Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Birth of the Moon

It's been a busy morning.  We are getting ready for a trip, and there are so many things to think about and remember that The Voices have been pretty quiet, but they really liked this video.  Apparently, when not chiding me on my many short comings,  The Voices are interested somewhat in astronomy.

Here is the link to the whole article, which isn't too long or difficult, and below is the video.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as my Friends and I did. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Am I More Like Chandler Bing, or Joey (the Case of the Missing Circuit)

Last night we attended the CASU Fall Concert. It was in the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake, which is an absolutely beautiful building.

The Choir performed under the baton of Sonja Sperling, a doctoral music student at the University of Utah.  Annie asked me if I would video the concert, which I did with only one screw-up.  It was a nice concert, I'm not going to list the program, but suffice it to say that it was classical, religious,  and German - none of which things I have a problem with per se.

Annie has been in the choir now for about 10 years.  I know that she loves the music, loves the singing, and gets buoyed up by sharing it with others.  She practices on Tuesdays, and after a late night two hour solo drive, she is still almost always wound up from the experience.  I know that a lot of hard work goes into perfecting a song, and even more into a concert, and way, way more into some of the super concerts that the  Choral Arts Society of Utah has participated in.

This spring the Choir sang in a super choir in Helena, Montana.  They sang Mahler's 8th in German and in Latin.  Of course the choir loved it, and what was interesting was the music deeply moved so many people in the audience.  Well, except for me.

Its not that I don't like the music, because I do, but it doesn't have the same effect on me as it does on so many other people, and I have wondered at this many times.  I can appreciate the difficulty of playing, or singing the music, I know that I have almost no talent in that area.   But it doesn't move me to tears..... so I wonder.

Like so many things in life, 'Friends' seems to have a situation or a line that applies to almost every situation in life....and so here are a couple that come to mind, but I can't make up which one applies most to me....or maybe both.  (p.s.  I don't even listen to Country anymore.....don't know why).  I actually think that we are all wired a little differently, and I just don't have much of a music circuit.  Music Lovers, don't mourn for me.  It is probably a lot like being color blind....oh, yeah....







Wednesday, October 3, 2012

News and More Voices

It is going to be a loooonnnng day. You knew that yesterday when you left for Salt LakeTell them something that they don't know.  OK, I will:  It looks like we will get our financing and be able to buy the property in Oregon. Oh, you mean the Elk Snout property?  No, I mean the Riddle property.  That wasn't so hard, was it?  No, it wasn't, but there are a lot of people to tell.  Yes, well that is the problem with having friends and family isn't it - so many of them.  Good grief, if you had a house full of gold you would complain about having to move it so that you could dust.  I'm not complaining....it's just telling the story again.  Yeah, that is so hard.  You have been letting out the news over the last couple of months, I don't think people will be too surprised.  Why not, I was kind of surprised myself, and I'm right in the middle of it.  You aren't worried that people will be surprised, you are worried that they will yawn and look across the conversation and say 'hey, how about them Utes'.  I am not either worried.  It is fine with me if they do that.  I'm actually going to miss a lot of people at work.  Oh, and what about your kids here in Utah?  Not going to miss them?  Of course I'm going to miss them.  I miss them now, and I can run up and see them when ever I want too.  Yeah, but you don't....  No, I don't, and they don't come down much - what are you getting at. We have lives,  Nothing, just that now that when you move, the possibility of popping up for a quick visit will be gone.  Wow, Sherlock - you are good.  Something that we agree on finally.  Seriously, do we have to talk about this now?  We have been over this ground 50 times.  No we don't have to talk about it, I just like to see you wince a little.  *Silence*  Yeah, actually that I can believe - that is about your style.  I think I'm going to turn the Nano on and listen to something else for a while.  Coward.  I tell you the truth, and you can't face it.  You tell me your opinion and hope that it hurts a little.  Bloody good thing you were never a nurse.  You would be putting lemon juice in paper cuts and telling them that it kills germs.  And you are saying that it doesn't?  I'm not saying anything. I'm just starting the day, I have a lot to do, and I'd like to get organized.  I'd just as soon you went to sleep in the distractions of the day.  Thank Heavens we have group meeting this morning.  I know you can't last past that.  You are lucky to have my advice and counsel at all.  Advice and counsel?  Really?  More like sarcastic comment and abuse.  Why do you come around in the morning?  Because you at your weakest, and because I can.  Sort of like a lion - I choose the weak and the diseased as my prey.  Weak and diseased?  Your are ME.  Yes, don't remind me, this isn't pleasant for me either. OK, fine, keep yammering away, I'm going to put the Nano in and listen to someone who isn't so spiteful.  I'm not spiteful, someone has to keep you on task and out of trouble.....I'm not listening........

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'There and Back Again' - To Steal a Title From Bilbo Baggins

We are back.  Sunburned, worn, and relaxed.  In spite of the trepidations voiced  in the previous post, it was a good trip.  The weather was almost perfect and we had a very congenial and interesting group of people there.  I'm writing this post as much to ensure that my memory doesn't muddles things as anything. I know that travelogues are often as good as Ambien in relaxing the reader into a coma.

We put in at Bullfrog Marina at about 4:30 pm on September 15, 2012.  We, being Janet and Scott, and Annie and I.  Our destination was Hite Marina, about 50 miles as the channel winds.  We had some perplexing discussions on whether or not to run our own shuttle as we had to get back to Bullfrog to pick up the truck and trailer. Apparently I'm not the only one challenged by the math story problems of the type 'you have a boat, two sheep and a lion. How can you transport them across a river without the lion eating on of the sheep......' as we had to get out toys and  model out our proposed shuttle.  In the end, we were too late getting on the water to also make the two mile trip to Stanton Canyon in the light.  The shuttle would be 1-1/2 hours each way, and we would have had to look for a camp site and the others in the dark.  I've done that enough in previous trips, and it isn't fun, so we left the cars were they were and headed down channel.

It wasn't a long trip, about two miles, and soon a really prominent rock and I think it was Annie that saw someone waving their arms and gesturing us in.  It was a snug little cove with lots of nice sandy beaches and soon we were anchored and ready for the night.

(I have to digress a little about boat camping at Lake Powell a little.  It seems like there would be an almost infinite number of places so tie up and camp on such a big lake, but actually a good camp is fairly hard to fine, and often already taken by another boat.  What pretty much all boaters are looking for is a sandy beach.  What they find is a lot of rock walls (~95% of shore line, especially in canyon areas), some rocky shore line that isn't vertical, but will scratch the heck out of your boat (~2.5%) and about 2.5% sandy beaches.  About 7 in 10 sandy beaches that are big enough for a group like ours are already taken.  So it is kind of a relief to find a good spot to camp.  Also, the lake level fluctuates a good deal from year to year, meaning that where you camped last year is probably either under water or high up on a hill this year. )

Sunday morning we headed for Hansen Creek, which was about 10 miles up channel. Our boat is a Jim Michalak design, a sailboat but one that has a lot of capacity to haul gear and people.  It was loaded down pretty well with supplies and gear  for 4 people for a 7 day trip.  Winds on LP are flukey and undependable.  When they are headed the way that I am headed, it works well to sail, but when they are weak and variable, when you have a boat full of people and gear, and when you have untried sails (newly sown by yours truly, but never tested - another story) it is just better to use the outboard.  And so we did.

