Friday, December 24, 2010

Where In the World Has Ed Gone?

Find out when he returns next year and resumes blogging. Hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Post From the Photo Archives of My Father

The End Is At Hand

Flee From the Wrath To Come

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Yielded To the Man To the Right of Me and He Yielded It Right Back To Mine

So here was the dilemma. I was sitting at a red light in town one morning with several other cars behind me and three cars (hence for to be referred to as white, gray and black cars as ordered from the stoplight) heading in the opposite direction and a beer truck in the center turn lane. At a high rate of speed with lights flashing, a cop car comes up behind the three cars waiting at the red light heading the opposite direction as I am and just as he gets to the intersection, the light turns green. What am I supposed to do?

All of us evidently thinking the same thing chose to sit at the intersection and wait for the cop car to swerve out into the lane I wanted to head for, go around the traffic blocking his way through the intersection and let him proceed so that we could continue on our merry way. However, the cop car just sat behind the three cars in the lane in front of him with lights flashing.

The beer truck in the oncoming turn lane made the first move and turned in front of my car even though he should yield the right away to me but since I was still at a standstill wondering what to do, I guess I yielded him the right to turn by default. The white car in the three car (now four car with the cop included) string of oncoming traffic also proceeded. The cop now had a center lane clear and only two cars in front of him and me heading towards him in the far lane to contend with but still he sat there with lights flashing.

Simultaneously, I finally started through the intersection with caution as the black car immediately in front of the cop pulled off the street into a parking lot evidently assuming he had done something wrong and was getting pulled over. A split second later, the gray car in front of the black car also started to cautiously proceed through the intersection. As I made it through the intersection and picked up speed, I looked back in my side mirror to see the cop drive past the driveway the black car had turned into and nose his bumper right onto the gray car's rear bumper and finally sounded a blast from his siren. Evidently the gray car had done something illegal up the road and like a sheep herding dog, the cop car took awhile to get his prey sorted out from the rest of the herd. I don't remember this scenario in any of my driver's manuals that I studied as a youth.

Anyway, that is about as exciting as my morning commute to works gets these days.

-Song lyrics in the title of this post are from 'The Accident (Things Could Be Worse)' by John Prine

Friday, December 17, 2010

Disaster Averted

While talking with my wife over the phone, my daughter interrupted me a few times to tell me about some noise coming from the stairs. Since I had earlier set a box fan in the hallway above the stairs to distribute the air better since our air ducting system in our house is inefficient at best, I assumed that she was hearing it and told her not to worry about the noise.

A while later when I was off the phone, my daughter again mentioned the noise and offered to 'show' it to me. She climbed halfway up the stairs, put her ear to the wall and said, "see!" Intrigued, I put my ear to the wall and the unmistakable sound of water gurgling made me blood run cold. It sounded like a pipe had burst inside the wall but since that wall was the same wall as the utility room below it, I decided to head down there to see which pipe might be going up through the wall and of course to shut off the water supply to the house.

When I opened the door to the utility room in the basement, I was greeted with a much louder sound of gurgling water and the visual sight of water dripping from the ceiling, pipes and wiring onto the floor and running to the floor drain. It wasn't a vast volume of water but definitely enough to get ones attention and so I proceeded to diagnose where it was coming from. In the wet half of the utility room, the sound of gushing water was the loudest in the vicinity above my water heater near a valve that controls water flow to my whole house humidifier. I shut off the valve and instantly the sound stopped so I knew where I was looking for the leak but still couldn't find it. So I turned on the valve and started following the plastic tubing between the valve and the humidifier and soon found the problem. The plastic tubing somehow had attained a pin point sized hole and was spraying water up against the ceiling and bottom of the stairs before being deflecting and dripping off various pipes and wires in the vicinity.

How does a plastic tubing develop a hole after seven years of flawless performance and while nobody was around? I haven't figured that out. It hadn't been happening for more than a day since two days before I had been down in the utility room in that very area turning on the whole house humidifier and then later doing laundry and I'm certain I would have noticed that house of the utility room was dripping water. It was also loud enough that I'm certain that in the quiet of early morning, I would have heard the noise from our living room earlier that same day. So sometime during the day, it decided to develop a leak that left unchecked, could have gone through a lot of water and done a lot of drywall, electrical and wood damage.  I made sure to heap lots of praise onto my daughter and reward her well for her services. Why anyone would break into my house and poke a tiny whole in some plastic tubing going to my whole house humidifier is beyond me but if I catch the bastard, I'm thinking of using the Chinese water torture method on them.

Post Script: A few days later, just when I was beginning to feel comfortable with my repair job, I went down to the utility room to get something and was greeted by water being sprayed everywhere. The bastard had struck again. Twenty dollars and an hour later, he had better bring pipe cutters next time because I installed copper tubing in place of the plastic crap.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joys and Downfalls of Work

I'm not allergic to work, especially engineering work but it does have its joys and downfalls. Although I am part owner of my company and an engineer, I still get plenty of opportunity to get my hands dirty. I often times fabricate parts with welders, drills, saws, grinders, shears, presses and benders. It might not be pretty but if it works and lets me test an idea, I'm okay with it. This part of my job is the joy part because I love the variety even though it plays havoc on my work clothes. I may go to work wearing better clothes thinking I'm going to be doing mostly computer design work or at most electrical wiring and end up welding or grinding with a generous amount of touching greasy objects thrown in. Fortunately my wife isn't home as often anymore so I can generally sneak them through the wash before she frowns her disapproval.

Eventually my design is built and in the test phase which generally means I can focus my attentions elsewhere, sometimes doing accumulated paperwork which needless to say isn't a joy. Most of the time I put in enough legwork to assure a successful test but occasionally, things beyond my control like a badly welded (by someone else) joint can cause an unexpected failure. This is the downfall to my job especially when there are timelines involved. Why am I thinking about this subject? Because just such a event has happened to me and now I am scrambling to redesign, rebuild and retest one of my designs, all things I love to do but not when the focus of a timeline is squarely on my shoulders.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Down and Another One... or Two Left to Go

Once again I have successfully dressed myself in a nice button up shirt and khakis, the latter one I have only donned once in recent years and that was for my brother's wedding under threat of being excommunicated from the family, and played the part of supporting spouse as I ate dinner with a bunch of doctors at another country club. Why their choice of location I don't know since none of them so far have played golf. I hope I nodded at the appropriate time, said the right amusing antidote at the right time, and for god's sake, picked the right fork to eat my salad and the right one to eat my entrée. On a side note, I would feel much safer if the interview was held at an Applebees or a Chilis instead of a country club.

This group of doctors was very similar to the previous group of doctors that my wife interviewed with except this group had one oddball. While the others had on suits, the oddball had on a button up shirt that could be found at any big box clothing store on the discount rack. I could relate with that. While the other doctors talked of their children here and there at various colleges on the east coast, the oddball talked of duck hunting and doing triage on his dog before fishing a couple more hours and heading home. I could actually understand and identify with this guy and I am not a big hunter. I guess that makes me an oddball too.

