Sunday, April 2, 2017

On the Road Again

I've had the good fortune of being able to live and work in many different places.  I use the term "good fortune" loosely.  Sometimes we've felt a bit nomadic and my children will look at you a bit confused if you ever ask them where they are from.  Oh sure, we've meant to put down roots and really establish ourselves in one place, but there is always something that pushes us out of our comfort zone and on to something new.  I'm usually the cause of that discomfort, but I've found that once we set upon the path I have several willing accomplices.  I call them my reluctant explorers. 

It's sort of like pushing a single rock down a steep rocky slope.  As it goes it dislodges other rocks and soon there is an alarming cascade of tumbling boulders happily descending the grade.  That's pretty much what I feel like, never knowing exactly what I'll be getting myself into but too curious not to do it.  I wouldn't change a thing!

I can't say that it's always been easy.  We've said good bye to so many friends and beloved places.  Every time we move to a new place we proclaim with Brother Brigham, "This is the place!" and proceed to establish our home for the long term.  But putting down roots for us has been different.  We're not like a big oak tree that sends down one big root system and lodges firmly in one spot.  There is an aspen grove in Utah that is believed to be the largest living organism on earth.  It consists of tens of thousands of trees and covers many acres of land but it is all one root system.  We're more like that.  We call a lot of places home and thanks to modern communication we can maintain friendships and carry on life in all of those places.  So yeah, we're like a big aspen grove.  Sounds sort of like a Lord of the Rings thing.  If there is ever an epic battle with hybrid orc-goblins, we will be there to annihilate them!

So I guess it has been good fortune, even if it's been difficult at times.  Life is a great adventure and now it's time to take to the road again, but this time we're headed to familiar territory.  After so many new places it almost seems anticlimactic to go back to the place where everything started.  But just as we have been learning and growing and changing so have all of the places we've left behind.  They're not the same and neither are we.  And so the adventure goes on.  Packing up, leaving friends and starting new are still not easy.  There are no guarantees in life and I don't believe in destiny so who knows if this is where we finally stop the wagon train or if there are other locations in our future?  I would have never dreamed my life would take me where it has so I can't imagine what lies ahead.  But I'm going with my reluctant explorers to see what happens next!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Greetings, Again

So, it's been a while.  Three years and a few days to be exact.  I've started many posts but they just don't seem to go anywhere.  Have you ever experienced a moment when you're doing something and you suddenly pause to ask yourself, "where was I going with this?"  It often happens to me when I'm dishing my third or fourth helping of Lasagna.  Then I shrug my shoulders and proceed.  I suppose that's what I'm doing now, sans Lasagna.

Sometimes I forget that there doesn't have to be a deeply profound reason for doing something.  If I'm lucky there might be one or two experiences from my life that will be remembered beyond the second generation that follows me.  But who I am and how I am will pass on and be added to for many generations to come.  Just as I am the product of who and how my ancestors were, mixed with a few of my own choices and the interactions I've had with others.  Not to say that my life's actions are meaningless, just the opposite, my life has tremendous meaning.  It's mine and I get to lead it as I choose, which in itself is pretty remarkable.  This is why it gives me great relief to know that how I am in a single moment doesn't necessarily have an everlasting impact on all creation.

Speaking of how I am, what does it even mean to ask "How are you?"  The most fundamental answer to this question involves a delicate conversation about a twinkle in the eyes and an eternal commitment to ensure we are not the last of our species.  Obviously this response doesn't address the typical meaning of the question, and will probably cause a little discomfort, but it is nonetheless a valid response.  A longer form of the question would be "How are you doing?"  Inherently this is a physiological question.  I 'do' by inhaling oxygen into my lungs which then enters my bloodstream to join with nutrients and energy which I have previously ingested via food (such as Lasagna) or drink.  Blood is then drawn from my lungs into my heart to be pressurized and distributed through a complex circulatory system which delivers the oxygen, energy and nutrients to various parts of my body so that they can perform their respective functions when called upon by my central nervous system to 'do' something.  That's how I'm 'doing.' 

Literal answers to the "how are you?" question simply don't offer a satisfactory response.  So figuratively, how am I doing?  The most typical response would be "fine."  In other words, "I don't require your assistance" or "I do require your assistance but I'm too proud to admit it."  Either of which is an acceptable response since the person asking probably didn't intend to provide assistance anyway.  So this whole question and answer exercise is merely what we do to kindly acknowledge one another's existence and spatial proximity.  Apparently this is more socially acceptable than grunting.

This backs up my point that the vast majority of our individual actions will not have a profound effect on anything.  However, the sum of all our individual actions ends up being the most appropriate answer to the "how are you?" question. These actions have led us to our current state and thus are how we got here.  Coincidentally if we take the end and put it at the beginning then 'how' we are becomes 'who' we are.  And who we are is the circumstance from which we begin again.

But really, it has been a very long time since my last post.  I guess I should ask, how have you been?

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Like Vegemite

I recently got to go on a pretty amazing trip to Australia.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any of my family along, much to the dismay of my lovely wife who has always dreamed of visiting Australia.  Therefore, officially, Australia is boring and drab with nothing interesting to see.  Unofficially, it was awesome!

I long for the days of slide shows.  Everyone sitting around a carousel of illuminated memories and drowsily listening to the descriptions of somebody else's experiences associated with every picture while the slide machine periodically awakens the crowd with a clickety-click of changing slides.  With that in mind, I've got a few pictures...




So absolutely the hardest thing for me to get used to was cars driving on the other side of the road.  I didn't think it would be so hard but for some reason it never did sit well with me.  It took three full days before the sight of oncoming traffic didn't make me fear for my life.  Not to mention that every time I rode with anyone they had to wait while I tried to get into the drivers seat.  

 

I guess it only makes sense but even the bicycle riders were on the wrong side of the bike path.  Australians are known for being very laid back and easy going.  As you can see, even the graffiti in Australia is laid back.
Apparently this is how you say "Yield" in Australian.  Most other words are the same as English.


I work for a company called Rubicon and this is their manufacturing facility in a town called Shepparton.


This is the kind of stuff we do.


This is how they used to measure water flow in this part of Australia.  For all of my fellow water wonks out there.


















Scenery.