We just buzzed along talking and watching the cliffs go by, and watching the progress of other members of our group.  We were the only ones using the engine.  Everyone else was either sailing, rowing or paddling.  They were keeping up pretty well.  We had two Hobie Mirages.  These are fiberglass trimarans that come equipped with a bicycle type drive that powers a couple of swim-fin like paddles under the boat.  The Hobies are very sleek and have very little drag.  John Dennison was leading the pack in his Marige, and we couldn't catch him without using full power. John and Michael (Jackson) could also sail if the wind was to their liking.

So we were following John and finally caught and passed him.  He was ready for us to go by and we did, dropping back to about half-throttle.  The chatting and watching continued for a few more  miles, until we realized that John was nowhere to be seen.  Then it hit me that we hadn't been watching very closely..... Scott fired up his GPS and we discovered that we had overshot Hansen's canyon by about 2 miles.  Turn around....look at the map....started paying attention to the buoys in the channel.  They are mile marked in distance from the dam, and are either green (odd numbers) or red (even numbers) and sometimes there is even a little white buoy at the mouth of the canyon.  How handy!  So up the canyon we went. A little breeze had sprung up and I might have been tempted to sail were it not so much work to go from motor to  sail mode.  A green trimaran was up ahead of us, and he was trying to raise a sail, but not having much luck.  He called out to us as we passed, but we
Saturday  Camp - Stanton Canyon
didn't know him and even with the motor cut way back, we couldn't hear him.  We continued up the canyon, very serpentine until we were almost at the end, about 2 miles, and Annie spotted John's yellow Hobie in a very nice, sandy basin.  John was thinking no one would find him back there, but it wasn't long before different ones started drifting in.  Pretty soon Chuck and Sandra Lienweber were there.  Chuck was rowing a John Welsford designed 'Walkabout' and Sandra in her Michalak Toto.  We kept seeing the guy in the trimaran sailing in the little basin outside of our cove, and I think that Chuck finally went out and got him.  It was Hal Link, a new messabout member, and his friend Joan Daniels.  They are very nice, and Hal is quite a sailor and has completed the Everglades Challenge twice, which is a pretty good accomplishment.
We furnished supper on Sunday.  I had made BBQ  pork and chicken, and put them over a couple of bags of  O'Brien potatoes, made a rhubarb crisp, tried a zucchini casserole that turned into zucchini soup and called it a meal.  After 8 to 10 hours or rowing and paddling, no one was critiquing the food to any great degree.

Monday found us on our way to 7 Mile Canyon.  We paid close attention to the buoys and the maps and got there about 2pm.  7 Mile is a really pretty canyon with straight up walls that seem to be a half a mile tall.  Part of the illusion is that it is narrow, and the walls are pretty close together.   We poked our way up both branches of the canyon and didn't find a place to stay.  This can be a problem as the time gets late, and you can see evening coming on. Either the walls were straight up, or there was a house boat on the sandy beach.... so we were kind of hoping to meet up with some of the others and make a plan.  There was a little nook of an inlet - maybe 100 yards deep off the channel, and we tied up on a little spit of sand and waited.  Scott hiked to the back and found some sand just about the time Kellan showed up.  He rowed to the back of the little cove and we were soon headed there as well.  Sitting here, in the living room, finding a safe place to tie the boat for the night doesn't have the same intensity of purpose.  The sun wasn't anywhere near down, but I was glad to be out of the channel.

I'm going to abbreviate the rest of the story, it is getting a little long.  We traveled up to Good Hope Bay the next day and found and nice and protected little harbor on kind of a peninsula and about half of us were on one side, and half on the other.  This was Tuesday night, and we didn't leave until Thursday morning.  We gave ourselves a day extra in case of bad weather, so we rested, some hiked, I fished a little and caught a little perch that I didn't have the heart to eat, and so released.  Anita and I rowed the big boat into the bay and ghosted back in under the mizzen sail.  I found my sails need a lot of tailoring before they will work well.

Thursday we left Good Hope Bay and headed for 5 Mile Camp.  On the way we stopped at a little island that had an abundance of gooshy green sand that would let you sink up to your knees in some places, and an abundance of petrified wood and many other odd and interesting rocks.  One specimen was a log about 16 in. in diameter and maybe 2 feet long.  I don't know what it weighed - probably a couple of hundred pounds.

Friday  we sailed from 5 Mile Camp to Hite (amazingly it was about 5 miles....where did that name come from?) and Chuck graciously ran a shuttle back to Bullfrog so that we could pick up our truck and trailers.  I had a flat tire waiting for me there, but had my tools and it wasn't a huge problem.

One more little bit of adventure:  As we traveled through the National Park on our way home, we came upon a woman talking to a man in a car by the side of the road.  When she saw us she jumped out into the road and waved us down.  She was about 40something and dressed to hike.  She asked us if we were going to the Visitor's Center, and we told her that we were headed in that direction.  She then told us that she would come with us and proceeded around to Annie's door to get in.  Annie, of course always is ready to meet new people and can charm the birds from the trees.  She could tell that this lady wasn't from around here.  It turned out that her name was Mia, and she was from the Czech Republic and had been hiking and taking a lot of pictures.  We probably drove for 5 miles before we got back to the Visitor's Center and then had to back track about 2 miles to get her to her campground, but she was a happy lady when she hopped out and knew her friends were nearby. 

I guess that is about it.  We got home late, slept in a little and unloaded the boat on Saturday.  It was a good trip, but it really isn't a bad thing to have a working bathroom within 50 feet either. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just a Quick Note On Lake Powell



Kids and Loved Ones:

Just in case any of you are wondering if we fell of the map, we did.  We are headed now to Lake Powell and will be pretty much out of cell phone range after noon or so today.We should be back on the map next Saturday.  We have Janet and Scott with us.  Yeah, and if you had your way you  would call the whole thing off and lay around like the bone lazy bum you are Hey, it's Saturday, and I'm tired, and this week might be fun for you, but it looks like nothing but work to me. Bone Lazy is what you are.  You have looked forward to this all year......Yes, well the German leadership thought they wanted a war too, until it started looking like they might get one, then they didn't. A person has a right to change their mind. To anyone who is listening, he is talking about World War I, and it is true that they were back pedalling.  You read one history book, and you think you are a genius.  People get bored when you put on your professor hat and they look desperate when you get them in a corner to give them a blow-by-blow story for 45 minutes. Can't you just talk about football a little?  And anyway, the Germans learned to their sorrow that once all the plans are made that you can't turn back. .... and neither can you, so go and finish loading the boat, and quit your never ending whining.  Really, going to Mars with you would be the ultimate torture.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Airgun History - Be Careful, You'll Shoot Out Your Eye

When I first read Robert Frost's famous poem of 'The Road Not Taken' and came to the passage 'I took the one less traveled by,' I thought hmmmm.....  Not a ball sport fan, not a ski boat guy, builds boats from plywood - not the beautiful lake furniture made from oak and teak.... never collected coins or stamps, but had a good bug collection before they were eaten by other bugs...now I have a new interest - airguns.