At the last country club dinner interview I attended a few weeks ago, everyone was ordering steaks and so in following my motto of doing as Romans do when in Rome, I also ordered a steak. It was tough, chewy and flavorless. In fact, everything I tasted at that dinner tasted as it came out of the same bland, overcooked pot. So this time I decided I was going to order what I wanted regardless of what everyone else ordered. This group of doctors were evidently the chicken or salmon type as they all ordered something in one of those two groups so I ended up being a Roman in Rome again. I went with the crab cakes and asparagus with mashed potatoes. My wife who hadn't been paying attention to my order, ended up ordering the exact same thing. I'm not sure if that was a social faux pas or not. Regardless, the meal was outstanding.

This group of doctors really wants to hire my wife in the worst way I think. There are three of them, two of whom are nearing retirement. Incidentally the oddball is the youngest which makes me think I would have a hunting buddy or at least someone I can talk too intelligently if my wife accepts the job. I'm sure a job offer will soon appear in the mail and then my wife will have a big decision to make though she may still go ahead with the other two hospitals wanting to interview her. Of all the hospitals she has or will most likely interview with, this was the only one that is most likely out of commuting range. It is an hour and fifteen minutes away so it is possible but it would be a tiresome drive to do everyday. The location however makes up for being so far away as it is full of views overlooking two large rivers, my kind of place and a place where a custom boat building business could really take hold. The town itself is about the same size as the one where we currently live though being more of a regional focal point, has a lot more businesses. It still is suffering like most of rural Iowa and is gradually dying but it has more life in it than most.

My wife is torn because both interviewed groups of doctors really like her and both are groups of MD's specialized in internal medicine so my wife would have company. In the other two hospitals, my wife would most likely be the sole internal medicine doctor. One group is large and has access to lots of doctors of other specialties to help read various tests pertaining to diagnosing someone who might become a patient of my wife. The other group is small and they pretty much learn to read all those various tests themselves, something my wife hasn't been taught and will have to learn from them. Also since the small group is probably just a few years from retiring two thirds of the doctors, she could quickly be leading it. Decisions, decisions and for once, I'm glad it isn't me who has to make them. I'm just sitting back (while being supportive) and seeing where life will take her and ultimately me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tales of the Widow Lady

My parents have owned a bit of vacation property for well over a quarter century down in the Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas. It has always been a little piece of heaven to me and a place that I've spent lots of time hiking, biking and boating. I've even done just a bit of spelunking. The area is extremely scenic because of its ruggedness but what makes is scenic also makes it unsuitable for making much of a living. Thus the people in the area of my parent's cabin are mostly those retired from working elsewhere, on some sort of pension or what you would call dirt poor.

A post by TC whose invite only blog is linked in my sidebar got me to thinking about one of those neighbors in particular. We try to be good neighbors and go and visit our neighbors once a year taking some homemade food stuff and chatting with them for awhile. In return, they are good in looking over our property down there and alerting us if anything might happen. Though it is just a tiny cabin with beat up salvaged furniture and nothing worth stealing, a lot has happened over the years. There has been everything from giant ice storms that have fallen large trees onto the cabin to a run away stock trailer that missed the cabin by inches and unleashed a stirred up and raging bull onto the property. Always we hear about these things long before we show up to the property to inspect the damage ourselves. However on one memorable occasion after we had just arrived and were eating dinner and not having had a chance to meet the newest neighbor who moved into the house across the road, a knock sounded on the door.

An old woman who introduced herself as the 'old widder lady who dates the crippled man from yonder holler' handed us a welcoming gift of warm grits and said she would like to meet us sometime when we got a chance. I'm not sure any of us still know her real name for she is long gone and in our stories we simply refer to her as the 'old widder lady'. So the next day we went for a hike and in the evening when we suspected supper would be done, we walked across the road to meet the old widder lady.

She cordially invited us into her house and shut the door before yelling, "shut up nigger!" My first thought was Tourettes Syndrome but she soon explained that was the name of her dog who eventually just tired of his barking after awhile and went into another room. As I have seen in many poor areas of the world, racism seems to flourish and though she never made a racist remark in my presence other than her choice of name for her dog, I would be willing to bet that she was one. Still, I never felt comfortable when sitting on the porch of our cabin and hearing her shouting, "Nigger get in here," in the evenings.

After we were more formally introduced to her dog and seated, it was then that I noticed the old double barreled shotgun leaned up against the trim of the big window next to her door and within easy reach of her rocking chair. I have no doubt that she could have that think leveled and with the safety off (assuming there was even such a thing as a safety on it) before an intruder could get up the three or four steps of her porch. I'm also willing to bet that she was a good enough shot to shoot me off of our cabin's porch if she took a notion too. It was definitely an ancient piece and had probably been around for the better part of a century. The two bores looked like they could swallow canaries whole with room to spare.  Below the window that the shotgun was propped against and between it and the rocking chair was a little rickety end table with a pair of binoculars and a framed picture of a man in a coffin who she introduced as her first husband. Between her dog's name, the shotgun and the picture, I never did get comfortable which perhaps is why I don't remember much of what we talked about that evening.

Despite my memory loss, I do know we made her the usual deal of calling us back at our farm in Iowa if anything was amiss because the next year, my brother would take on a full time job about 40 miles down the road from the cabin and would live there year round for a piece of time. I know this because she would call us quite often to let my parents know that their son (who was then in his mid 20's) didn't get home to such and such time on one particular day. She probably knew when he was going to leave before my brother did. Fortunately there is only one small window above the kitchen sink on the side of the cabin facing her window and it has a good light blocking set of horizontal blinds on it so my brother and our private life inside the cabin remained off limits to her.

Eventually my brother moved farther south and the old lady either died or married the crippled man and moved to the 'yonder holler' along with her dog 'nigger.' But her legacy still remains in our family in the form of stories. I also wonder if the next owners of her house inherited the antique doubled barrel shotgun and if it is still propped up against the trim of the big bay window.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

White House

Assuming that the picture of John F. Kennedy's grave was taken sometime in the spring of 1964, I'm guessing this picture of the White house was taken in the same time frame. I'm about 99% sure this was taken by my aunt from the top of the Washington Memorial since a quick Google of those two sites produces hundreds of similarly framed photos. Modern day photos show a much more groomed lawn and fewer trees. The area of the lawn up close to the White House in this picture is now much wider, wide enough for the Marine One, the presidential helicopter to safely set down to deliver the president to and from his activities. Years ago when I toured the White House, the most prominent thing from that visit still in my memory banks, was walking along a path winding through bunkers topped with military men with machine guns to get to the door we entered. Because I don't see any of that in this picture or modern day versions of this picture, I can only assume that it was somewhere along the backside. Anyone else remember that from a tour? Do they still give tours?

Monday, December 6, 2010

John F. Kennedy

I'm still in the process of scanning through my old slides and those belonging to my parents. I found this slide evidently taken by my aunt on a trip to Washington D.C. shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Here is a picture taken shortly after his burial between two of his children. Of course it looks much different these days and I had to do some research to verify that this was actually what his grave looked like back then. Now it is paved over with cobblestones and the gravestones have been replaced with heavy bronze plaques set flush to the surface.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Halloween Revisited

I know this is over a month late and truth be told, I had other things to post back then and bumped this post. Then it got too late to fashionable post it and it languished in draft status. But for some reason or other, I have been having a severe case of writer's block. My tanks are on empty and once again, I have nothing to say. I'm not sure of the reason other than I've been exceptionally busy as work and my home life is the model of routine. I think I am in dire need of a long vacation and one is creeping closer but isn't coming fast enough to suit my taste.