More scenery. 


More scenery and a flock of cockatoos.

This is a cool building in a little town we went through.  Lots of neat architecture like this.


A delicious meat pie from an Australian bakery.  I took a bite.  It didn't come like that.




I got to attend a couple of sporting events while I was there.  This was a local soccer game in Shepparton.



This was at an Australian football game.  Australian football is sort of a mix between rugby, soccer, basketball and mixed martial arts.  It's played on an enormous field with about 1,000 players and other random people running on and off the field.  I'm also in the picture.



This was at a place called the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.  This was just a small section of the market area.


This is how you say "Burger King" in Australian.



Some buildings in Melbourne.  


These trams go right down the middle of the road.  Makes traffic a bit congested.  But it's a cheap way to get around town and they kept me from having to drive which was safer for everyone.


This was a cool train station in Melbourne.

The monstrous aircraft that carried me to and from Australia.  



















I even went to church a couple of times while I was there.

It really was an amazing experience.  Next time I'm taking Melissa with me.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stop, Hey, What's that Sound?

If you've never been ice blocking, then you've never experienced the thrill of standing amongst your peers having a wet bum and not feeling ashamed.  Sure it's fun to go screaming down a grassy hill on a six inch block of ice, but that's nothing compared to the satisfaction of having a perfectly acceptable excuse for what is typically a very embarrassing circumstance, especially since everyone around you probably has a wet bum too.

Everyone dreads those moments when an otherwise innocent spill takes on a whole new level of humiliation by landing in an awkward location.  By awkward I mean the kind of spot where people tend to question the validity of your story.  "No really, the cup holders were all full and I needed to shift gears so I put my drink in my lap, when all of a sudden Bigfoot jumps out in front of me!"  See what I mean?  An otherwise believable story is completely discredited simply by the implication arising from the location of the wet spot. 

These incidents are not limited to visual faux pas either.  Sound and smell often get involved as well.  We’ve all been in a room full of people when suddenly our chair cushion emits a loud raspberry as we lean forward.  When everyone turns to look, you inconspicuously make the motion again two or three times and pray that the same noise comes out so as to make sure that everybody knows the source.  It has occurred to me in the past that some people may not make the connection between the chair cushion and the sound and, therefore, may consider your repeated outbursts as utterly shameless and juvenile.  Since I can only worry about one of my insecurities at a time, I tend to ignore this thought. 

Conspicuous smells are probably the worst because when an odd smell suddenly drifts into a room it is often impossible to pinpoint the source.  In that instant everyone in the room suspects everyone else of two things; first, “they think I did it” and second, “I think they did it.”  If you only suspect one of those two possibilities then you are either overly judgmental or guilty.  Of course nobody will acknowledge the smell because we’ve all heard the saying “the smeller’s the feller.”  So we go on in quiet discomfort, although somebody in the room is obviously more comfortable, and try to ignore the situation because next time it might be us.

The deepest dread comes in those few moments following a chair cushion sound when out of nowhere an inexplicable odor hits the air.  Is it some cruel trick of fate or did some opportunistic burrito eater hear their chance to let one fly?  It’s also possible that there is no odor at all but rather it’s the result of an overly anxious mind. In any case no amount of explanation can possibly ease the situation and will probably only make it worse.  Just do what everyone else is doing, trying to stifle a laugh and not making eye contact.

I think that in all of the above situations the typical reaction is to ignore it for the very reason that “next time it might be me.”  As one of societies unwritten rules, most people follow the logic that unless you are running for political office it’s best not to point out other peoples’ flaws in hopes that they won’t point out yours.  Then there’s that contemptible jerk that is always quick to point out everyone else’s deficiencies.  For them we hope for the day when their flaws are exposed to the world, only to find that when the moment arrives our satisfaction is dulled by pity when their reaction proves that they have no sense of self-worth. 

Wow, that was really a downer.  The incessant background music in my mind suddenly changed from “I Feel Good” to that country song “Don’t Laugh at Me.”  That’s right; I hear music in my mind to go along with whatever situation I’m in at the moment.  For example, right now I’m hearing “Stop in the Name of Love.”  It must be time to wrap this up.

I guess if there must be a point to all of this it’s that things aren’t always as they appear and even when they are, just laugh.  You will build a closer bond with those who laugh with you and for those who laugh at you, well, just be glad that you’re stains are only on the outside.  Man, again with the depressing thought.  I can’t end that way… Here’s another song, “Don’t Take the Girl”, wait… no this one, “Mama’s in the Graveyard, Papa’s in the Pen”… Oh dear, I really need to quit listening to country music!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Priorities

I hate to admit it but my 7 year old daughter has an unfortunate distaste for potatoes.  She doesn't like them mashed, baked, scalloped, au gratin, raw or even french fried.  I feel like Sam-I-Am.  I try not to let her see my disappointment because I know I have to be strong for her sake.  If not for her love of pickles I would probably burst into tears at every meal. 

Recently, however, she was introduced to Tater Tots and, saints be praised, she loved them!  Those heavenly hash brown nuggets of pure gold have finally dulled my aching heart from an innocent child's errant food preference.  Don't take me the wrong way, she is a delightful little girl and I wouldn't trade her for anything.  But for me, not liking potatoes is similar to telling a Star Wars fanatic that you don't like Yoda!  Potatoes are to the food pyramid what Yoda is to the Force.  They're not the only food, but they are the most completely awesome food!  They can complement almost any meal or they can be a meal all by themselves.

Of course, being from Idaho, I not only love to eat potatoes but I also love everything about growing potatoes.  From its humble beginnings in a petri dish to the adorable micro-tubers to the delightfully parallel rows of mature vines in the field, the potato holds a special place in my heart.  Potato harvest was always something I looked forward to even when I was too small to participate.  I use to love to ride in the potato trucks and the tractors with anyone who would let me tag along.  As soon as I was old enough I jumped at my first chance to actually take part in a potato harvest.  I spent long hours standing in the middle of a cyclone of dirt otherwise known as the potato harvester before I was old enough to drive a potato truck.  Thinking back I question the wisdom of having a 16 year old behind the wheel of a 50,000 lb vehicle, but it was a thrill!