I don't think this one is going to go too far, but I have been having fun with them as they are easy and fun to shoot, cheap- on the whole, have many less legal problems then regular guns, are very inexpensive to shoot, and now I find that they have a long and interesting history.  Perfect.  Mixing obscure history with guns and shooting.  It doesn't get a lot better.

Here is the article that gave me such a wealth of information (400 Years of Airgun History).  I can hardly wait to go the the CASU Gala tonight and get a few people in a corner to share my new found wealth of knowledge.  I know they will be excited too.  :D

Here are a few tidbits:

  • You probably are already aware that Lewis and Clark brought along a powerful repeating air rifle on their expedition (The First Assault Rifle).  It had an air reservoir in the stock that had to be pumped up with air to provide the power. From Thomas Rodney's Journal: 'Visited Captain Lewess barge. He shewed us his air gun which fired 22 times at one charge. He shewed us the mode of charging her and then loaded with 12 balls which he intended to fire one at a time; but she by some means lost the whole charge of air at the first fire. He charged her again and then she fired twice. He then found the cause and in some measure prevented the airs escaping, and then she fired seven times; but when in perfect order she fires 22 times in a minute. All the balls are put at once into a short side barrel and are then droped into the chamber of the gun one at a time by moving a spring; and when the triger is pulled just so much air escapes out of the air bag which forms the britch of the gun as serves for one ball. It is a curious peice of workmanship not easily discribed and therefore I omit attempting it.”
  •  The Lewis and Clark gun was patterned after guns produced in Austria in the late 1700's.  Known as the 'Giradoni Repeating Rifle' they could fire up to 22 rounds, had spare air tanks that could be traded in.  About 1500 rifles were manufactured.  A corp of 500 riflemen could theoretically fire up to 300,000 rounds in 30 minutes.  The rifles were complicated and required highly trained soldiers, two corporals for support of each gun, and a gunsmith for every 100 guns.
I guess that is about it.  Back to the Main Stream.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Inside My Head

Bzzzzzzzzzzz.....rattle, click.  Bleary eyed check reveals it is 5:20.  Sit up. Back hurts. Already almost late.

What are you complaining about, you knew when you reset the alarm that you would be almost late.

Yeah, well 5:00 was just too darn early.

And you knew that when you set the alarm last night.  What are you whining about?

The usual: tired, sore back, it's dark.....I don't want to go to work.

Just be glad you can get out of bed.  I didn't realize you were afraid of the dark.  Should have known though with your compulsive flashlight habit. And your job is easy, your boss is nice, you have nothing to complain about.

Leave my flashlights out of this. It's just nicer to get up when the sun is up.

Well, yes, but get used to the dark mornings.... we are just getting started.  I thought you were wishing and hoping for some cooler weather.  That means less sun Einstein.

Geessss... you are grouchy this morning. Can't I even have a little luxury whine without you getting all judgemental?

Can't you even get up and go to an easy job without complaining about it?  Good Grief - you are such a wusss.  And if your back hurts, you know it is because your hamstrings tighten up at night, so quit whining and do some stretches.  And yes that is part of getting old, so be thankful that you have a chance to hurt a little.  Really, you need to cowboy up a little.

Fweee.... actually the worst part of getting up is hearing you in my head, which is why I really, really, really love book on tapes.  Cuts down on the extraneous, judgmental harping.

Ahhh.... finally showing a little spunk.  Good.  I don't like the insubordination, but it is better than the pathetic whining that you have become so good at lately....

And so the day begins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brain Function in Self Control - For All the Desert Lovers Out There

Hmmmmmm.......  This is interesting stuff.  Literally, they can see the parts of your brain 'light up' with activity when a temptation is presented.  Both the 'self control' areas and the 'tempted' areas show increased neural activity.  But when you are tempted multiple times, the 'self control' areas fire off weaker and weaker.  There is a physiological basis to the truth in the Stresser's Diet:

Instructions for Stress Diet
BREAKFAST:
1/2 grapefruit
1 slice whole wheat toast
8 oz. skim milk

LUNCH:
4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast
1 cup steamed spinach
1 cup herb tea
1 Oreo cookie

MID-AFTERNOON SNACK:
The rest of Oreos in the package
2 pints Rocky Road ice cream, nuts, cherries and whipped cream
1 jar hot fudge sauce

DINNER:
2 loaves garlic bread
4 cans or 1 large pitcher Coke
1 large sausage, mushroom and cheese pizza
3 Snickers bars

LATE EVENING NEWS:
Entire frozen Sara Lee cheesecake (eaten directly from freezer)


Remember, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch - A Teaser

Life has been busy and I haven't been a very good at posting.  We had a five month slow-motion train wreck of an outage, took down a dead locust tree, planted a small garden, did some remodel on the sprinkler system, and took a week long trip to Denver.  It isn't that I haven't had any thoughts, it is just that mostly they are jumbled and competing with each other for precedence.

One thing did stand out, and that is this book.  I heard the author on NPR, giving a synopsis of it, and of his life and I was hooked.  I haven't bought it yet but Wednesday is payday and I probably will then.  Until then, the introduction paints such an interesting picture and that picture is so full of possibilities that I am content for a while with just the introduction.

The core of the story is David's discovery that he has Escher's syndrome.  As most of you probably know, Asberger's is a mild for of autism.  I'm no expert on the subject, but worked with a man at work who struggled with the things that David Finch did, but never found a resolution to his different-ness.

Not being a doctor, or having any credentials as a mental health expert, my conclusion that 'Bill' as I will call him, had Asberger's is hardly conclusive, but it made a huge difference in how I saw him, and how I interacted with him.  For many years I just thought he was very weird.  He had OCD issues, he had a flash temper over seemingly insignificant things, he was quite bright, but seemed to lack judgement on many issues.... the list goes on.  I would get really impatient with him sometimes and be (for me)  shockingly straightforward to him about the subject at hand.  Strangely, this didn't seem to bother him in the least, it was more like it was a relief.  After a little study, and reading about autism in general in working with a young man at church, I realized that it probably was a great relief to have some clarity as if you have Asberger's it is very hard to pick up on verbal or non-verbal cues.   I realized that I had badly misjudged this guy, and had given him years of abuse when I should have been giving him support, clear communications and compassion.  I've tried to mend my ways, but it is kind of too-little-too-late.  He has retired, and I hardly see him anymore.