So to take the place of a post this Friday, here is a picture of our pumpkins that we carved. By we I mean, I carved though my daughter did help gut her pumpkin for about ten seconds before declaring that her arm was tired and she needed to lay down.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doctor Doctor Give Me the News!

Though it really wasn't a shocker after years of hearing that doctors, especially family practice and internal medicine doctors, are in short supply, it was still nice to know after her first interview for a job she won't even start until fall of 2012, that they want her. In fact, they want her so badly that they are willing to give my wife a signing bonus and a monthly stipend from now until 2012 if she just commits. I know if they had offered me the job, I would have committed on the spot but they didn't and since my wife still has two more scheduled interviews and possibly a third, she is in no rush to commit until those have been completed. I have no doubt that all two or three remaining hospitals will be interested in her too which leads me to the conclusion that engineering is the wrong racket to be in.

The nice part about the whole thing is that all the hospitals save one are easily within commuting distance from where we currently live and where I currently work. So this gives us some leeway if we would like to take some time to relocate and one way or the other, one of us will have at maximum, a twenty minute commute. Most likely it will be me so that my wife can be closer to the hospital so that on nights when she is on call, she can still come home and be at the hospital within the allotted time should need arise.

The whole thing is also emphasis that big changes may not be too far off in our lives. The biggest change is that we would like to sell our house here in town for an acreage outside of town. Our hope is that it would allow us to live our dream of being more self sufficient by having a larger garden and perhaps raising our own meat. I've always had a dream of designing and building a house, and though that isn't relegated to beyond city limits, the ability to start fresh might let me work that into the our life schedule. Finally, I've also had dreams of starting my own business and working for myself instead of others, and with her most likely making more money than me, perhaps that will be the time to try it out, perhaps being a stay at home father and raising another kid along the way. Exciting times for sure.

I'm still way ahead and counting chickens before they hatched because the doctors from her first interview have yet to even talk money. That is being scheduled with their person who does such things who lives in the same urban jungle where my wife works. It didn't make sense for her to drive all the way down here to talk money only to have both her and my wife drive back to the urban jungle afterwards. Plus there are still upwards of three more interviews in various nearby communities and who knows, one of them could still make us an offer we can't refuse.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking at My Future

As long time readers know, I like to verify and investigate things using what I believe is one of the best tools at my disposal, Google. When I meet someone new, I often will type their name into Google to see what comes up. Most of the time it is nothing or rather a vast array of hits of people with the same name so that it makes it impossible to disseminate any information on the person I was interested in. Occasionally I find little tidbits of information about the person that provides a little bit of background of their life. Some people might call this cyber stalking but I never repeat my search once I've done one and I don't use the information for any sort of gain. In fact, I mostly forget about it. It probably is a fine line but I think I fall on the right side of it.

To be equal opportunity, I often do what is called an 'ego search' and see what information is out there about myself. Fortunately, though my name isn't common, with a third of a billion people in this country, it crops up often enough that I'm one of those people you can't find anything about unless you already know what you are looking for. I have always been a believer in using a pseudonym when creating internet accounts to minimize floating cyber information and it has done exactly that.

While doing genealogy work, I often follow-up any records search with a Google search because it is surprising how well it works even on dead ancestors. One evening while doing just this, nothing new that I already didn't know popped up but it got me thinking along a different track. I was working on my direct paternal lineage and I got to wondering what information was out there on my father.

Now you might think that I know way more information than Google does on my own father but I don't. My parents were divorced when I was six years old and in the intervening thirty plus years, I've only seen my father once and that was when I was six and a half years old. It's been awhile. I don't regret this fact and in a way, I think it was best especially after having seen other kids of divorced parents struggle with the situation. I just had a mom and got on with my life. She remarried a couple years later and that man has been my father in every aspect of my life except genetics. I am blessed.

But I don't know anything about my real father except for his name, where he lives (20 miles from where I grew up and only about 50 miles away now) and a few hazy memories of him when he was in his early 20's. So I Googled his name. It was as most names are, lost in a sea of cyber clutter and didn't yield any results. However by adding the town where he lives into the search string, I was presented with several pages of results pertaining to him. Perhaps even more interesting to me, there were at least a dozen pictures of him all pertaining to an organization that he is active in.

My father is only 19 years older than I am and the pictures, all within the last five years, are most likely what I will look like in twenty years and hence, the title of this post. It certainly wasn't how I pictured myself to look like but it isn't a terrible fate. I see an older man who is much wiser now, hardened a bit by the elements and work, always wearing a hat so I'm assuming he is much further down the path to baldness than I am, and with a nice looking mustache. I also see a stranger who looks nothing like the man in my thirty-some year old memories.

I have always known that he eventually remarried and a few years ago after my paternal grandfather died, I re-established contact with my paternal grandmother and during the course of our contact learned that I had a half sister from that marriage. I also learned that he married a third time but has no kids from his current wife. I've never known that name of my half sister or even where she lives. I suppose I could ask my paternal grandmother but it might be one of those things where my half sister might not know that she has two half brothers and really, there probably isn't a lot to gain from contact since our connecting link is an estranged father.

I not sure how I feel about all this which is partly why I'm blogging about it. Sometimes seeing what I've written helps me figure out what I'm thinking. Seeing a picture of my father for the first time in 30+ years only solidifies that we really are just genetically related strangers. Beyond that I'm not sure. Perhaps this whole thing is like a poker game. Right now the call is to me and there hasn't been a raise yet so I'll probably just knock and see what everyone else does first.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Taking a Break

Although I am staying in the general vicinity of my home next week, I've run into an unusual situation. I have nothing in my backlog of posts and nothing on tap. I blame a rather hectic work schedule, no time off in the last couple months, and being burnt out on politics after a brutal campaign season. So I am taking a week of blogging vacation to compose myself and get my act together. See you towards the end of this month.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Life and Times of John Kuck

John Kuck, my third great grandfather was born 5 Dec 1836 in Adolphsdorf in the Kingdom of Hanover, a tiny hamlet in the marshes, 14 miles northeast of Bremen, Germany. According to local historians, John came from a long line of farmers going back at least six generations that lived and farmed those marshes. John was the third oldest son of the seven sons and one daughter of Hinrich Kuck and Anna Gerken.

Perhaps it was the political instability or the series of prolonged crop failures in the region but for one reason or another, John and at least two of his brothers immigrated to America. John was the first to arrive on 15 Aug 1853 in the port of Baltimore aboard the boat Arnold Boninger. Interestingly enough, his biography in county history books said he went to school and then farmed until he arrived on the shores of America at age 16 but the ship log lists his occupation as a baker. Whatever the case, I can't imagine what it felt like leaving your family behind and moving to a new country with just the clothes on your back. When I was at age 16, I thought it was the end of the world when my parents just didn't hand over the keys to the family car and say it was mine for the using.

