Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Back From a Quick Trip to Montana - Cloud Pictures - I Love to Drive - SIRIUS Satellite Radio

Made it back from a quick trip to Montana yesterday. It was five days, five towns and five hotel/motels. Next time I take a road trip it would be nice to take my time and stay in one spot a little longer. Changing hotels everyday is a bit of a drag when you are traveling with three women who have a lot of luggage/beauty supplies etc. Lucky for my back the women with me are not only beautiful, but also strong.

The trip overall was great. Went to a wedding at a place near Bozeman Mt. that was very pretty; right at the base of the mountains. It was a beautiful spot and a very nice wedding. The weather was great; a bit of everything, sun, clouds, little rain, thunder, distant lightning. Saw some old friends. Said some goodbyes.

Things are green in Montana now. They have had some rain in June. They are still in a drought and the farmers and ranchers are struggling. Not much, or no, hay in some areas. Some ranchers are getting rid of their cattle now because they can't afford to buy hay to feed them. I sympathize with the folks who's livelihood depends on the weather. Actually farmers and ranchers probably don't want sympathy....they are a tough breed and know what they are getting into (at least those that have farmed for any length of time).

A farmer from North Dakota told me, "Someone asked a farmer once what he'd do if he one the million dollar lottery? He answered, I'd just keep farming until it was all gone."

Not everyone is losing money on farming obviously, but the days of the small family farm are coming to a close. I read that in European countries they would never allow the development of farmland that we do in the U.S. Things are different in the U.S. of course, and given the choice of going broke or not being able to make a decent living on a farm, who would blame someone for getting out and taking the land value by subdividing it into ranchettes or building lots? I guess we are outsourcing our food production since we obviously don't care about keeping the land available for growing food. Take a look at the Gallatin Valley west of Bozemen or the Skagit River Valley North of Seattle.

I think most of us like to see open spaces, not rows of houses, in the countryside. I'm all for small/compact/shared dwellings in concentrated areas in cities. I'd just like to leave the city the city and the country the country if we could. In some ways having Ted Turner or whoever buy up pieces of Montana is a good deal in my book. At least he leaves the land undeveloped. If you like to hike, or hunt or walk or fish or bike or relax there's something to be said for open spaces. I'll get off my antisprawl soapbox now.


Montana has the most beautiful cloud formations. I got this picture from Montana Earth Science Picture of the Week


I love to drive, especially in Montana; hardly any traffic, beautiful sky, clouds, plants and trees, mountains, rivers and some friendly people on the road; who'll give you the old friendly one or two finger wave.

The wild flowers are in bloom now. The most beautiful flowers I saw on the trip were large patches of purple flowers. I think they may be lupine. There's an article about Lewis and Clark seeing them in this Helena Newspaper article. The lupines are small now and very pretty. Here's a picture of some from National Geographic: Lewis & Clark Plants Silky Lupine

This is an oil painting called "Lupine" done by Josephine Hale you can find at The University of Montana, Missoula Museum of Fine Arts--Josephine Hale Paintings

Steinbeck in all his travels, dubbed Montana his favorite state. You can find the Montana quote from Travels with Charlie

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it ...”–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charlie

here About Montana | The University of Montana

Traveling around with a dog, and nowadays a digital camera and maybe a laptop sounds pretty good to me.

I found this interesting looking spot while looking for that Steinbeck quote Literary quotes about Montana places - ePodunk.


Of course one of the things that makes Montana so appealing is it's six people per square mile population density. I was going to recommend no one move to Montana, just visit there. Sort of like Emmett Watson used to do when he started a tongue in cheek "lesser Seattle" campaign who's motto was "Keep The Bastards Out". His obituary from May 2001 says he was secretly a Seattle booster which was obvious from his writing about Seattle, a place he loved Lesser Seattle's press secretary Emmett Watson