Hence my interest in this book.  What follows is the sample text from the book.  You can buy  it here.  Since this is what you can read online, I don't think I'm infringing on any copyrights.  It's very possible that you will see someone that you know it this short introduction. I'd be interested in any comments.

Kindle Sample Book:  The Journal of Best Best Practices by David Finch


Introduction
 
Do all that you can to be worthy of her love.


I was thirty years old and had been married five years when I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism. My wife, Kristen, a speech therapist and autism expert, brought it to my attention one evening after harboring suspicions for years.
Receiving such a diagnosis as an adult might seem shocking and unsettling. It wasn’t. Eye-opening, yes. Life-changing, yes. But not distressing in the least. Strangely, it was rather empowering to discover that I had this particular condition. In fact, the diagnosis ultimately changed my life for the better.
I received the news the day before my niece was born. I remember this not because I’m a wonderful uncle but because she was born on March 14, 2008, which is well-known among my fellow nerds in the math and science communities as “Pi Day” because pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is equal to 3.14. Also 3 + 14 + 2 + 0 + 8 totals 27, which is divisible by 3, and I love numbers that are divisible by 3, particularly numbers whose digits sum to 27, of which 3 is the cube root. (Are you starting to see why Kristen had her suspicions?)
The day had been chaotic but really nothing out of the ordinary for two young working parents. Kristen was in the kitchen, trying to put it back in some kind of order, and I was upstairs saying good night to our kids. After walking with our ten-month-old son, Parker, in little circles around his dark room and whispering the lyrics of an Eric Clapton song until he fell asleep, I cuddled with our daughter, Emily, until her restless two-year-old squirming subsided and her breathing slowed and deepened. I crept out, whispering “I love you,” the words all but dissolving into the whir of her electric fan.
As I descended into the warm amber glow that bathed the first floor of our house, I could hear the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen and the soft clunk of toys being put away in the playroom. Something was up; the house was never so tranquil right after the kids went to bed. Usually, the television was on, the kitchen was a disaster, and books and toys were scattered everywhere. I expected to find Kristen in her usual spot: sitting on the couch among stacks of paper and thick binders, her laptop resting on her legs as she feverishly prepared for the next day’s work. But everything was different that night.
In the kitchen, my dinner was cooling on the clean counter, and I felt an unusual sense of peace as I prepared for my evening routine. At eight thirty each night, after the kids have been put to bed, I circle the first floor, counterclockwise, starting in the kitchen, where I check to see if the patio door is locked. Then it’s back to the kitchen, where I usually wander around in circles until Kristen asks me what I’m doing.
But that night, before I began, Kristen approached me by the refrigerator in her pajamas and wrapped me in a tight hug.
“Oh,” I said, surprised. “Hello there.” I couldn’t remember the last time she had given me a hug for no particular reason. I hesitated for a moment, trying to play it cool, then squeezed her close.
“Hi,” she said into my chest. Her blond hair darkened to a shade of honey and shimmered lightly in the dimness. “Do you want some pizza?” she asked.
“Yeah, thanks for making it.”
“Sure,” she said. “When you’re ready, why don’t you bring it down to the basement?” Without letting go, she looked up at me and smiled. “There’s something I want to show you.”
“Okay, I’ll be right down.”
Understanding the importance of my routines, she playfully patted my butt and headed down to her office in the basement. Stunned by this rare and remarkable display of affection, I completed my rounds. I proceeded through the dining room and living room, then it was on to the foyer, where I always take a few moments to stare out the front window, visually lining up the neighbors’ rooftops (the alignment is the same every time, which is so gratifying it makes my shoulders relax, and for a moment my head is clear, my thoughts organized). As usual, I took note of which lights were on. I don’t normally shut them off, I just like to check in and see how they’re doing. Dining room light on, piano lamp not on, foyer not on, hallway on, kitchen off (that’s kind of rare . . . how ’bout it, kitchen?), oven hood on. I grabbed my pizza from the counter, swiped a Pepsi from the fridge, and made my way down the loud, clunky steps to Kristen’s office in our basement, where she was sitting in front of her computer. She turned and beamed at me.
“Sit here,” she said, pointing to the empty chair beside her. I had no idea what was going on, but there was pizza involved, and for the first time in weeks, I’d made her smile. Whatever it is, I’m in.
“Ready to get down to business?” she asked in a tone that seemed to suggest that I was.
I laughed. “Wet’s get down to bwass tacks!”
“Huh?” She looked thoroughly confused.
“It’s from Blazing Saddles. I’m ready.”
Embarrassed and disappointed that my movie reference tanked, I shoved my hands under my legs and swiveled back and forth in my chair.
“All right,” she said. “I’m going to ask you a list of questions, and you just have to answer honestly.” She must have realized that she was setting herself up by telling me to answer honestly. I tend to be verbose when people ask me to talk about myself; some would even say exhausting. I have no filter to limit my discourse to relevant things, and that puts people off. When I am invited to speak about myself, often what comes forth is the verbal equivalent of a volcanic eruption, spewing molten mind magma in every direction.
“I mean, you don’t have to deliberate each question,” she said, backpedaling. “I don’t need big, long answers, just honest ones.”
“Got it.”
She began: “Do you tend to get so absorbed by your special interests that you forget or ignore everything else? Just answer yes, no, or sometimes.”
“Special interests?”
“You know,” she said, “things like practicing your saxophone for four hours a day, or when you wrote scenes at the Second City and I hardly ever saw you . . .”
“Oh, well, sure,” I said. We both laughed. “I mean, doesn’t everybody get into stuff?”
“No,” she replied, marking down my answer. “Many people can do something they enjoy and not let it consume their whole life so they forget to pay bills, or put on shoes, or check in on their family from time to time.”
“Well. That’s their problem if they don’t have the intellectual capacity to engage constructively with an activity.”
“Next one: Is your sense of humor different from the mainstream or considered odd?”