I guess that's why I had such a gut wrenching reaction at my daughter's disdain for such a primal part of my adolescence.  But that's all in the past.  I feel a renewed kinship to my little prodigal daughter.  Next I will introduce her to that blessed combination of condiments known to fellow Idaho and Utah natives as Fry Sauce.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

As Compared to What?

The other day I was trying to explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity to my twelve year old son.  I don't really understand the theory myself and now I have dutifully passed on my ignorance to the next generation.  I love being a dad!

The best I can come up with is that relativity simply means a thing cannot exist if there is nothing to compare it with and, by the same definition, if something does exist then it must be defined relative to something else.  That's why we can't travel faster than light.  Light is the ultimate reference and even though it has an opposite, we can't define it because we can't see it.  Therefore anything beyond light is also beyond our comprehension.  I'm sure my version of relativity is something akin to a paint-by-number Picasso version of the Mona Lisa but now at least you can sympathize with my unfortunate son.

It is a little known fact that the theory of relativity was actually mentioned long before the 20th century by another father who was giving some words of wisdom to one of his sons.  The year was about 580 BC, give or take, and a certain family's long and often perilous journey through the wilderness and across the ocean had resulted in a deep and bitter division amongst the siblings.  In a tender moment, not long before his death, the father was delivering words of comfort to a young son who had been born during the journey and knew nothing of the family's former prosperity and comfortable lifestyle before they left everything behind and ventured into the unknown.  The father explained to his son that it is necessary to have an "opposition in all things" and that we must endure sorrow in order to truly understand what real joy is.  He explained further that a thing cannot exist without an opposite comparison.  Somebody really should have explained this principle to the Crayola folks before they made all of those white crayons.

It's interesting to think about things outside the normal frame of reference that we give them.  Here's an example: Once a year a reclusive stranger with a list of everyone's name, address, personality traits and daily sleeping habits travels around the world with unfettered access to our homes, only entering after everyone is asleep.  And we're happy about this?

It makes sense that we must have opposites in order to fully comprehend everything, otherwise why bother? It's good to be able to contrast and compare.  It makes life more fulfilling and provides beautiful irony.  Speaking of irony, I know a family with the last name of Winterton and they live just outside of Somerton.  You could say they are only a Spring away from Somerton but they actually Fall in Yuma.  See what I mean?  Irony is the seasoning of life.  I know, I know, stop already.

As we continue through life and learn to understand more about things and their opposites our capabilities increase.  We are able to enjoy life more fully when we better understand how rotten things can be sometimes.  We can make our greatest accomplishments only after we experience our biggest disappointments.  You think that's profound?  Consider this; The better a person is, the worse they are capable of doing.  I know that sounds negative but now you will appreciate good people that much more.

I must apologize to any physicists who might happen to read this but if you find a flaw in my explanation of relativity please don't point it out to me.  I've come to realize that although ignorance isn't fulfilling, it is easier and as long as I don't know that I'm wrong, then I'm right! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Those Were the Days

Interstate 15 runs about five miles to the east of Snake River High School, where I proudly graduated first out of the bottom 0.5% of my class.  Unfortunately the Interstate actually runs through Blackfoot, Idaho which was also one of our main sources of entertainment.  The Interstate, I mean, not Blackfoot.  Why do I have such a disdain for Blackfoot?  No reason, I just like to hate on it.

Back in my rebellious days I, and a few of my close friends, made an excursion to I-15, Exit 93, which was our closest access point to Idaho’s only contiguous connection with southern California.  Coincidentally, 1993 was also the year that I graduated, which is why a picture of the sign for Exit 93 is prominently portrayed on the cover of my senior yearbook.  It’s also why the actual Exit 93 sign is probably collecting dust somewhere inside of Blackfoot High School, because they don’t teach photography or honesty there.  Oh wait, they probably do teach photography.  

Exit 93 really looks more like a park than a traffic way.  It has nice green lawns with evergreens and a lovely slope up to the freeway.  Perfect for ice blocking, which is what we went there to do.  Now most people, including myself, upon seeing a rowdy group of teenagers on the side of the freeway, would probably assume that they were up to no good.  That’s because most people, including myself, are too judgmental.  We were simply there to have some good clean fun, a few feet away from large trucks moving at a high rate of speed.  

Nobody was hurt, except that I got "accidentally" shoved into a roadside reflector by one of my friends.  This is the same friend who a few years ago caught me in the shin with a wickedly slicing second shot on the ninth fairway.  Somehow he managed to send the ball on an 18 inch high trajectory about 30 yards directly behind him.  Well, maybe not directly behind him but I was definitely outside of his peripheral vision.  There I go, off the topic again.

With my group of friends, our fun often started out at the same shady hang out.  Shady, because of the big Elm trees, it was actually the seminary teacher’s house across the street from the church.  We never really had a desire for real mischief.  The hardest stuff I ever drank was a Jolt Cola, “all the sugar and twice the caffeine” and I have thankfully never had one since.  We mostly played party games or tag and if our outings ended up at the same shady hangout then we would often end the affair by sitting in the living room eating cookies and drinking freshly squeezed cow juice.

Those were good, good times and I wouldn’t change any of it.  Except maybe that time with the ATV’s and the cow pasture, but even that turned out okay.  There has never been a more sober or fun-loving group of characters than those that I was privileged to be a part of.  

We even took the occasional opportunity to scare the whits out of ourselves.  One of our favorite spooky spots was Tilden Bridge.  With the help of some cleverly modified Indian legends we could put ourselves into such a panic that even the slightest sound would bring on fits of hysterics.  At least I assume it would have if I'd ever gotten out of the car.  Hey, somebody had to stay with the vehicle...with the doors locked...in case there was a car thief out there in the middle of nowhere.  You never know.  Again, nobody was hurt and the stories were only marginally scary.  They probably wouldn't even muster a PG rating.

I'll bet there are other stories that I have forgotten, I wish somebody would write those down somewhere.  I only hope my kids will find such a group of friends.  I'll even be happy to provide them with shin guards.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Threw the Looking Glass

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention.  I think then that the father of invention must be curiosity and the siblings of invention are disaster, triumph, honor and disgrace.  How's that for existentialism?  Whatever that means.