On the other hand it might be good to buy a house in a little town in Montana that needs your money. Or maybe build a condo for retirees in a town that needs rejuvenating and help get the downtown area revitalized. Then go out and enjoy the wide open spaces and go home to your cozy comfy little house/condo with broadband, flat screen TV and no yard take care of; or maybe a nice flower garden. There's all kinds of little towns in the West/Midwest that would love to have you retire in their town. It's a win-win. We don't keep subdividing farm land and open spaces and you get a great deal on some real estate. Winters are a tad cold, but you could always head to warmer climates in the winter months or use this philosophy from "Dakota Boy" by Rob Woutat

"If you’re wondering why people stay there, why they put up with the winter cold and the floods and the landscape and all the rest of it, it’s because they’ve learned to accept severity, to shrug it off in their stoic, taciturn, North Dakota way, as if it were little more than a nuisance. “Keeps the riffraff out,” they like to say. And because they’re no different from those who continue to live in the paths of hurricanes or forest fires or on faults in the Earth’s crust: they stay there because that’s where they live, where they work, where they pay their mortgages, where they have friends, where their children go to school. The blizzards, floods, grasshoppers and droughts haven’t given them a metaphysical bent; they don’t waste time asking Why. They don’t wring their hands and whine about their condition. “What the hell,” they’d say, “life isn’t supposed to be easy.”

Or you could hop on the old Greyhound headed South and sing Everybodys Talkin

"I'm going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off of the Northeast winds
Sailing on summer breeze
Skipping over the ocean like a storm"

Everybody's Talkin'
Writer: Fred Neil
Performed by: Harry Nilsson

In any event Montana's a great state. Probably like the place you live in; great that is.


We rented a Crown Victoria for this trip. I'd buy one of those cars. It was quiet, had a big trunk, comfy leather seats and best of all SIRIUS Satellite Radio

Satellite radio is really great. You can listen to most any kind of music or talk you want, commercial free and mostly uninterrupted. The only time I lost the signal was for short periods where big trees were near the road. If I was going to do much driving I'd really look into that radio. I might get one just for going to work and using at home. I think it's a good idea. Not sure about where you live, but where I live FM radio is, in general, terrible. Mostly commercials and Clear Channel's choice of music...which isn't mine. Sirius has old country, rock, standards, jazz, big band, classical, hip-hop, pop, NPR, liberal, sports and conservative talk. I'd pay 10 bucks a month for it. I couldn't carry enough CD's with me for a long trip. I'll turn off my Sirius commercial now.


I'm looking forward to the 4th of July. When I was a little boy I had a small record player and my favorite song was It's a Grand Old Flag. I still remember marching around my room singing along with that song. I was a weird kid. I know a couple of Yankee Doodle Dandies who were lucky enough to be born on the 4th of July.

Like most boys, and some girls, I used to love firecrackers. When we were little, my cousin and I once used some genuine silver dollars (this was after they had quit minting them) to buy firecrackers. I imagine the fireworks man was happy to see us. I couldn't wait for the stands to open up so I could peer in and see all that great stuff in the Firework Stand. One time when I was about 4 I had some cracker balls (they were a little more powerful then the little white ones you get in the store now). You are supposed to throw them at the sidewalk and they pop.

I'm not sure now exactly why, but I put a cracker ball in by mouth and popped it with my front teeth. It turned one of my front teeth a nice shade of grey (I think it killed the tooth). Luckily it wasn't a permanent tooth. I think I did it either to show-off to someone or just as an experiment. Probably both.

We used to love to see what we could blow up with firecrackers. They weren't big ones; just the inch and a quarter; Black Cat type. You could have one go off in your hand and it would burn you a little but not do any serious damage. Not like some of the big dangerous ones available nowadays. I had some silver salutes or something years back and was having a few cocktails and made a few divots in my lawn with some of those bigger firecrackers. Another year a friend of mine and I stuck bottle rockets in our hats and were lighting them....shot some over the neighbors house because I thought they (the neighbors) were making too much noise....shot some into my own garage. Glad I'm off the sauce sometimes...most times.

In the city where I live, they used to have a heck of a lot of firecrackers going off in the neighborhood. I remember my father in law came to visit and he was joking about being in the DMZ. You could literally have bottle rockets, fire crackers popping around your car for blocks as you drove up into my neighborhood. It's a working class town and people like to celebrate the fourth.