I reflected back on the moment thirty seconds earlier, when I had cracked myself up by throwing my head back and bellowing what would be for most people a forgettable line from a Mel Brooks movie. Then I recalled going to a Victoria’s Secret store fifteen years earlier with my friend Greg and convincing the salesclerk that my girlfriend was shaped exactly like me, just so that I could quickly try on some lingerie against store policy (apparently) and give Greg a good laugh. That joke had been a success. But then I remembered the time in junior high when I glued a rubber chicken head to a T-shirt and wrote LET’S GET SERIOUS across the chest in permanent marker, only to be told at school that I’d have to wear something more appropriate. That time nobody had laughed. Finally, I recalled going to dinner with a customer a year earlier and taking a series of dirty jokes so far that he abruptly stopped laughing and asked what was wrong with me.
“Put me down for a yes,” I concluded.
“Do you often talk about your special interests whether others seem interested or not?” she asked. Her smile was answer enough, and I assumed that, like me, she was thinking of all the times in which I’d waxed lyrical about having perfected the art of using public toilets.
“Yes.” What else is there to talk about?
On and on it went, for over 150 questions.
“Do you take an interest in, and remember, details that others do not seem to notice? Do you notice patterns in things all the time? Do you need periods of contemplation?” All emphatically answered yes, with a follow-up, “This is fun!”
“Do you tend to get so stuck on details that you miss the overall picture? Do you get very tired after socializing and need to regenerate alone? Do people comment on your unusual mannerisms and habits?” Absolutely!
I found the questions rather amusing until we came to a section so personally revealing that it pulled the air from my lungs and made me forget how to blink.
“Does it feel vitally important to be left undisturbed when focusing on your special interests?” she asked. “Vitally is the key here.”
“Yes. You know how—”
“I know,” Kristen said, interrupting. “Before doing something or going somewhere, do you need to have a picture in your mind of what’s going to happen so as to be able to prepare yourself mentally first?”
This question seems rather insightful. “O-oh my God,” I stammered. “Yeah, that’s totally me.”
“Do you prefer to wear the same clothes and eat the same food every day? Do you become intensely frustrated if an activity that is important to you gets interrupted? Do you have strong attachments to certain favorite objects?”
“Those are all yes.”
“I know. Do you have certain routines which you need to follow? Do you get frustrated if you can’t sit on your favorite seat?”
“I literally have ended friendships over the seat thing. In high school—”
“Do you feel tortured by clothes tags, clothes that are too tight or are made in the ‘wrong’ material? Do you tend to shut down or have a meltdown when stressed or overwhelmed?”
All yes. But I was too stunned to answer aloud.
“How about, do people think you are aloof and distant? Do you often feel out of sync with others? In conversations, do you need extra time to carefully think out your reply, so that there may be a pause before you answer? Have you had the feeling of playing a game, pretending to be like people around you?”
I had chills. Actually, my skin was on fire. Actually, it was both.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Just keep answering honestly.” Kristen patted my leg reassuringly. “You’ll find out when we’re done.”
One by one, the questions described everything I already knew about myself—everything that I had always felt made me unique, beautiful, yet removed from other people. Folding my arms tight, I began to cry, which surprised both of us.
Kristen asked if I was all right, and I said that I was, so we continued. Another batch of questions brought back the laughter. In fact, most of the questions from that point forward were rather potent, evoking one strong emotion or another, though there were a few that seemed odd and out of place, such as “Do you sometimes have an urge to jump over things?” and “Have you been fascinated by making traps?” (Admittedly, it sucked a little to hear myself answering yes to both of those.)
We finished the quiz, and Kristen took a moment to gaze at me before asking, “What do you think?”
“I think that was a very telling list of questions,” I said. “Did you write those?”
She explained that she had stumbled upon the questionnaire while searching online for Asperger’s evaluation resources, though, notably, she offered little explanation as to why she had been looking for those resources. I had to assume that it wasn’t strictly for her job.
I felt like I was free-falling. “Okay,” I said.
“Ready to find out what it says?”
“Sure,” I said, though I was anything but.
Kristen clicked the mouse and my score flashed onto the screen: 155 out of a possible 200.
“One fifty-five?” I asked. “What is that? Is that a lot?”
“That’s a whole lotta Asperger’s,” she said, nodding.
“Are you serious?”
“That’s what it says.”
“I have Asperger’s? I have autism?! I mean . . . holy shit! Right?”
“Dave, you don’t have autism. You don’t even officially have an Asperger’s diagnosis. This is just a self-quiz and I’m not a doctor, but I think you may have Asperger syndrome. That’s why I wanted you to take this quiz. Based on your score, you’d probably receive the diagnosis if a doctor gave you a formal evaluation.”
I repeated myself: “Holy shit!”
At that point, all I knew about Asperger syndrome was what I’d heard from Kristen over the years. I understood that it was an autism spectrum condition and that those with Asperger’s had a difficult time engaging with others socially. I knew a few people with Asperger syndrome—diagnosed children and adults—and they seemed to function at different levels; some had obvious telltale behaviors while others could have been written off as shy or odd. I also understood that it could easily be misdiagnosed.
Wanting to know if the online quiz was a reliable weather vane, I asked Kristen—who is perhaps the most un-Asperger’s person that I know—to evaluate herself. She agreed, and scored an eight.
A few minutes passed as I sat on my hands, rocking back and forth, trying to process what I had just learned. Kristen sat patiently, keeping her eyes trained on me, waiting for my reaction. I was not upset. I was not conflicted. The knowledge felt amazing. It was cathartic. And it made perfect sense. Of course! Here were answers, handed to me so easily, to almost every difficult question I’d had since childhood: Why is it so hard for me to engage with people? Why do I seem to perceive and process things so differently from everyone else? Why do the sounds and phrases that play in a continuous loop in my head seem louder and command more attention than the actual world around me? In other words, why am I different? Oh my God, I have Asperger’s!
 