When I envision my brain in a cartoony sort of way I see the typical things such as gears spinning, whistles blowing and little green men that build things out of glass.  But way back in a deep, dark corner of my mind there is a tiny philosopher with a flair for the eccentric.  My philosophies tend to border on insanity and I too have a serious illegal immigration problem across that border.  At any given moment there are countless undocumented aliens swimming through my thoughts.

It only tends to be a problem when I'm interacting with other people, or when I'm by myself.  This accounts for approximately 95% of my time.  The other 15% is spent in finding ways to make 10% of my time account for 5% of my anti-time.  Hypothetically speaking of course.

Now that we are all in the same foggy kaleidoscope I think we can see eye to eye to eye to eye.  We are not, after all, cyclopes.  But just in case you are feeling nauseous, please feel free to start over from the beginning.  It should all make sense to you as long as you try hard enough and don't fall under the misguided notion that any of this means anything.

Sometimes there is a point to things that are being said.  Other times things are being said specifically to discourage rational thought.  It's election time again, so I'm just trying to go with the flow.  I hope I have achieved an acceptable level of nonsense to fit the occasion.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Does My Wife Worry About Leaving Me Home Alone?

I feel it is my obligation to set the record straight on something.  However I'm not exactly sure, nor even remotely sure what that thing is.  It seems perplexing, I know, but deep down I just know that I'm destined to shine a light on some hitherto misunderstood concept and thereby alter the course of humanity.  I accept my duty with humility and determination.  I have no delusions of grandeur because popularity has nothing to do with it.  I'm just rolling with the circumstances I've been given.

You might wonder where I would get such an idea.  Well, I really like Chinese food.  Not the fancy authentic stuff but the cheap, triple portion, just out of the microwave take-out stuff.  It satisfies my taste buds like a paternity test to a daytime talk show addict.  Oh yes, and I do use chopsticks.  I find that they give me an exhilarating sense of dexterity. 

It goes without saying then that I have eaten my share of fortune cookies.  I have even come to like the way they taste especially with a little of that bright red sweet and sour sauce on them.  I love to read the fortunes and in the past I have written them off as silly novelties that were meant only for entertainment.  However, after many, many fortunes I have yet to read one that said "you will never reveal an important new finding."  After so many years of never having such a fortune I have come to the conclusion that, novelty or not, this must be a sign.  

I don't like to be superstitious because the Sixth Sense really freaked me out and I don't want to worry about creepy apparitions haunting me.  But the evidence in this case is quite irrefutable.  No matter how you look at it something big is coming and it's coming by way of me.  I try not to speculate too much on what it might be but I'm pretty certain that it will include a campaign against prevailing wisdom and time honored traditions.  Obviously you can't have something new without first throwing away the old outdated stuff.  I'll probably end up taking my fight all the way to congress and giving my loyal followers enough sound bites to keep them happily chirping into as many megaphones as we can get our hands on.

I sincerely hope that this foreknowledge about my upcoming duties doesn't cause alarm.  I'm simply following the plan set out before me by so many others.  I am no egomaniac and I fully comprehend that I am not the first to have this responsibility placed upon me, nor will I be the last.  I can think of several recent issues that give me a firm confidence that I am not the only one who has read between the lines of the fortune cookie.

So for now we wait.  I will shoulder this burden with a happy heart content in the knowledge that somewhere out there is a secret that nobody really cares about nor benefits from and I get to spill it to the world.  And how will I know it when I find it?  Easy, the eight ball will tell me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Investing in Gold

Coincidentally, the year my wife lost her mind, was the same year we got married.  Although she has since completely regained her faculties, we have nevertheless remained together.  Just another example in the long list of undeserved miracles that is my life.   

At the time I was married, almost 13 years ago, my parents had been married for over 37 years.  I mention my parents for two reasons:  First of all, they too are an example of my undeserved blessings, and secondly, if you do the math you’ll notice that they are celebrating 50 years of marriage this year.  I’d like to clear this up for all of you non-mathematicians out there.   A little less than 13 plus a little more than 37 equals exactly 50.

Fifty years of marriage is no small feat, although small feet were involved.  There were 10 of them to be precise, 4 girl feet and 6 boy feet.  Now those feet have turned into more feet than I care to count at the moment, besides, I think I’ve carried the feet thing far enough.

Fifty years seems like an impossibly long amount of time.  Waiting a few seconds for a computer to boot up often seems like an eternity to me.  That’s probably because I’m not a good multi-tasker.   I see things one event at a time which makes time itself seem to be at a standstill.  However, I am often reminded that time does continue its methodical march forward with unrelenting force.  I see it most often when I notice the increasing size of the six little feet in my own home.  Sorry, I promise I won’t mention the feet thing again.  

This reminds me of a story.  I can’t remember where I read it, probably on a cheesy Hallmark card, but it seems appropriate:

I once met a man who’s journey began nearly a thousand lifetimes before
So I followed a while and he said with a smile, “I’ll try not to be a bore.
You see I move slowly, to those who don’t know me, and that causes some to yearn
For a much quicker pace, to move up in the race on the path to the prize they will earn.
But the more we progress the more you’ll request not to go so terribly fast,
For despite how it seems, as you wait for your dreams, there’s great joy in the times that have passed.”
So I took his advice, trying to be nice, but deep down I wondered if ever
I would really believe that he hadn’t deceived me just to show me that he was more clever.
Yet now I have seen how naïve I had been not to believe what he knew,
As the days quickly speed by and I wonder why I can’t just stop and enjoy the view.

I could never understand why my parents always wanted to get in the car just to go for a drive.  We would simply pull out of the driveway and take the long way home.  Sometimes it would only take a few minutes and sometimes it lasted several days.  We often called the longer drives vacations, but we all knew what my Dad had in mind… he was always on his way home.  I think I get it now.  My parents taught us to go out and have experiences and see new places, but to never forget the things that are most important.

Mom and Dad, Happy Anniversary!!  You’ve both led inspirational lives, but try not to let that go to your heads.  It’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come, maybe reminisce for a while, but keep in mind, the best is always yet to come.  That's the way I learned it anyway.

