have you ever shot a shotgun? Pistol? Rifle?
Have you ever thought that you have written more than enough "have you"'s? 

Evolution, Or Not?

Earlier this year, I watched with amusement as people sent in their entries for worst prom dress in one of those contests that seemingly permeated the blogosphere. You can peruse a roundup of the entries in one such contest over at She Just Walks Around With It. Go ahead, we'll wait for you to finish gasping and laughing. Remember to leave your Coke firmly planted on the table to avoid the dreaded keyboard spew.

What brought this subject to mind tonight is the fact that there was no entry category for really bad male costume. There was also no category for worst pastel background, although there was a groundswell for worst wallpaper background for one entry.  This weekend I was cleaning up some pictures while hunting for some other pictures and came across visual evidence of my own sins. So I figured I would confess to my sartorial sins of the past and also illustrate how heading off to college leads to evolution {*grin*}

Here is a picture of L and I at our senior prom in the spring of 1972:
A few words in my defense are in order. This was in the era when public high schools had dress codes. Ours required that all side-burns extend no lower than the ear lobe, that hair had to stay atop the ear and above the collar, and no beards or mustaches were allowed.  With all that said, now days you would seldom see a square and circle patterned tie with paisley striped shirt. You will also note that when you have a 20 inch neck, you really need extra long ties or they come out looking comically short. Do you like the brownish gray Hush Puppy shoes with gray slacks and a black belt?  Note that I have an incipient 5 o'clock shadow despite shaving only a couple of hours prior to the picture.

On the other hand, L shows great class and elegance. Note the elbow length gloves and maxi dress. To this day I have a great fondness for all the empire waisted dresses of the time just because I saw L in so many of them. I will always wonder why a classy lady like L hangs out with a slob like me. No accounting for female taste I guess.

Now for the evolution.

A few months later I was home for Christmas break and spending my mornings looking like this:
Think I look a little under the weather from partying the night before? Notice the beard starting to fill in? I have worn a beard ever since. It has been close to 38 years since I last saw my chin (and I plan to keep it that way). It also looks like I am perusing a comic book as well. Fitting.

Do you have similar before and after evidence of your evolution as you headed off to college? Are you man (or woman) enough to share with us?
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