John, after eight weeks at sea, penniless and alone, set off first for Wheeling, Virginia where he rested up for two months and then traveled a ways down the Ohio river to Marietta, Ohio. Marietta was a boom town and the first settled town west or north of the Ohio river. At the time John Kuck arrived, it had nearly ten churches, two public libraries, a college, two private academies, two dozen stores and upwards of 3000 people. John giving up any farming or baking roots he might have, apprenticed into the harness maker's trade until he reached the age of 20.  

I guess John either didn't have the capital or wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life because when he left Marrietta at age twenty, his next stop was as a partner in a general merchandise store in Le Sueur, Minnesota. Perhaps he saved up money or found his calling but a year later in 1858, John settled in Galena, Illinois which had a large German population on the Mississippi river and worked as a harness maker supporting the huge local lead mine industry. 

While in Galena, John met my third great grandmother Mary Meyer, a Swiss immigrant and on June 1, 1860 they were married. Perhaps John needed to escape his in-laws or his nomadic nature got the better of him but a few months later, John and Mary packed up and headed up the Mississippi river to Lansing, Iowa where he set up his own harness shop.  His first two kids Anna born March 3, 1861 and Henry Lincoln born December 1, 1862 (named after his grandfather and newly elected President Abraham Lincoln) would join the family in Lansing before he again got on his traveling shoes and in 1864, traveled to Charles City, Iowa and again set up his harness shop.

There John finally put away his traveling shoes and found peace and soon after Lydia on March 11, 1866, George on December 14, 1868, Emma on October 29, 1869, Edward sometime in 1870 and John Jr.on January 3, 1873 were born into his family. However, the peace was not to last. A diphtheria epidemic that had been ranging across the plains for a couple years struck Charles City in 1878 and soon, the Kuck household was down with it. Seventeen year old Anna would succumb to it on the 11th of October followed by Emma on the 21rst of December, Edward on the 28th of December, Lydia on the 1rst of January, John Jr. on the 3rd of January and finally mother Mary on the 30th of May. A young vibrant immigrant family of nine people had been reduced to just three. Forty-two year old John and 17 year old son Henry and 10 year old son George were on their own. I'm not sure how any of them survived the ordeal.

Perhaps they made it through the loss of most of their family by the arrival of 23 year old Elizabeth Brandau into their lives.  She married John the following year on April 22, 1880 and settled into the family. Young Henry and George worked in their father's harness shop but soon after his father remarried, Henry would leave home and eventually become a notable saddle maker living in The Dalles, Oregon. I've found saddles of his up for auction for upwards of $1000 each. George would continue working with his father eventually opening up a leather goods store for a few years and then spending the rest of his life as a merchant over a variety of stores ranging from implements to groceries in nearby Rockford, Iowa.

Life for John began to smooth out a bit and soon three more children joined his family. Bertha in 1881, Clara in 1883 and Paul in 1888. These three children still remain largely mysterious to me because all research into them has led to dead ends. John would become a respected citizen of the town serving on the city council, becoming a prominent member of the Republican party, was an active in prohibitionist and one of the first members of the German Methodist Episcopal Church.

On 1 November 1916 at the age of 79, John died and was buried alongside his wife and children. The large monument on the left side of the picture below is the family gravestone with all the names and dates inscribed upon it. The eight smaller stones behind it are the actual grave markers for John, wives Mary and Elizabeth and the five children who died of diphtheria. Later when Elizabeth died, she would be buried on the other side of John and as you can see in the picture below, her gravestone is just a bit closer to John's gravestone than Mary and all the other equally spaced stones. I guess jealousy follows us even into death.

One side note on the picture above. When I found it among my grandfather's stuff, it was said to be a picture of John, wife Mary, son George and one of their other kids. I'm not sure which one is George. Actually I can probably rule out the older child as George since he was 10 years old when his mother died assuming the lady is his mother. If George is the younger one and around 3 years of age, that would make the older son Henry nine  years old at the time. I would guess that the older boy is probably 14 or 15 at the time of the photo. To top it off, I'm not sure if the young child in the picture is that of a boy or a girl. It seems as if mislabeling pictures is a habit in my family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Can't Find the Purple Things

It was dark-thirty in the morning and I pull myself from the fog of sleep to hear my sobbing daughter standing by my bed saying daddy over and over. Like a good father I immediately jolted upright in bed and asked her what was wrong. I suspected she was in great pain, had some horrible dream, really missed her mother or something similar.

"I can't find the purple things." she said.


"I can't find the purple things." she said again.

Not knowing what she was referring too but knowing that if I didn't comfort her soon, this could go on and on, I told her to crawl in bed with me and we would find them in the morning. She did, quickly quited down, and soon slipped out and walked back to her room where she says she is more comfortable. I fell back into my deep slumber.

When morning broke and I went to wake up my daughter, she looked up at me and told me in an excited voice that she had found her purple things and pulled down her pajama bottoms to show me a purple short thing that she wore yesterday with a purple mini-skirt outfit. Last night when we had been changing into her pajamas, she had asked me if she could wear it under her pajama pants and I had agreed. I had forgotten about it and evidently she had too until dark-thirty in the morning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Breaker Breaker Good Buddy, Got Your Ears On

While at a garage sale that turned out to be at the place of an acquaintance, we ended up with some stuff that we really didn't want. When I saw that nothing even remotely interested me, I tried joking about not realizing he was a huge Richard Marks fan as I rummaged through a box of old cassettes to get me off the hook for buying something but even then, it still didn't feel right.  So feeling awkward, we picked up on thing for our daughter and immediately had a half dozen more things thrust into our hands that she would 'like'. Fortunately, they were all labeled for ten cents or so and our total bill came to only sixty-five cents. I gave a buck and told them to keep the change for their five year old son's candy fund.

One of those unwanted items was a pair of Diego walkie talkies, one of which had a broken antenna. I certainly wasn't optimistic that they would work at all. But when we got home, my daughter and I started playing with them and they worked as far as transmitting voices back and forth though some of the extra features were finicky. Later, while the wife and I were doing a bit of yard work, my daughter and the neighbor girls were playing with the walkie talkies and soon found out that they could hear local truck traffic chatter with them. I thought it was all fun and games until I happened to walk by as one of the neighbor girls was having a conversation with some trucker who hailed from South Dakota. I knew right then that I wasn't too thrilled with the thought of my four year old daughter or the nine year old neighbor girl for that matter having a conversation with some long haul trucker from South Dakota. After the novelty wears off, I'm certain that toy might end up swimming with the fishes wearing a pair of concrete galoshes if you know what I mean.

The whole thing however, brought back lots of fond memories. Growing up on a farm in the 70's and 80's, most communication was done with Citizen's Band (CB) radios. Our channel was 33, our neighbor's channel was 21 and I believe most truckers 'had their ears on' channel 19. When parental communication was reliably non-existent, I would sometimes tune into channel 21 to talk with the twin boys who were the only other two boys in my class of eight students, and we would pass away the time talking about everything under the sun. If they weren't 'online' at the time, I sometimes would turn the squelch back so that I could hear most distant conversations and listen in. It could be quite entertaining.