Friday, June 18, 2010

All in the Name of Safety

Back in the stone age, when we still dragged our women about by the hair, we didn't give a rip about safety.  In those days airport security x-ray vision was limited to your luggage (ooh la la), computer mice weren't ergonomic and ATVs only had three wheels!  These three wheeled contraptions were the source of too many injuries and so production was discontinued in favor of their four wheeled cousins. 

Three wheelers had a certain dynamic that simply couldn’t be matched with a four wheeler.  While I suppose it may be possible to tip a four wheeler on its side and ride on two wheels, it was much easier to do on a three wheeler.  Ironically this easy tipping action was one of the main reasons that three wheelers were banned.  What a shame. 

We had a three wheeler when I was growing up.  It was a blast!  We took it camping and used it for work and just rode it around the yard for fun.  It carried me out every frigid Idaho summer morning to move sprinkler pipe.  My sister would drive and I would sit on the back trying to remember what my fingers felt like.  In a cruel climatological joke, common to Idaho summers, by the time we finished our work the temperature had gone from sub-zero to what seemed like the high 140's, which made that parka I had put on earlier seem silly, and the three wheeler was our salvation from mosquitoes so thick they showed up on weather radar. 

One time the three wheeler was our pack mule on a hunting trip, which should be a good indication of how far I typically ventured from the road while hunting.  I have a general philosophy about big game hunting, which is; it has to be cheaper and easier than going to the grocery store.  Consequently I haven’t been hunting in many, many years.  I still remember riding along the road with my brother when we spotted a deer approximately 30,000 feet up the mountain.  He stopped and quickly got to the side of the road, aimed and fired.  His shot was too low and the deer he was aiming at gently loped away.  But the unfortunate deer that had been lying unseen in the brush a few yards downhill wasn’t so lucky.  Further evidence that safety can have detrimental effects.  Sometimes you’re better off staring a threat in the face than trying to avoid it altogether.

The three wheeler did have its dangers.  Most of these I avoided for one simple reason, I couldn’t start it by myself.  I couldn’t pull the rope that cranked the engine.  I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I am somewhat vertically challenged.  Always have been.  As a teenager I had to stand on my tip toes to reach the car door handle.  I’m perfectly content with my height though, and the only reason I buy shoes with a two inch sole is in case of a flash flood.  A two inch deep flash flood is by far the most dangerous because it almost never causes any damages or injuries and therefore proper caution is neglected.  I think I’ve wandered from the topic…  When you are two feet shorter than a five foot long rope it makes it difficult to pull said rope far enough to make an engine roar to life.  Needless to say, the day I was finally able to start the three wheeler all by myself still holds a special place in my memory.  Right there with the time that I scaled Mt. Everest and the time that I broke the land speed record.

Crashes on the three wheeler did happen upon occasion.  When my sister crashed she would do everything she could to avoid having anyone find out what she had done:

“Hey sis, why is your arm dangling by a single tendon?” 

“Oh... um... square dancing got a little rowdy today.  Nothing to worry about.” 

As for me, I milked any injury for all it was worth:

 “Mom, I fell off the three wheeler and my knee is bleeding!”

 “Where?” 

“Out in the field.” 

“No, no, where is it bleeding?” 

“On my knee!!” 

“Are you sure?  That looks like a freckle to me.” 

“NO DON’T TOUCH IT!!  I feel faint… I don’t think I can move pipe in the morning… and I might need to eat ice cream for dinner.”

“Oh you’ll be fine, and for heaven’s sake stop squirming, I keep missing the spot with this mini band aid!”

My sister was always tougher than me anyway.  I’m pretty sure she broke her collar bone playing tackle football in the sixth grade.  I, on the other hand, was still begging everyone to play two-hand touch until… well, last week as a matter of fact.

I suppose our continuous quest for a safer world has been beneficial.  It certainly fits my personality better and we have avoided countless accidents.  But, as with the deer lying unseen in the bushes, all of this safety can take a mighty toll on our adventures.  Can you imagine the fairytales that will be told in future centuries about our times?  “Humpty Dumpty sat on an ergonomic chair with his feet on the ground.  Humpty Dumpty did not fall.  On the advice of the safety committee, all the King’s horses were replaced with four wheelers and all the King’s men played touch football.”  I'm sure they'll be awestruck.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Way Things Really Are

I remember the very first political question I ever asked my father.  It was 1980 and I was all of 5 years old.  Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were running for President and I innocently asked my dad, "how is the President picked?"  Without a seconds hesitation he coolly responded "the one who gets the most money wins." 

I tried hard to imagine how that must work.  Of course I didn't know anything about fund raising or costly political campaigns back then.  In my mind I envisioned the two candidates dressed in their nicest suits and squaring off on a big stage, each one with a large bin of pennies in front of him.  Someone would fire the starting pistol and they would madly reach into the bins, pull out handfuls of coins and stuff them into their pockets.  In fact, as I watched the news footage of Ronald Reagan when he got shot, I mistakenly assumed that it was already election time again.

I hate to admit how old I was when I finally realized that this is not really the way the President is chosen.   Although it may be more meaningful than the circus that we actually have to endure.   I still have a vivid picture in my imagination of Ronald Reagan dancing in celebration on a penny covered stage with Jimmy Carter looking on in disappointment.  You'd think, for that sort of work, that a peanut farmer would have better hands than an old actor.  Go figure!

It's funny how our first impression of something stays with us even after we've learned that it's false.  I remember thinking that California was a row of three houses near the high school that I attended just outside of Blackfoot, Idaho.  Of course I wasn't in high school at the time.  Even now that I live in California, at least for a little longer anyway, whenever I go back to visit and pass that row of houses, I still picture redwoods and smell the ocean.  Well, to be more accurate, I picture gang tags and smell the smog.  I know very well that California is not a trio of houses in Idaho but for some reason it was deeply ingrained in my mind at a tender age and that impression stuck.