While someone else might question why his wife would sit him down and informally evaluate him for Asperger syndrome—in her pajamas, no less—at no point during that evening in Kristen’s office did I wonder about it. For one thing, there are certain orders and tasks that I simply don’t dispute; I just follow commands and generally do whatever people tell me to. But there’s no particular consistency to this, which is strange. Frequent requests from Kristen such as “Please remember to run the dishwasher tonight” don’t have much of an effect. But if I walked into a grocery store and someone grabbed my elbow and asked me to put on a hot dog costume, two minutes later I’d be standing there, a six-foot wiener in a neoprene bun, wondering how long I was supposed to keep it on.
What I found most remarkable about that evening—besides the part where I found out that I have Asperger syndrome—was that Kristen and I had shared some good hours together for the first time in months. There was laughter and insight and deep discussion. There was warmth and affection and unmistakable love—I could see it in her eyes, feel it in our closeness. Though we had been married only five years, such moments had become painfully rare. We both knew that our marriage had fallen apart, that our mutual feelings of helplessness and disappointment had pushed aside the fun and happiness we once shared, and more than once we found ourselves wondering if a separation was the only way out. Of course it wasn’t gloom and doom all the time, but I couldn’t deny the fact that we were estranged. That was not something we had ever envisioned happening to our relationship.
But once I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, the fact that we’d had these serious marital problems seemed less surprising. Asperger syndrome can manifest itself in behaviors that are inherently relationship defeating. It’s tricky being married to me, though neither Kristen nor I could have predicted that. To the casual neurotypical observer (neurotypical refers to people with typically functioning brains, i.e., people without autism), I may seem relatively normal. Cognitive resources and language skills often develop normally in people with Asperger syndrome, which means that in many situations I could probably pass myself off as neurotypical, were it not for four distinguishing characteristics of my disorder: persistent, intense preoccupations; unusual rituals and behaviors; impaired social-reasoning abilities; and clinical-strength egocentricity. All of which I have to an almost comically high degree. But I also have the ability to mask these effects under the right circumstances, like when I want someone to hire me or fall in love with me.
Looking back, I suppose a diagnosis was inevitable. A casual girlfriend might have dismissed my compulsion to arrange balls of shredded napkin into symmetrical shapes as being idiosyncratic or even artistic. But Kristen had been living with me—observing me for years in my natural habitat—and had become increasingly skilled in assessing autism spectrum conditions in her job as a speech therapist. While it is technically inaccurate to say that she diagnosed me (that wouldn’t have been possible or ethical, as she’s not a doctor), as far as I was concerned, I had received a diagnosis that evening. I went to bed 100 percent convinced that I had Asperger syndrome. I later received a formal Asperger’s diagnosis from a doctor, but that exercise hardly seemed necessary. Given my behaviors, it would have been just as easy to diagnose a nosebleed.
One of my most obvious symptoms is the way I handle myself in unexpected social interactions. Especially conversations, which involve many subtle rules. My problem is that I can’t seem to learn and apply the rules properly, though not for lack of trying. One is simply supposed to know the right way to respond to people or initiate conversations, but my attempts rarely pass muster. And due to my intense preoccupations with certain things, I have a tendency to discuss very strange topics at length, oblivious to the listener’s level of interest. A typical conversation might go something like this:
“How ’bout those Bears, Dave?” a colleague will ask.
“I don’t really follow sports, so I decline to form an opinion other than that I like their uniforms. It’s funny you mention bears because last night I was reading about grizzly bears, which are my favorite kind of bear, and I learned something rather unsettling about their mating habits.”
“Never mind.”
My responses confound people, I’m garrulous about all the wrong things, my speech is awkward, and then there’s also my not-at-all-charming delay in processing, which makes for disjointed conversation and missed social cues. Conversations either persist much longer than either party would like them to (“And here’s another thing that fascinates me about sewing machines . . .”), or they end too quickly (“You did hear correctly, we had a baby yesterday and it wasn’t without its complications. See you later”). Even if I manage to deliver my point, it’s usually somewhat irrelevant. (“So I guess what I’m trying to say about the Civil War is, how about the beards on those soldiers, huh? Where’s everybody going?”)
Over the years, I have learned some ways to compensate. When I know ahead of time who I’ll encounter in a particular situation, I can prepare. I have a strong tendency to assume characters—versions of myself that are optimized for the social environment at hand. Conversations must be scripted, facial expressions rehearsed, personalities summoned. This strategy has enabled me to succeed at work and in school and to do well enough socially. If I’m with conservative work colleagues, I’m reserved and willing to discuss Christianity and handgun rights. Neighbors enjoy a lawn-care enthusiast and classic-rock fan when I arrive at the block party, and Kristen’s relatives are always excited to see the gregarious, supportive man who values a respectful handshake. Whatever the occasion, and whichever corresponding persona I choose to wear for it, pulling off a successful social exchange is a lot of work. It’s exhausting. I don’t know how neurotypicals do it, let alone how they look forward to it.
Under the right conditions, I do enjoy going out with friends. We’ve already established common ground and I know what they expect from me. I get high from making people laugh, from performing. Goofing around with my buddies is still tremendously hard work requiring much preparation, but at least there’s a payoff: laughter. When I am on, and I’m with the right people, I am killing and full of deranged brilliance (I like to think). A pita may be swiped from someone’s plate and used as a potty-mouthed talking vagina, or I may demonstrate what I believe would be a controversial but effective new wiping technique for the bathroom. They laugh, go home, and wake up the next morning with real-world problems on their minds. I go home to review my performance. Was the talking pita vagina too potty-mouthed? Did the elderly couple a few tables over think I was boorish? How might I incorporate beating off into the bit about folk musicians? My head spins as it hits the pillow.
The social aspect, however, is only one piece of the Asperger’s puzzle. Sensory issues present another problem for me. As humans, we learn about our world through sensory stimulation. But for me, certain sensations become so overwhelming that I lose control of myself. While most people can go about their business oblivious to their partially untucked shirts and itchy sweater collars, I suffer major emotional tailspins over something as supposedly minor as pilly jean pockets. On many occasions, I’ve had to excuse myself from meetings at work to duck into the men’s room, take off my clothes, and completely redress myself because my underwear has bunched up, or my socks have twisted around my shins, or, heaven forbid, my shirt has static buildup. My solution is to buy several identical garments that feel all right against my skin, then wear them over and over until they fall apart. Take away the black jacket (those sleeves would drive me mental), and I’m like the Michael Kors of the Asperger’s community.
Of course, sensory issues and clumsy social exchanges don’t ruin marriages. What brought my marriage to its knees were my God-given egocentricity and inability to cope with situations and circumstances beyond my control. Put the two qualities together, and you’re left with something that looks like a combination of pathological closed-mindedness and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD might not take down a marriage, but I’m certain that pathological closed-mindedness isn’t one of the top qualities a person would look for in a spouse.
Everybody likes to have things in order, and everybody likes things to go according to plan. But because of the way my brain developed, I need things to be in order, and I need things to go as planned. If they don’t, I come unglued. If left unchecked, my reactions resemble the tantrums my two-year-old would throw whenever someone would disturb his meticulous line of toy train cars. My inability to cope partially explains my horrible flash temper. If the grocery store is out of my preferred hamburger buns, for example, three hours later it will result in a nuclear reaction of cynicism and anger. The disruption of my routine is so upsetting that I can’t—not won’t, can’t—contain myself, and everyone around me sees the unpleasant effects. I’ve been told a million times to “get over it,” but I can’t. My brain won’t let me. Just as I can’t seem to prevent the regrettable outbursts that usually follow.
End of this sample Kindle book.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Remember When.... What???