Sometimes while taking long road trips, we would often have a CB in the vehicle to pass the time away and to be alerted if there were any 'smokies' in a one hundred mile radius. At a young age I learned about the heartache of breaking up as one trucker who evidently was heading the same way we were tried to pawn off an engagement ring to what seemed like every trucker heading the other way. I also learned that even truckers were sensitive to being made fun of as two truckers once arranged a fight at the next exit because one of them was talking on a 'cheap mother fucking Japanese radio' and the other man disagreed. Despite my suddenly new found need to pee at the next exit, my father just kept on driving as I looked out the window looking for the fight.

Like so many things, the CB radio has largely become a relic in our area due to the farm crisis of the 80's. As more farms disappeared, the distance between them grew and bordered on being out of range for communication. Two-way radios with private channels became cheaper and soon the CB's disappeared from our tractors and replaced with a unit that held one channel and one channel only. Although my parents still have their two way radios, even those are on their way of the CB and are being replaced by cell phones. It makes me quite nostalgic which is why I spent a fair bit of time this weekend talking over a walkie talkie to my daughter and teaching her CB-speak. She now ends her sentences with the word 'over' and asks if I 'have my ears on' to see if I'm on the other end of the line. I'm not sure what the preschool teacher will say when she asks my daughter if she did something and she replies 10-4.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zube Tube

I remember the first time I saw one of these things it was at a friend's house in the suburbs of Chicago. While upstairs, a weird almost cosmic sounding sound started emanating throughout the house and after tracking it down, we found our friend in the basement with a Zube Tube. It is a simple toy that consists of a thick cardboard tube with two plastic cups inset into each end and a light spring connecting them. There is also a hole cut into one end allowing the user to pluck the spring to create some cosmic-like sounds. You can also hold it and shake it like you are about to throw a spear which causes it to make yet another eerie sound. Finally you can talk into one end of it transmitting your voice through the spring to the other end creating very ghostly sounds. Best of all, it requires no batteries or instructions to operate and there was no assembly required.

After playing around with it at my friends house, I noticed that it was made in Fairfield, Iowa, a town not 40 miles from where I grew up. Flash forward 30 years, I found one of these in mint condition at an auction in said town and was trying to rationalize how much I was going to spend to obtain such a significant part of my childhood but when it went up for sale, I ended up getting it and a huge pile of crap for only fifty cents. I carefully cradled my treasure into my arms until my daughter walked up and said she wanted to play with my toy. Tearfully I gave it up to her and it now resides somewhere in the clutter of her bedroom, probably never to see the light of day for another 30 years. At least it was cheap.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TSA: Here We Go Again

Let's recap:

Nineteen young males of middle eastern decent commandeered four planes using sharp objects and flew them into three buildings and a field. As a result, the TSA begins to screen for everything to sharp box cutters to nail clippers.

Young males of middle eastern decent plan to smuggle explosive liquids onto planes and were foiled before they could but the TSA couldn't accept that success and forced all passengers to surrender everything from bottled water to hair gels forcing passengers to buy over priced drinks on the airplanes or post security convenience stores. Breast milk and lighter fluid are still allowed.

A young male of middle eastern decent tried to blow up his shoes. As a result, the TSA mandates all shoes must be removed and scanned separately.

A young male of middle eastern decent tried to blow up his underwear. As a result, the TSA starts implementing scanners that can see our naked bodies and if we refuse, we now must be subject to 'enhanced pat downs' which included cupping your crotch with the front of their hand.

A young male of middle eastern  decent tried to blow up several planes by packing toner cartridges of a couple laser printers full of explosives. The TSA is still trying to figure out how they are going to prevent this from happening but I'm guessing it will result in them taking away our ability to mail anything by plane. The slow trans-ocean boat will still probably be an option.

Now a young Asian male got aboard a plane wearing a Caucasian old man mask. Though he wasn't planning on killing anyone and was instead seeking asylum, I'm assuming the TSA will feel it a huge security threat and implement a "pinch test" to ensure our skin is real and not silicone. I'm not sure what a Hollywood star will do in this situation.

On a larger note, our TSA is quickly becoming the joke of the world. In fact other countries are starting to refuse to do all the screenings requested of TSA for all inbound passengers. I'm guessing real terrorists are sitting in some dark cave coming up with the next way they can get TSA to further choke the convenience of flying by inconveniencing 99.999% of all passengers just to catch the 0.001% up to no good to the point that  we just give up and start riding a carts pulled by donkeys.

If the TSA really wants to be effective, here is my three step plan.

1. Anybody who buys tickets in advance, the largest percentage of passengers, has their names submitted for background checks. If they pass, they get the quick route through security going through a minimal of checks. The minority remainder gets a little bit more scrutiny. See step two.

2. Profile people. People who have no documentation of their plans, who buy their tickets last minute and one way with cash, are young middle eastern males, or otherwise seem nervous or dangerous, get a more thorough examination.

3. Limit the number of carry-on items and enforce size limitations so that any smuggled on explosive material is in small quantities and much easier to detect.

Israel uses this plan and hasn't had a breach in decades. We have the tightest security in the world and we haven't had a breach in over a week. Why? Because we spend all our time looking for materials that might be made into a weapon instead of looking for people who could turn just about anything into a weapon to be used against us. It's that saying, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Until we start using a little bit of common sense, we are just clogging up the system to make it even easier for the 0.001% of people who want to harm us or just make us ride in donkey drawn carts to do so.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Bump In the Day Is Much Better Than a Bump In the Night

My house has evidently decided that this is the year to let loose a bit and fall apart. Remember just a month ago when I was posting about a renegade mirror that leapt to it's death in my bathroom at some ungodly hour in the morning? Well it scared the heck out of me largely because it was at such an ungodly hour and I was sound asleep. So when it sounded as if someone just drove through my garage door one evening around six, I just calmly got up and looked out the window to see who had. What I didn't know was that my ordeal was just beginning.

After checking off the list of things that could have caused such a noise such as a car driving through the garage door, every single gutter falling off the house at the same time and a spot F5 tornado removing the garage from the face of this world, I set off checking into the finer details. It didn't take me long to figure out that one of the two springs that assist lifting the garage door had given up the ghost and came all unwound, literally. I pressed the garage door button only to see that the door would lift just a few inches before stopping again. No problem, I thought. I will just disengage it from the automatic opener tomorrow morning and would soon be on my was to a meeting in a neighboring state that I had scheduled.

The next morning came and I made sure I had the proper house key to unlock the front door should the garage door re-engage itself to the track when I lowered it again after getting my car out. My daughter asked how I was going to get the car out and I showed her that I could just pull this rope to disengage it from the track and then lift here. After the garage door got stuck only six inches from the floor, I told her after checking to make sure I had indeed disengaged it from the track that I just had to put more muscle into it. Then I proceeded to start yanking on the door for all I was worth but not making any progress. I was stuck.