We just passed Memorial Day and I remember as a child preparing flowers and taking them to the cemetery to place on the graves of loved ones.  To this day I will do everything I can to avoid walking directly on top of a grave site.  I always try to walk as close in front of the headstone as possible in order to stay on the narrow strip between graves.  I'd like to say that I do this wholly out of respect, however, that's not the only reason.  You see, when you're a child, at that age where understanding and innocence are still sort of muddled together, a cemetery is just another park with lots of ornately carved playground equipment.  So in order to keep me from disrespecting the dearly departed by leaping from headstone to headstone my parents told me that if I climbed on the headstones, or even stepped on a grave, then that person would raise their foot up out of the dirt and kick me. As I pondered this phenomenon, I looked at the neatly cut grass covering the grave sites and the riding lawnmower parked near the caretaker's shed and thought to myself "that must be one bumpy ride."  I've never had a curious nature about creepy things and this was one thing that, whether true or not, I wasn't going to mess with.  If all I have to do to avoid the remote possibility of a dead person's foot rising out of the ground and kicking me is to not step on a grave, then I'm happy to oblige.

I could go on but I fear that I may be revealing a bit too much about how I perceive the world around me.  I would hate for anyone to get the wrong idea about the strength of my grasp on reality.  Although it does strike me as odd that our current President went about his entire election campaign desperately looking for change.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Step Forward, or is it Backward?

I'm told that my brain has two different sides.  A right side and a left side.  Apparently each side controls the side of my body opposite to it.  So the right side of my brain controls the left side of my body and the left side of my brain controls the right side of my body and vice-versa.  Am I the only one like this?  I can't imagine this is according to design.  Not only are my wires crossed, but each side of my brain supposedly has different characteristics from the other.  One side is more creative and the other side is more logical. Unfortunately my logical side is stronger than the creative side.  I say unfortunately because it seems like the people who have more creativity and less logic have more fun.

The only logical explanation is that my head is on backwards.  Think about it.  What direction do almost every other creature's hind legs bend?  Have you ever noticed that walking uphill backwards is easier than walking forwards?  Hang your arms limp at your sides.  Which way do they face?  It all makes sense.  At some point in the past our heads must have gotten turned around backwards and ever since we've been all mixed up.  No wonder they say hindsight is 20/20.  It must come from the days before we got twisted.

How different would life be if we had our heads on straight?  I'm pretty sure low rider pants would go out of style in a hurry if those people could see what everyone else has been seeing all along.  It's quite disgusting!  Also, imagine all of the stubbed toes and dented shins that would have been avoided.  That inside pitch to the mid-section back in little league wouldn't have hurt so bad either.

I wonder if someday we will get our heads back on the right way.  Maybe then we won't try so many backward solutions to so many of our problems.  I suppose it's not likely to happen any time soon. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

That's Just Not Normal

We all have our eccentricities.  Somehow we end up incorporating them into our lives in such a way that we can become as normal as possible.  In statistics the term "normal" is defined as the average of a group of numbers.  If we apply that definition to life, then being "normal" depends largely on the company that you keep.  Of course when I mention this to people in casual conversation they often tend to scatter... I'm not sure what that means.

Now, I don't mean to say that our personalities automatically match those of our peers.  Although this is often the case.  I'm simply saying that the social definition of normal is relative to the society at large.  So when somebody calls me abnormal, it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with me, it might just as easily be said that there is something wrong with everybody else.

Some people go out of their way to be abnormal.  I can relate to this.  I don't want to be totally predictable.  This doesn't mean that I don't want to be stable.  Stability and predictability are two totally different concepts.  Unpredictable means coming home from work and taking the family out for ice cream before eating dinner.  Unstable means coming home from work wearing a suit and tie and then going out for the evening wearing high heels and a gown.

In reality, no sane person by themselves can claim to be normal.  Being normal requires a group, otherwise there is nobody to compare with.  This is where the schizophrenic has the upper hand.  They are the only people who can be completely alone and still call themselves normal because they keep most of their social network conveniently tucked away in their own minds.  Ironic isn't it?  It's only when they are amongst other people, who don't happen to be figments of their imagination, that their behavior becomes abnormal.  It's sort of like the scenario where a tree falls in the forest with nobody around.  Does it still make a noise?  Likewise, if a crazy person is alone and there are no normal people around to define him, is he still crazy?

The point is that we expect people to behave a certain way, and when they don't, it makes us uncomfortable.  We can't predict what they will do, and more than anything else, we fear the unknown.  In fact I would guess that the majority of our time, energy and resources go towards protecting ourselves from the unknown.  Like scary parts in movies, the anticipation of what will happen next is much more unnerving than the actual event.  Except for the flying monkeys on the Wizard of Oz.  The sight of them still creeps me out.

It's not just abnormally bad behavior that worries us either.  When a bad person suddenly does something good we tend to put ourselves on guard.  This abnormal behavior, although good in itself, is nonetheless abnormal and leaves us wondering what will happen next.  There is comfort in predictability, but when we break out of the molds that we build for ourselves, then what happens next is anybodies guess.

Any change we make in our lives, be it for the better or worse, brings uncertainty because it isn't normal for us.  The comforting thing is that there are countless others who are also making changes and seeking a new normal.  Thank goodness for Facebook, which is full of abnormally normal people.  If you can't find like-minded people there, then you could always consider schizophrenia.  It works for me, and me, and me...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Honored to Serve You

Wow, I'm in a bit of a spot.  Like the rest of you, I recently read, to my horror, that this years federal work force is going to be the largest ever!  Appalling!  But that's not the worst part.  Guess who their latest recruit is?  You're lookin' at him!  (Well, not literally looking at him, only figuratively, unless you're reading this while I'm standing near you.  Hi Melissa!)  Yep, my new big boss is none other than Mr. Change himself.  

Don't let my tongue in cheek fool you, I'm very excited about my new job.  I'll be going to work for one of the only federal agencies who ever gave a dam.  In fact, they gave several thousand dams.  That's right I'm going to be the newest engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation.  Love them or hate them, they made the western United States what it is today.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am at the prospect of endlessly repeating every dam joke I've ever heard and hopefully learning some new dam jokes.  "Meet you at the dam store."  "Better check the dam safety guide..."  "I got lost on the dam road... " "Has anybody seen my dam pamphlet?"  Oh, the tears are flowing!

On March 15, 2010, I officially take up my post at Yuma, Arizona.  Home of the famous... um... (quickly googling "yuma arizona famous") ... Home of the Famous Footwear?  Hmm, I'll have to check that out.