After almost 39 years of marriage, and countless shared experiences with my DBF (Dear Best Friend), it is sometimes kind of odd when we are recounting a shared experience that we don't have the same memory - quite.  It's not that one of us becomes the hero, and the other the goat or anything like that (I do love the Charlie Brown supplied metaphor), but we just remember it differently.  There are a lot of memories that we have that we agree in detail on, but it is these other ones that have interested me in a quiet way for some time.

For instance:  We were remembering a short segment in our first trip to Lake Powell.  My Dad rented a 51 foot houseboat, and a ski boat.  The crew was  a combined group consisting of our family, and my sister's family.  This was our first time at LP, and it seemed like a pretty big boat.  We cast off and motored out from Hall's crossing, and headed down channel for 'Iceberg Canyon'.

If you haven't been to LP, you should know that the lake level varies a lot with in each season, as well as from year to year.  The lake is never really the same, and the wonderful little cove that you had such a great time at last time might be either underwater or a quarter of a mile inland and 75 vertical feet above you.  It's never the same, and the rocks that you use for a land mark on one trip might be underwater next time and damage your prop.  When we went the lake was very high, and the water was deep and still in Iceberg Canyon.  We had a really great time, but my sister had a really terrible time, and Annie was recounting the trip and mentioned that she thought it started when Dottie ran the boat into the trees.  I remember the same scene - and this part we agree on - my Dad wanting to get a picture of Dottie driving the boat....he is getting the camera ready, always with great deliberation, Dottie turning around to pose for a couple of pictures - never just one with Grandpa.  Annie remembers the boat heading for semi-submerged trees and the grinding, scraping  as the boat moved over them.  I remember a big patch of water turning from green to yellow-green, indicating a big underwater rock.  We both remember Dottie freaking out a little when that happened.  It was pretty exciting.  But so much detail in our memories, and yet so much difference. In truth, there might have been submerged trees and a submerged block of rock, at LP it could happen.  We might have both just focused on a different part of the scene.  Still our memories are different.  You have all probably had a similar experience.  Sometimes you will recount a memory that you had in common with someone a very long time ago, and there will be significant differences in the two memories, sometimes it is hard to believe that you are both recounting the same experience.  Annie and her dad had an experience where she remembers him saying one thing, and he was totally convienced that he had not said it, and would never have said it..... and of such different memories are conflicts sometimes born.  I think this has happened to us all at one time or another. and so when I read this article about the chemical aspects of memory, I found that it supplied missing pieces for several puzzles.

Chemical Memory:
You might want to go to the link and read the whole article, but I'm going to quote a few paragraphs that I found to be the meat of the article:

“Every memory begins as a changed set of connections among cells in the brain. If you happen to remember this moment—the content of this sentence—it’s because a network of neurons has been altered, woven more tightly together within a vast electrical fabric. This linkage is literal: For a memory to exist, these scattered cells must become more sensitive to the activity of the others, so that if one cell fires, the rest of the circuit lights up as well.
Scientists refer to this process as long-term potentiation, and it involves an intricate cascade of gene activations and protein synthesis that makes it easier for these neurons to pass along their electrical excitement. Sometimes this requires the addition of new receptors at the dendritic end of a neuron, or an increase in the release of the chemical neurotransmitters that nerve cells use to communicate. Neurons will actually sprout new ion channels along their length, allowing them to generate more voltage. Collectively this creation of long-term potentiation is called the consolidation phase, when the circuit of cells representing a memory is first linked together.
Regardless of the molecular details, it’s clear that even minor memories require major work. The past has to be wired into your hardware. . . .”
This is so interesting to me and explains a lot of things.  I was home teaching the other night.  The wife recounted that she had just had an MRI to determine if her multiple sclorosis (MS) was progressing - if the leisions in her brain were getting bigger.  I knew she had MS, and knew that she had a lot of memory problems, but when you think of a disease that is eating up you brain, and that all of your earthly memories are tied up chemically in that tissue, it is a wonder that she remembers anything at all.  Ditto for people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.

I have a friend who had an aneurysm in the center of his brain and had a massive post operative stroke due to blood clots who lost the ability to talk, write, and walk, but remembered all of his engineering knowledge and expertise.  He has since recovered a lot of his ability to talk and walk, and possibly even to write some, but not at the levels that he had attained before the stroke.


Forgetful Pill:

This gets even more interesting.  Although this link is primarily about erasing horrible events from memory, it brings up a very interesting idea.  Memories aren't static.  In order to keep track of what is important, and what isn't, our brains will recall, and then rewrite the memory, somewhat like a computer does to a file that is 'saved as'.  This article posits that changes can creep into memories of a given event and that the memories will change over time. (see Memory Consolidation ) This is what undoubtedly happened to the memory of the event that Annie and her Dad had a difference of opinion on.  Since she had told me about the conversation, and in my memory, her version did not change at all, I'm kind of on her side of the discussion.  There are a lot of these little remembrances that come up in life.

Well that is about all.  What can we take from this?  When we have different memories about the same event we don't have to conclude that the other person is either losing it, or even worse, fibbing.  We might both be a little wrong.  I know I have forgotten a ton of things, and sometimes am surprised by the amount of loss when I come upon an old letter or journal entry that I made.  Shazam.....it comes back, but without the help of the written word it would have been gone forever.

I guess that scrap booking has some scientific justification now..... get those memories down on paper.  Keeping a journal probably takes on a little bit more importance as well.  Keep a scrap book, keep a journal, write a blog, put notes in you PAF.  The memories that we hold dear are more fragile than we know.  The feelings, experiences, beliefs and testimonies that we hold need to be recorded in some way if we want to pass them on to those who will only know us (not as the interesting, daring, and young people that we remain in our minds) as tired, passe, people with aches and pains.  I know that I treasure the family histories that have been written about both Annie's and my families, and especially my Dad's history.  There is a lot we can share that can give insight to our children and grand children. It's nice to have the date and time, but I know that Annie wishes there was more detail in her Grandma's journal about here birth :  "Lorene had a baby girl".

Time for me to get busy.  I've just had this on my mind for a week or so, and thought I had better get it posted before I forget.    :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Whoooo's There? Or "Where Did That Kitten Go?"

video
This is from last summer.   We first noticed owls in our neighbor's big trees about 10 years ago....or so.  Annie, B-Girl, and J heard a lot of chattering and screeching in the tree and found a hawk scolding a big owl.  The hawk finally left and the owl stayed.  We had a little kitten at the time and it was running around with innocent abandon in the yard when Annie looked up and saw the owl watching the kitten's antics with great interest, and even sort of flapping it wings a bit and looking like it might just swoop down and get the kitten.  Of course they bundled the kitten inside and deprived a hungry bird of it's dinner.  As we talked about it later, we recalled the girl down the street, and how she had a new kitten every week it seemed, and they all disappeared . A friend of Annie's that lives on our block had the same experience with disappearing kittens. 

I have a friend at work who is quite a birder, and he agreed that it was very possible that an owl could take a kitten, and then weirdly enough, I was relating this to another guy on our block - on the other diagonal corner, and he said that he has seen it happen.  An owl swooped down and took a half-grown kitten.

The plot continues to thicken.  Our neighbor, right to the east of us, left a little dog out doors list spring for 30 minutes or so and it vanished as if plucked off the face of the earth.  Never to been seen again in spite of extensive door-to-door canvassing of the neighborhood, and many, many lost dog posters put up all over the city.

You are right, it might not have been an owl.  But it does make you think.

In addition to owls we also have hawks, doves, and in the spring and fall about 7-10 vultures that live in these trees. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Celebrate VD?

Valentine's Day that is.  Why indeed?  Actually, Valentine's Day has a long history - not your johnny-come-lately holiday.  Although it seems like Hallmark, the candy companies, and FTD Florists are big boosters, it is a much older holiday.