I called a couple people to let them know that I might be running a bit late and then proceeded to analyze the problem. It being that the one good spring was cocking the door sideways as soon as it started going up causing it to jam in the tracks and no amount of lifting or timing could convince it to do otherwise. I then thought about cutting the cable from the good spring to the door but from the sound the other spring had made, I wasn't sure I wanted to be in the same room when it happened. I perhaps could have changed clothes, got out my tools and loosened the good spring so that I could get out but I was already late for my meeting and didn't want to make myself any later.  So I did the only thing I could, I called the local garage door repairman at home waking him up and pleaded my case.

He showed up fifteen minutes later and said he would have me out in five minutes and on my way. A half hour later he said he would need to go back to get more tools and parts. At that point I was way late for where I had to go and after stuffing some cash in his hand for wakening him up at an ungodly hour, asked him to just fix it while I was gone. A coworker came to pick me up, take me to the daycare and an hour late, I left for my appointment. Fortunately with light traffic and no cops, we made it a respectable fifteen minutes late.

The repairman good to his word, had the door fixed when I got home late that evening and had even serviced the door greasing it at all its dozens of bearings and joints. Now instead of hearing a creaking garage door rise up when I press the button, all I hear is the humming of a motor which makes me think it has stalled out for some reason and only looking at the door rising up will calm my fears. So the lesson I learned from all this is to mold an explosive charge with a remote detonator and place in each spring so if one breaks, you can blow the other one from the safety of another room and retrieve your vehicle out of the garage.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Voting Out Three Members of the Iowa Supreme Court Was the Right Thing To Do

A little over a year and a half ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts on the divisive topic of gay marriage. The first post was more general thoughts on the subject and the second post outlined why our supreme court justices who made this decision were legislating instead of doing their jobs and interpreting the constitution of Iowa which stated specifically that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. Because they were legislating instead of interpreting, the people of Iowa decided to take action.

In Iowa, we vote every election on whether we wish to retain our judges with a simple yes or no vote. If a simple majority of the people vote no, the judge is removed from office. This has never happened since this procedure was implemented in the 1960’s. Iowa made history this past Tuesday by voting out of office all three of our Supreme Court Justices who were up for a retention vote and who legislated about gay marriage.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus came to our town right before the election telling everyone who would listen that a vote to not retain our justices, including her, would be a vote against Iowa process for appointing and retaining judges. Of course, it obviously does nothing close to that. In fact, by voting out Chief Justice Ternus and two or her fellow justices, we have strengthened our process by showing that yes, if they choose to legislate instead of doing their duties of strictly interpreting the Iowa constitution, we can and will vote their kiesters out of office.

In case you the reader haven’t reread the above two links and think I am just an angry and homophobic, please understand that my opinion on this subject has nothing to do with gay marriage at all. As I said in the previous post, it doesn’t affect me in the slightest. My beef with this and why I voted no on retaining those three supreme court justices is because they were legislating from the bench pure and simple. If they get away with legislating on this issue, what other future issue that would affect me will they legislate on?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Politics: Heading In the Wrong Direction

We are headed in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election is about getting a particular party to a certain number of members in one or both houses to make blocking or passing legislation easier.

We are headed in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election is about getting one particular party in power to control redistricting to make getting re-elected in the future even easier.

We are headed in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election is more about retribution than what the other party will bring to the table.

We are heading in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election is about which candidate seems like the lesser of two evils.

We are heading in the wrong direction if you have not seen one advertisement extolling why you should vote for one candidate and have only seen advertisements on why you shouldn’t vote for the other candidate.

We are heading in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election is because one candidate has made voting for the other candidate a referendum on a third person’s agenda.

We are heading in the wrong direction if voting in today’s election makes you want to check the ‘None of the Above’ box and at least in this state, you don’t have that option.

We are heading in the wrong direction if candidates spend more time trying to increase another candidates ‘negativity rating’ with television ads than laying out their stance on the issues.

We are heading in the wrong direction when candidates need ‘well oiled machines’ to get people out for the vote instead of people who just care enough to go vote on their own accord.

We are heading in the wrong direction when you are excited that this day has arrived more to end the insanity than for what it means to your future.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Clown Farts

This year we finally deemed that our daughter was old enough to go trick-or-treating for the first time. She did enjoy handing out candy to costumed people knocking on our door in previous years but I felt that she needed to experience the other side of things. Okay, the truth is I needed a chocolate fix. So we dressed her up as a clown and set out.

Things didn't go well. I had to hold her hand and do all the talking at every house we stopped at. At one house where the occupant handing out candy had put on a scary old man mask, I even had to bridge the distance between her and him and grab a candy while never letting go of her hand clutched tightly onto mine. Try as I might, I couldn't get her to say trick-or-treat or thank-you at any house. I was beginning to think I should have dressed her up as a mime. We hit up the handful of people we knew and a few more nearby their houses and called it a night. Although she has been on a candy high for a couple days already from other candy given to her by well meaning adults, she now has enough candy to continue her sugar high for another couple weeks. I'm even figuring on that full sized snickers bar disappearing the next time she falls asleep.

The title? Oh yeah. While my wife was applying clown make-up on my daughter, she let rip a rather loud and long fart. She smiled as all clowns do I suppose and announced that it was a "clown fart!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Fine Whiskey Called Ted

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about Ted lately. For those who don't know from my past entries on Ted, he was my golden retriever/yellow lab mix dog I had as a youth. He came into my life as a abandoned stray about one year of age and had previously been shot in the rear hip. I never knew if he had been shot because he was supposed to be a hunting dog and was gun shy (as has been known to happen) or if his being gun shy was a result of being shot but whatever the case, he was man's best friend or in my case, boy's best friend instead of a hunting dog.

As a result of his emergence into my thoughts recently and my daughter's love of me telling her stories, I have been telling her stories of Ted which only bring up more memories. She loves them and it has helped me broach the subjects of sickness, death and heaven, things that she has been experiencing lately in the form of her favorite godmother who has been in the hospital and on life support for the last two months. Up until recently, we thought death was the eventual outcome and thus I have been preparing my daughter but she has now shown tremendous improvement in the last week and so maybe my daughter's knowledge of death can remain just a story associated with Ted for now.

Although Ted died in the spring due to complications from medicine he took to alleviate the arthritis pains from being shot as a puppy, I mostly remember him in the fall when the weather is like it has been, sunny and cool. Being Halloween is almost upon us and pumpkins are everywhere, they also remind me of one of my favorite pictures of Ted in the photo at the top of this post. On that day, we were harvesting pumpkins on a sunny but cold and breezy day and Ted being the smart dog that he was, chose to remain in the old farm pickup where the sun radiating in through the windows had it nice and toasty. There he napped on one of the pumpkins that was laying in the seat for some reason I can no longer remember.

Perhaps the memory of Ted which I liken to a fine whiskey that gets better and smoother with age, has been caused by my own physical ailments. Like Ted, I was injured in my youth and as a result have a bum knee that is some years better than others. After a several years of normalcy, it has been plaguing me off and on this year. Also like Ted, there are medicines which take away the pain but are not good for long term use. Ted lost his life when his medicine eventually destroyed his liver. I'm hoping that isn't the way I depart this world but if it were, I would understand. Giving that medicine to Ted I knew it would eventually get him in the end but it turned seven years full of pain and suffering into seven good years free to do whatever he wanted. In human years that is like 49 years. If I live the next 49 years pain free and able to do whatever I want, I will be a happy camper when I cash out my chips.