Needless to say my family feels terribly excited.  Only, leave off the "excited".  We've made some great friends here and we have had an all around great time living in southern California.  Much better than I had expected.  Change is never fun, no matter what anybody says.  But I am hopeful that things will turn out just as good, if not better, for us in Yuma.  It's like my good friend John always says, "you get to take the most important things with you."  

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shadows and Arrows

February has always sort of confused me and not just because of the way it's spelled.  On the one hand, we celebrate Valentine's Day which is an all out, over-the-top, mushfest of sentimentality and affection.  For women it is a day of hopeful anticipation that they will receive a token of admiration from that special someone.  For men it means a mad dash to the grocery store the night before to find that the only thing left is a broken chocolate cupid and some road flares.  Nothing says you care like emergency preparedness and a naked, one armed greek god.

It is generally a time to show that we care enough about our most cherished relationships to take at least a little extra thought and do something out of the ordinary.  In essence it is a time of either renewing old bonds or giving fresh new life to a budding relationship.  Sort of like Spring.

This brings me to the confusing part of February.  Before we get to all this lovey, dovey, "Spring is in the air", celebration, we must first find out if Spring is indeed in the air.  And who is the wise sage that brings us tidings of the changing seasons?  Wrong, it's not Al Gore.  We have a much more trustworthy source in the form of a rodent.  Yep, Groundhogs day.  This furry little critter comes out of his warm home just long enough to give us the weather forecast and then he's done for another year.  Must be a rough life.

See there's no problem if he pops his head out and proclaims - yup, it's Spring, let the good times roll!  In that case it is perfectly appropriate to celebrate Valentine's Day two weeks later.  But what if he comes out and says - sorry, six more weeks - shouldn't we postpone the festivities until mid March?  That way it would coincide nicely with St. Patrick's Day and all of those red and green Christmas decorations that are still up in the yard won't seem quite so out of place.  But no, instead of a Top o' the Mornin' Valentine's Day, we go on undeterred and celebrate Valentine's Day in the dead of winter.

So here's my question, why do we even bother the groundhog?  We aren't going to change our plans anyway, we should just leave him alone.  It's like asking for directions when you are lost and then continuing to wander aimlessly.

As usual, I'm probably the only person in the world who is worried about this, so I should probably just let it go.  You can't really expect logic from a culture who insists on randomly changing their clocks twice a year in the name of saving daylight.  It seems that the last four hundred years of increased knowledge about our solar system would make it clear that the sun doesn't stay up longer just because we adjust our clocks.  It's enough to make Copernicus roll over in his grave!

Well, at least I know what my plans are for next Saturday night.  Fortunately I live in a place where there is no winter so none of this really matters in the slightest.  As for those of you who are still entrenched in the snowy depths of winter; at least you can warm your hearts with a store bought sign of your undying affection.  Awe, isn't that sweet?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Say What?

I don't like ugly words.  Ugly words are the words that can't be classified as swear words but that nonetheless detract from an otherwise harmonious atmosphere.  The bad boys of the ugly words are "shut up" and "stupid".  If you say either of these words in our house then you'd better be prepared to receive a harsh lecture from the Uglyword Patrol, which consists of an 11 year old boy and a 6 year old girl.  I never realized what a serious combination that could turn out to be. 

I normally don't have a problem avoiding the words 'shut up'.  I'm not big enough to enforce that on anyone but my children anyway, and that just seems weak and bullyish.  Besides, they can be taken care of with a simple threat of grounding.  The word 'stupid' on the other hand is much more difficult for me.  Not that I call my kids stupid, but it slips out so often when I'm talking about other things.  For example, when I'm discussing the current popular social themes, it's difficult for me to complete an entire sentence without using the word 'stupid'.  Maybe I'm just not sympathetic enough with the whining, gimme this and gimme that, mentality that I hear from every stupid bleeding heart that get's their fat face on my television.  See there I go again!

What I need is to find another word that can suit the purpose.  How about asinine?  Yes, that sounds much less ugly.  It's also a little more gratifying to say, for some reason.  Let me try it out -- Maybe I'm just not sympathetic enough with the whining, gimme this and gimme that, mentality that I hear from every stupid asinine bleeding heart that get's their fat face on my television.  Oh yes, that's much better!  I'll add more asinine to my vocabulary.  I'll work on "fat" later.  (Hmm... that sounds eerily similar to my diet and exercise routine.)

I guess the other solution would be to take a more positive approach to confronting the differing opinions of the day.  I do admire those who seem to be able to hold their cool in the face of a riotous crowd that is fully engaged in a mindless chant.  I only wish I knew how to do that.  For me there is no peace until I have said something that I know I will regret later.  It's a strange kind of therapy, kind of like acupuncture.  First the barbs and then the relief.

I suppose I'll try to keep the ugly words to a minimum.  I just hope nobody is around when I tell the next stupid asinine political pundit  to shut up.  Oh dear, here comes the patrol.  Quick, what can I ground them from?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An Even Dozen

I saw the strangest thing in Walmart the other day.  (Bet you've never heard that before.)  I was walking through the mens hygiene section, as I often do, and I came across a bottle of all-in-one shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  Aren't those all the same thing?  I always thought all those bottles in the shower were just for variety.  I guess that might explain why every third day I have such a hard time making the soap lather up.

I'm just not very knowledgeable about such things.  I'm not sophisticated.  My favorite color is plaid, my favorite pants are Levis, I cut and style my own hair and, you guessed it, back in high school it was whitey tighties all the way baby.  I am the exact opposite of a metrosexual male.  Although I don't wear flannel.  I know flannel doesn't really itch, but it looks like it should.

So you might be wondering, who on earth would marry this person who is merely one step, give or take, above a Neanderthal?  Well I can tell you she is very patient.  Patient enough to have lasted twelve painfully un-color-coordinated years.  She has a sense of humor too.  The other day she was headed to the craft store and she considerately asked me if there was anything I wanted her to pick up while she was there.  I told her I wanted some denimfleece so that I could make myself a hat, with tassles, and a matching man-bag.  And what was waiting for me when I got home from work?  Yep, she made the whole thing, even down to the Magenta thread.


What a remarkable woman I got!  I can hardly believe it's already been twelve years.  But I'm sure that it has because that's what she wrote on the calendar.  That calendar has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.  Just another example of what a caring wife I have.  She is actively helping me to avoid being thoughtless.  (I'm not saying all of this because I'm in trouble right now.  Honest!  It's how I really feel.)