But this isn't really about history.  Yesterday, at work, we were discussing a measles mini-epidemic that we had here in Sweet Haven about a year ago.  To get in the gate you had to prove you had received your measles booster shots in the last 10 years... or you had to be so old that it was assumed that you had already had measles, which was my case.  And, no, there is no analogy to being love sick here.  But vaccinations did come up in the conversation, and how a lot of infectious diseases were showing a resurgence, including tuberculosis.  And what that brought to mind was Walt and Velma.

If you don't remember, go to the link.  It's a great story, and it was so surprising to me.  That got me to thinking about Waldo and Lydia .  What a story! Disaster on every hand, separation, war, armies, sickness, and in the end they lived out their lives together in a remote, isolated little town in the San Luis Valley in Colorado.

I guess that all couples have a story.  Some stories are cut short in this life by sickness or accident.  Some stories stop because the love between the couple dies and they separate.  Some stories are longer and end in this life when one or both die.  Most guys don't have any idea at all why most girls place such a emphasis on celebrating Valentine's Day.  I think maybe I'm getting a clue.  I think that for me it will be about the celebration of these stories.

In addition to Walt and Velma and Waldo and Lydia, stories could be written about the Carpenter and the Nurse, how they grew up in the Great Depression, met and married.  A great story. I call him a carpenter, but there was a repressed farmer in him that came out in later years to provide many chapters about roundups, horse training, and teaching his grandchildren the joys of hauling in hay on a hot summer day.

Or the story about the Teacher and the Pilot, and their humble starts on farms, again during the Great Depression.  There is a great chapter in the story about the summer they spent following the harvest on a combine crew.  How tender and dependent they became in later life as his health deteriorated.

Many, many stories.  Annie and I have been in love for almost 40 years.  We are lucky that our lives have been able to be intertwined for so long, and that we have shared so many blessings.  She is up navigating the Asphalt Jungle today and tomorrow will be tending grandchildren, and then coming home late.  So we will postpone the formal celebration of VD, probably making a trip up north in a few weeks and eating at P.F. Chang's, or where ever she wants to eat.  It is a little nod to a traditional celebration, but truth be told, we celebrate our story every day.  Happy Day Dear Annie!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creatures of Habit

I have become a creature of habit.  The older I get, the more I enjoy my routines, and the more I need my routines.  This was not always so.  In younger days I don't think I had so many habits, or at least I didn't see their value.

Today is Monday, and Sunday night I got out a clean shirt, socks and pair of pants and put all of my needed paraphernalia into the pockets, checked that my cell phone was charged, and that I had all of my knives and flashlight.  I put them all into a neat pile in the living room so that I would leave the bedroom to dress as this is the schedule.  It didn't matter that Annie was going to go the Asphalt Jungle to be a beta tester for free motion sewing equipment, and that she would be leaving about the same time..... I put my clothes there every day, and in the morning, when only two or three neurons are firing, and I weigh 856 lbs, and everything hurts, well, I don't have to think too hard.

Breakfast has come to be two hard boiled eggs, maybe with a dab of mayo-mustard sauce, and 8 oz of milk with a little whey powder in it.  Usually.  It is quick, neat, and keeps me going most of the morning.  Lunch is a sandwich and soup.  Almost always.  Not too much thinking has to go into this.  The sandwich is almost always ham, occasionally chicken, the soup almost always chicken, but some times vegetable.  I make soup when we have chicken and store it in the fridge in quart jars.  I add one packet of Knox unflavored gelatin and it sets up like jello and keeps for two weeks.  Cheap, tastes good every day and I know about how many calories I'm eating.

This winter, after years of being half-mad at the frost on the windows of the car, I came up with a new habit, a new routine.  It's so simple, and I'm so dumb for not doing it years before.  Just put on boots earlier than usual, and start the car 10 minutes before you want to go.  Then your breath doesn't freeze on the inside of the glass and your patience isn't tried as you don't swear at the slightly off sized replacement heater core that you put in 5 years earlier, and that messed up the airflow to the defrosters.  So simple.  Maybe it's just that most of my neurons are not working so well, and when a few do get together and cooperate, I have to declare victory and enshrine the answer to the vexing problem as a new habit.

While I was contemplating these protective routines, and others that I have that I won't bore you with, I came across this article on "Habits That Crush Us" (I'm thankful for spell check as well.  It is my habit to spell habit as habbit.  Wrong every time.) and how you can change them and change your life a little at a time.

We have all had enough experience with New Years Resolutions as to know that a habit can be pretty hard to change, and sometimes it is hard to tell a habit.  Sometimes our behavior has moved from a habit and could be classified as a compulsion or an addiction.  This was a pretty good article in that it talks about unhealthy habits that we form that are coping mechanisms for stress and boredom.  And how to substitute a healthy, positive habit for an unhealthy habit.  Sometimes we can't get rid of the things that cause stress in our lives, and boredom sneaks up on all of us, but if we recognize the trigger that activates the unhealthy activity, can we substitute a positive activity.  I hadn't really thought of stress and boredom being triggers, but it's pretty easy to waste a lot of time on the Internet, or playing a game when there are other, better things to do.

That's about it.  Just a few thoughts for a foggy winter day.  Hope you have a good day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Looking for a Job?

This was a really interesting article about job interviews.  I'm at a stage in my career where I'm not likely to be enduring many more interviews, but I do end up selecting contractors from time to time, and I guess the process is somewhat the same.

This guy is pretty blunt, or maybe painfully honest.  I've read a lot of 'what-to-say', or 'how-to-make-a-resume' articles and have not been impressed with most of them.  Charlie Balmer makes a lot of sense.  He is busy, wants to cut-to-the-chase, doesn't want a lot of rambling emails in the future.....wants someone who will be happy, productive, and successful in the new job.

This is probably not an article for everyone, or at least everyone all the time.  We all have times when our lives are in transition and we have to make changes.  It is always best to be on the same page with an employer, an employee, or even a child, or parent or spouse. While I hope that our more familiar communications won't be as terse as a job interview, clear communications are pretty important in relationships.  If we can communicate our desires, hopes and dreams (with an appropriate plan) clearly to each other, while at the same time trying to find a way to remedy our shortcomings, we might avoid frustration, misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What In The World Is That?

Yesterday Annie and I took a spur-of-the-moment drive out in the country west of Sweet Haven.  We noted some changes in the scenery since we had last been out in that area (maybe 10 years ago).  We noted that the little Post Office - abandoned many years, with a old rusty bed and a dead cat on the bed had been refurbished, and someone was now living there.  There were a lot of changes like that - little things, something fixed up, something run down.  But then as we were heading back, we saw these guys in the far distance and dead-reckoned our way over for a closer look.
We wondered over these strange structures for quite a while and couldn't think of anything that they looked like they could to.  A friend who has lived in Sweet Haven for most of his life told me these were solar collectors that were supposed to boil water and run generators, and were very successful at separating the gullible investors from their money.

And finally, a little further on, two bald eagles in an old cottonwood tree.  This shot has been cropped and is a little shaky, but it was fun to see them, sitting in the winter sun and watching for a rabbit for dinner.