One year they made a huge production about setting off a big fire work rocket that was called "Big Bertha". They set off the public fireworks on a little deserted, brushy island, just out in the bay, called Jetty Island. Anyway...Big Betha misfired; got a little ways off the ground came down and set Jetty Island on fire for about a week of smouldering/smoke. That plus a number of house/garage fires and any number of fireworks related injuries eventually led to the complete outlawing of fireworks in our city.

You can however, drive up to "Boom City" on the reservation about 10 miles north and get, and set off any number of fire crackers and fireworks. They have, I believe, over a hundred stands up there. Probably worth looking at if you are a fireworks afficianado.

I gave up fireworks when one of my daughters got burned with a stupid 10 cent rocket that misfired and hit her and then blew up. It burned her and she ended up going to the hospital. Luckily she was fine after a few days. It hurt and could of hit her in the eye....so I decided that fireworks were best left in the hands of the professionals. I enjoy the fireworks shows if I can stay up late enough.

Have a a safe and sane or insane if you prefer, 4th.

In any event have fun and be good to yourself and each other.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Montana - Wedding and a Funeral

Leaving for Montana this morning. We'll be spending the night in Butte then on to Bozeman for my nephew's wedding and then on to Columbus.

Butte is and was quite a place.

The home of Evel Knievel.

The city was a melting pot of ethnic groups. It has an incredibly rich history. One of my favorite books related to Butte, since I love to eat and cook, is the "Butte Heritage Cookbook". There are some recipes from it here; Virtual Visit

Once I got to go to the Columbia Gardens in Butte with some of my distant cousins whose parents worked in the mine in Butte. It was a great place for kids. That wooden roller coaster was ex citing.

Another time my cousin and I stopped at Luigi's Bar and Dancehall in Butte. Quite a place. Luigi had filled the bar with marionettes (some life sized) and other odd things. He would make them dance or jump up when you passed them to use the bathroom. He was quite an entertainer. The day we stopped at Luigi's we were the only people there so we got a personal show. Someone told me the back bar from Luigi's was put into a Mercantile store in Montana where people not only helped themselves but rang up their own groceries The Montana Standard - Butte, Montana USA

Pork Chop John's in Butte is a great place for a good sandwich. I like the egg and cheese, simple and good.

On to Bozeman....

I think of the Pickle Barrel Sandwich Shop, Bridger Bowl and the beautiful rivers and scenery of Bozeman. It's become quite yuppified/upscaled since I lived there but still a nice place to visit.

This webpage mentions both the Pickle Barrel and Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Bridger Bowl is a fantastic ski area. Good snow, nice variety of hills and sort of a family/small place atmosphere (at least 30 years ago). I think probably the same now.

Pickle Barrel just has good big sandwiches and a nice atmosphere across from Montana State University around some shady trees. Plus you get to get your own dill pickle.

The rivers around Bozeman have some of the best fishing, floating site seeing you could want. There are some nice shots on this page Three Forks Montana Located in South West Montana. Three Forks is where the Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers combine to form the Missouri. Fishing can be great in that area (some big brown trout in the fall).

And then finally to Columbus to say goodbye to my Mom. It's a beautiful place

Yellowstone River Photographs : Montana Photo Gallery

and she was a beautiful person...

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Cool Tips for Hot Days

Cool Tips for Hot Days

I was out working in my yard today and it's in the mid 80's which is pretty hot for the Pacific Northwest. It's a little humid too since we've had some rain in the last few days.

I was using a dampened bandana tied around my neck and wearing a cap, to keep cool, which worked pretty good.

I tried putting the bandana in the freezer for a few minutes and that felt good. Later I soaked my cap and put that in the freezer. That was a super-cooler. It almost felt like that brain freeze you get when you drink a slurpee too fast. I got the picture below from this site My Slurpee Cup

I was in a steam/sauna in the Cascade Mountains one winter and the snow outside was 3 -4 feet deep. We took hot saunas and then jumped into the snow. I have one piece of advice if you take a sauna and then jump in the snow, "don't go head first." You'll get a major brain freeze. Better to do a back fall and make an angel, or just a quick roll around. Feels so good....then jump back into the sauna. You'll have nice healthy skin and feel really refreshed.