Ted has been dead now for almost 20 years now and still it feels like last week. I'm sure if I thought about it hard enough I could even smell him and sense his head between my hands as I gave him a good scratch behind the ears. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to say goodbye to him as he lay out in the green spring grass slowly dying but still thumping his tail in appreciation and looking up at me with his eyes. When he died an hour later, we buried him 40 yards away at the base of an old tree where I visit him now and then. There is no marker but I don't mind. I have the memory and after nearly 20 years of mellowing in the barrel of my mind, it is as smooth as ever. There was no finer dog.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BBQ of Another Flavor

In my efforts to remain a diverse individual in both thought and actions, we opted to stop in at a tiny little building in the urban jungle that advertised itself as a Chinese BBQ place. It was 6:30 on a Saturday night and there was not another car in the parking lot which wasn't a good sign but we decided to go in anyway. What you see above is probably a third of the entire store. To the right was a Buddha statue and a cash register and behind me and my cellphone (explains the lackluster photo) was one table which I assume was just for waiting customers since our food was put in Styrofoam containers and stashed in a plastic bag before it was handed to us. When my wife asked, they said they serve take out only.

Like most good BBQ places, their menu was straight forward and was hung on the back wall just out of the frame of this picture. Half of it was things in Chinese that I had no idea and the other half was in English. It said in entirety, "Duck, Pork and Chicken" with an option of rice and a price after each one. We got one of each, with rice of course and being there really wasn't a place to eat it in the store nor drinks to wash it down, we drove back home.

The duck which my wife got was okay but a tad on the chewy side I thought. The pork which I got was by itself a little dry and not very flavorful but when dipped in the spicy sauce packed along with every meal it was really good. I gobbled down every bite. My daughter, ever the food critic wouldn't touch the chicken preferring to just stick with the rice but I tasted a bit and it was much like the pork, tasteless unless dipped in the spicy sauce.

Although the experience of having your meat hacked off the hanging display and chopped up right before your eyes was neat and reminded me a lot of the Philippines, I doubt that I will revisit this store very often. If I do, I think I will try coming back around lunch time when I'm guessing their meat was first done and before it dries out from hanging up all afternoon under a heat lamp. Perhaps they would just sell me a bottle of their spicy sauce.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Capital Closeup

The above picture is the toe of my shoe courtesy of my daughter who had the camera and still loves her closeup shots. Not really knowing how to work that into a post of its own, I just thought I would tack it onto the front of this one.

I thought I would include the above picture as part of my protest against the brutal campaigning going on right now. An upside down American flag is a sign of distress but it just happened to be oriented that way as I was taking a picture of the capital dome of Iowa from the inside. We have a cheese ball for a governor, at least for another couple months assuming he gets beat here next week as all the polls show by a cheese ball we had as a former governor, but at least we have a top notch capital. Our taxpayer dollars at work.

The State House of Representatives wasn't in session but ironically the same amount of work was getting done as when they are actually in session. I'm guessing they can't get anything done because they are too busy looking up at the ceiling. Another examples of our taxpayer dollars at work.

Last but not least, a model of the U.S.S. Iowa which always fascinates me. I have always loved looking at large, realistic models that someone has obviously invested a significant portion of their life, building.  This particular model is probably about fifteen feet long so it wasn't something that you could do on the dining room table in the evenings, at least not unless you were still a bachelor. Back when I was a bachelor, my kitchen table was nothing more than a horizontal filing system. The lazy boy was my dining room furniture of choice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Los Laureles Menu

This blog post is entirely self serving. After having ordered takeout from memory from the best Mexican restaurant in Iowa a time or two because we didn't have a menu, I asked the last time we were in there if I could get a copy of their menu because I could find no copies of it online. They didn't have any hard copies either. So I asked the man if I could take a picture of the menu under the glass by the cash register and he just shrugged so I snapped away. Now because I am also a bit lazy, I don't want to write all this down and print out my own menu so I'm just posting it here so at least I can pull up the menu anytime I want. So when I order tongue tacos, which are superb by the way, I don't have to remember the Spanish word for tongue.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wiener Schnitzel Art and 15-Year Old Scotch Whiskey

What you see above it a gift given to me by a couple Germans who stopped by our place for five days. For some reason, it didn't get opened on the first night but it did on the subsequent four nights. I must say, it was one of the better thank-you-for-letting-us-crash-at-your-place-for-a-few-nights gifts I have ever received. I haven't been to Germany and have only met a few native Germans over the years so it was a real treat. She was the maid-of-honor at our wedding and he was her newly pronounced fiance and we already have a wedding invitation to their wedding in Germany sometime in the first part of the year 2012. I can't wait.

It was an excellent five days though we didn't do anything terribly exciting. We took them on our standard tours, turned them loose for a day at a German village that still functions much the same way it did 100 years ago while we did other necessary things and even took them up to the urban jungle for a day to show them the best Mexican food in our fair state. We played several games of Mexican Train along with some whiskey drinks and even better, they cooked for us one evening making wiener schnitzel art and something else I can't pronounce but was essentially fried potatoes with bacon bits in it. (Art after the schnitzel means it was made from pork instead of the normal veal.) All I have to say is it is a good thing to eat like a German. For their part, they ate some of my turkey burgers and made-from-scratch pizza and pronounced it good to eat American.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wild and Scenic Missouri River: Part 7

Warning: Extreme eye candy below!

I thought I would end my series of posts on this trip with some pictures that I find to be eye candy. I apologize in advance for the smudges on some of the slides. But here is a post of a day of scenery along the river.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finding Out One of My Designs Is Doing Well

As some of you may know, I am a mechanical engineer with an emphasis in design.  For the first third of my career I did mostly machine design which is a side that the consuming public rarely sees. I would design the machines that made the product that the public saw. Then due to a tech bubble that collapsed followed closely by 9/11, I found myself out of work and looking into a new line of work. I was fortunate and was able to hook up with a company that specialized in custom product engineering for anyone who walked in our doors with money and an idea. My first project there was to design an entire plant that made concrete culverts for a client in southwest United States. It was huge in scope and kept me busy for over a year and a half. Afterwards, I took on a number of smaller projects and clients that ranged from a RV manufacturer, forestry equipment manufacturer and right at the end of my time at that company, a entrepreneur who had a great idea (I thought anyway) for a product that he wanted to market to the likes of Walmart. I worked with the guy over several months turning his napkin sketches into an actual design, tweaking it here and there until he was satisfied. I sourced manufacturers for his various components and did a costing analysis for his design but just couldn't get the unit price down to where he felt it needed to be to sell at places like Walmart. I never got to see a fully functional model outside of a computer monitor. We gave him all our data and he went on his merry way. I assumed that it would never see the light of day due to the costs involved.

I hadn't thought about him until a few days ago when a co-worker was talking about a design he did for someone that never panned out and this design came back to me. I mentioned it to my co-worker and he thought it sounded like a good idea too and wondered why it never flew. So on a whim, I Googled the idea that the guy had and found several different manufacturers of similar things. Then one caught my eye. It was exactly like the one I had designed eight years ago. Even better, the name of the company and the president were the same as the one I had dealt with so I knew without a doubt that it was my design. It is way cool to see a creation of yours out in the world and someone making money off of it.