She walks beside me, while my knuckles drag, and together we have faced every challenge that has come our way.  Hopefully that's how it will continue.  It gives me hope for a bright future ahead.  (Hmm, this is getting too sappy.)

It's not that I'm trying to act uncivilized.  I just don't see the problem with wearing a brown shirt, brown shorts, white tube socks, brown shoes and a brownish yellow baseball cap.  The beauty of it is, she understands that I don't care and she helps me anyway.  That's devotion.  And I am getting better.  I even ventured into the womens clothing section to pick out her last birthday present.  I was certain that the Homeland Security's Masculinity and Counter Heartwarming Operations (MACHO) team would repel down from the ceiling at any moment to extract me from the premises.  However, it was actually pretty uneventful.  I picked out a couple of sweaters and a shirt.  Of course I got all the wrong sizes.

So here's to many more years of fumbling my way around the color wheel and putting myself into uncomfortable situations in search of the perfect gift.  I may not be able to find matching socks, but I know I've coordinated at least one thing right.

Happy Anniversary Melissa!!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Common Fugitives

I went through enough toilet paper when I was in high school to account for at least two thirds of Connell National Forest.  Fortunately for me, it wasn't all used in the traditional way.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of it never came anywhere near a bathroom, unless you count the bathroom window.

I was a frequent participant in the great American pastime of launching as many rolls of toilet paper as possible, in  ten minutes or less, into some unsuspecting person's yard.  Of course the houses weren't chosen at random.  I wasn't out decorating the homes of widows or anything like that.  I typically chose people that I was friends with.  You know, just to show them that I cared, in the only way that a high school teenage boy knows how.  By annoying them.

I wasn't alone either.  I won't name any names but I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of all five people who will ever read this were co-conspirators with me.  Of course I feel safe in confessing all of this because the statute of limitations on toilet tissue crimes has long since passed.  Besides, I've moved away and, therefore, no longer fear retribution.

Walking into a grocery store at 10:30 PM and buying a case of T-P is a rite of passage that every teenage boy must go through.  Incidentally, if you want to have some fun, try adding some things to your purchase.  Toilet paper and a magazine is always good.  You might score points with a cute cashier buy purchasing a tear jerker movie, like Old Yeller or Empire Strikes Back (it always gets me when Vader confesses his paternity), to go along with your case of toilet tissue.  The girls all like a sensitive man, or so I'm told.  However, my favorite items to go along with a late night toilet paper purchase are pork rinds, bratwurst, sauerkraut and root beer and then throw in a can of Lysol just to sweeten the deal.  This combination also helps to keep people from asking too many prying questions.

Picking the house is always somewhat of a challenge.  You have to choose somebody who won't get all bent out of shape when they wake up to a two-ply blizzard the next morning.  As I recall we usually chose girls' houses because, well, we were boys.  It just seemed natural. We never could keep it a very good secret though.  In fact sometimes we would even leave a trademark as a hint.  For instance, one night we left Snapple bottles on the doorstep.  They were empty of course.  Not that it matters.  The whole next week, every time we passed the victim at school, we tried to be either holding a Snapple or mentioning something about it.  Gosh, we were the clever ones!  I wonder if folks ever worried that they would someday see my face next to the caption, "Worlds Dumbest Criminal"?

There were hazards involved.  Of course we always ran the risk of getting caught.  This only happened once, and our punishment was being invited inside for hot chocolate.  Oh and cleaning up the mess the next day.  It was funny though, I could have sworn that there were four of us the night before, launching T-P grenades, but the next morning it turned out that there had only been two.  At least, that's all that showed up to clean anyway.

We also had to watch out for electric fences.  Oh how I still laugh out loud when I remember hearing the sudden shriek of pain piercing the night air.  Twice!!  The same night!!  I'm not sure what those folks were trying to keep out of their garden, but I do know of one individual who never entered it again.  And no, it wasn't me.

I guess what we were doing could be classified as vandalism.  Ancient petroglyphs were also technically vandalism when they were perpetrated.  Now they are priceless artifacts of past ages.  That's how I like to remember my late night escapades with my friends.  At least we were giving something useful.  You never know where or when that bratwurst might rear its ugly head.  We were simply making sure those folks were prepared.  So why not let the good times roll?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What is the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow?

I can think of a thousand other things I would rather discuss than politics.  Unfortunately the massive political turmoil in our world right now is kind of like a big black hole that sucks... everything into it.  The result is that any topic, especially the price of rice in China, ends up leading to politics.

I could be talking about popsicles and that would lead to popsicle sticks and popsicle sticks look like tongue depressors and tongue depressors are used in doctors offices which are soon going to have pictures of President Obama in them, just like every other government building.

Or it could be as simple as discussing my favorite breakfast cereal, which of course has almonds in it.  More than 75% of the worlds almonds are grown right here in California, which has seen thousands of acres of farmland idled due to a combination of drought and rampant fish brained environmental regulation.

It's hopeless.  There is no topic that won't lead me on a collision course with some political mumbo jumbo.  It's even worse when I'm conversing with somebody besides myself, although I don't draw as many stares when I'm not alone.

I want to be optimistic and say that things will settle down soon and we can resume our pointless discussions about the weather without leading to a debate over global warming climate change.  I try hard every day to think positively.  I really do.  But then I get cut off in traffic and I'm reminded of birds sitting on my hand at the zoo, which reminds me that all of the animals are going extinct and, unless I live in a hole in the ground in the middle of prime farmland, then my livelihood isn't important enough to be protected.

Still, I hang onto the hope that one day I won't be enveloped in all this constant political upheaval.  I'm pretty sure the founding fathers hoped for that day too.  In fact, the hope probably stems all the way back to Adam and Eve.  After all, they were the pioneers of the two party system.  Polar opposites who simultaneously depended on each other for survival and, I'm sure at times, wished to annihilate one another.  And the debate has stirred ever since.

In the midst of all the chaos, it's good to keep in mind that life is about having experiences, both good and bad.  With those experiences comes knowledge.  With that knowledge comes freedom.  With that freedom comes the ACLU.  Doh!!!!