I decided to dig a little deeper and eventually turned up an article about his company (which he started with this idea back in 2002) and his idea which made no mention of myself or the company I worked for but I guess I'm not surprised. We were paid to do a job, not take part in the glory and evidently we did our job well enough where in 2008 he expanded his business into a barn and in 2009 he already had five full time employees. Still, it is exciting to learn that someone is doing well off with one of my designs and even if I'm the only one who knows about it besides you my readers. Perhaps one day I will have a good idea of my own that I can turn into a business like this one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wild and Scenic Missouri River: Part 6

Most of my posts on this trip have fallen into the scenic designation unless you count remoteness as wild. We saw lots of birds from eagles to herons along the river and even saw a spectacular dogfight between two fighter planes/birds complete with barrel rolls and lots of flares happening right over our head at a close proximity. Here is a sequence of pictures showing the wild part of the designation. We saw quite a few bighorn sheep but this was as close as we got the entire trip. These appear to be a ram, two ewes and a yearling.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Total Carnage In the Night

It was 3:30 A.M. when the sound of a chair being thrown through a window right beside my head woke me up from my slumber. I heard a loud bang followed by the implosion of glass shattering all over the place.

"What the f$#k was that?" I groggily ask before my mind started to kick into gear. "Little Abbey are you alright?" I started shouting over and over again as I ran towards her room thinking the worst.

That is when I heard, "I'm alright daddy," coming from the direction of the bed I just left.

"What the...?", I said as I turned around and saw that a groggy Little Abbey must have crawled into my bed sometime during the night. That was a relief because now everyone was accounted for except for whoever made one of my windows implode. I told Little Abbey to stay in bed and crept across the hall into her room throwing on the lights and looking for a shattered window. All windows were intact. So I grabbed her toy guitar as a makeshift club and it immediately started belting into some tune. I quickly hit the off button and proceeded through the house repeating the same process over and over. Hold the club/toy guitar over my head ready to swing and feel around the corner for the light switch hoping to surprise the intruder and perhaps get a swing in before they got me. Every room I found the windows intact and everything in its place. The last room was the same way so I rechecked thinking perhaps that it was only one pane of a double paned window that broke and also looked outside to see if perhaps a car crash had occurred or a neighbor was having a house broke into. I completed my second search and again everything appeared normal.

Was I imagining things? I've been through this twice before with a love struck teenager (a blog post which I can't seem to find anymore) and my wife's shower razor caddy but with those I hadn't known what the noise was and this time it was most definitely glass breaking and somewhere really close to my bed. As I made my way back up to the bedroom to make sure Little Abbey was still doing okay, I happened to notice the hall bathroom (the only room without a window) didn't have a working nightlight which we keep in there for Little Abbey's occasional middle of the night visit. I flicked on the light switch and had to grab the door frame, partially in shock and partially to prevent my momentum from carrying me into the bathroom. It was pure carnage in there.

The very large beveled glass mirror above the sink had evidently come loose from its moorings and shattered into thousands of pieces all over the bathroom with pieces in the sink, toilet, shower and every inch of floor space. There was one large chunk impaled into the flooring right at the base of the toilet and several gash marks in the sink woodwork and the wooden steps we keep in there for Little Abbey to reach the sink. The mystery was solved and fortunately nobody was in the bathroom at the time.

I called Little Abbey out of the bedroom and asked if she wanted to see what had caused all the noise in hopes of relieving any fears she might have. She dutifully looked over the scene and said, "Daddy, I wasn't scared." I'm glad she wasn't as I carefully pried my fingers from her toy guitar still clutched at my side. Knowing that sleep would be a long time coming and still worrying that myself or Little Abbey might forget and walk into the carnage of the room, I grabbed the broom, dustpan and a five-gallon bucket from the garage and proceeded to clean it all up. Sleep was still a long time coming for me but my daughter had fallen back asleep even before I had it all picked up. What I would give to have all that innocence back.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wild and Scenic Missouri River: Part 5

Work and home got away from me and I didn't realize that I hadn't added text to this post until it was posted and then, it took several hours before blogger would allow me to add this splurb. There really wasn't much to say about the pictures anyway other than they were in "The Breaks" part of the river and that the picture below is of 'Hole In the Wall' which is a famous formation along the river. If I remember right from the graffiti in the actual hole which you can climb up too, people have been visiting it for a long, long time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

We had a good friend of ours who was also the maid of honor at our wedding visit us for a few days. Before her visit, I was preparing our daughter by telling her that a friend would be coming to stay with us for a few days. That was when we had the following conversation.

Me: (She) was at your Mommy and Daddy's wedding?

LA: Right before you made me?

Me: Well... yes, we were married before we made you.

LA: And then I grew in Mommy's tummy?

Me: Yep, you grew in Mommy's tummy.

LA: And then I got out and became human?

Me: Yep, you got out and grew up. (Deliberately ignoring the human part of the comment for the time being.

LA: Yeh!

Me: (Breathing a sigh of relief that this is all the farther we have to go down this path for today.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wild and Scenic Missouri River: Part 4

Like a lot of places I used to go to quite often in my youth, I'm sure places like this stretch of the river are much more crowded these days. Outdoor adventures like paddling 150 miles of a wild and scenic river are much more in fashion these days and in the name of money, we cater to the people making it easier to get to these places. As a result or more people being able to enjoy such delights, more people who don't understand or don't appreciate them also show up.

I am reminded of my trips to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming where we used to spend two weeks and see nary another soul. On our last trip in 1994, not only were the people thick but black bears had gone from being non-existent to being a pest. Due to the hordes of people, most who didn't know even the most basic methods for preventing a bear from eating their food, the bears were well fed. All the people we met that trip were fortunately on their way out with their vacation cut short due to lack of food because they had forgotten the basics such as hanging the food bag especially after cooking greasy meats over a large fire that could be smelled for miles downwind. Though I wanted to actually see a black bear up close and saw lots of prints, I saw no bear that trip. Only lots of people fleeing them.

But in 1993 when I did this trip, this stretch of the river wasn't well known and we never saw another soul during our float. We saw a few signs here and there but were impressed with how pristine area were, including areas that I'm sure got heavier traffic. If I went to Neat's Coulée today that I blogged about in my last post, I would expect to see lots of graffiti, old fire rings and other scars upon the land. Back when we did this trip, we saw none of those things.

Which brings me to the picture below of a famous rock structure called the Eye of the Needle which I blogged about here over five years ago. It was a delicate rock structure that was formed by millions of years of blowing dirt and has stood their like a sentinel for tens of thousands of years since. It is quite visible from the river and an easy hike to reach and probably tens of thousands of people have visited over the years. Yet with easier accessibility encouraged by ourselves to give everyone "their right" to see such things, brought along a new breed of people who don't treasure such wonders as you or I might. One night, probably under the influence of alcohol, someone kicked down the Eye of the Needle and threw the rocks into the river below.