We have a wood-fired sauna in Minnesota on a lake we go to in the summer. It's about my favorite thing to do...get hot in the sauna and then jump in the lake. It's a great way to get over a little hangover or just pump up your circulation.

I hope all the fathers out there are having a good father's day eve today and a great father's day tomorrow. Just think what a good father you are to have such great kids. We are so lucky.

Have you ever had a really good massage? Maybe that would make a nice father's day gift? The best massage I ever had was in Singapore. A woman walked on my back and used her feet and hands to rub the tension out of my muscles; it felt just great. I've never had one close to that one. Here's a description of that type of massage at a spa in Bali Balinesian Spa Massage: "Jalan-Jalan The Indonesian Massage"....sounds marvelous darling.

One thing they didn't quite have down in the place I stayed in Singapore was how to build a Suana. A good sauna temperature is in the 170-190 degree F. range. Any metal objects are going to be real hot and might burn you a little. In the Singapore sauna they hadn't countersunk the nails used on the benches...whoops and ouch.

One time I had a moment of panic in a steam bath at the Butte Y. I was all by myself and the steam bath was hot. I went to the door and pushed it to open and it was stuck. I had a moment of thinking...did they maybe not know anyone was here and lock the door. After a few scared seconds I realized the door opened inward.

One last steam bath story...I went to the Elks club with a guy and his sons one time. At this Elks the tradition was to swim and steam naked. I'm not sure why. I've never been much of a naturalist myself. I kind of like seeing people with their clothes on most of the time I guess. Particularly extra chubby middle aged guys like that friend and me.

Have you ever looked at the Duckboy series of Postcards from Montana? Here's a link Duckboy Western Postcards: humor western jokes black and white photographs

I used to have the Montana Double Date picture at work years ago

I think it's politically correct to have things like that at work as long as I'm poking fun at my self being a native Montanan. It's strange how careful we have to be to not accidently disrepect anyone in our work environment. I really think it's important to be able to laugh at yourself. I don't think any racist or predjudiced jokes are funny but I do like to laugh and joke about anything we can. Lifes way to short to take yourself and others too seriously.

For my money a sense of humor and ability to see the absurd and laugh at things is right up on the top of qualities I would want in a friend. I love to laugh and try to make people laugh.

I hope you have some good laughs today. Good thoughts to all the fathers and families celebrating father's tomorrow.

Peace to you and yours and have a wonderful Sunday. Take a day of rest and relaxation, you deserve it.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Rachel's High School Graduation - Care for Some Gopher? - Flooding the Locker Room Story - Ladder of Inference

Our Daughter graduated from High School Friday.

She has so much to look forward to. Going to college in the fall, all sort of opportunities. We are so lucky. I feel very blessed to have two wonderful daughters.

It's going to be real transition for my wife and me when our youngest, graduates and goes on to college next year.

Someone told me once the best sort of planning is to plan for your next life transition. I guess that means plan before you have a baby, get a job, have a child leave home, leave a job, death of a loved one or your own death.

On the other hand, every so often life throws us a weird knuckle ball; no planning possible. I read something once that went like, "Do you know how to make God laugh?

Tell him your plans."

It goes that way sometimes. I have faith that whatever happens is for the best no matter how bad it seems at the moment. Not to say there isn't true evil in the world, and bad bad things happen, that as humans we have no idea how to explain or rationalize.

Prayer is a powerful thing to help me calm myself and remember how much I have to be thankful for.

We had people over for an open house yesterday. It was so good to see some family and friends we hadn't seen for awhile. I know there were lots of family and friends that would have come if they could...but distance, jobs, work and unfortunately sometimes illness come into play.

Very thankful for all the people who gave Rachel their best wishes, gifts and kind words of encouragement.

We've had a bit of gray drizzly weather lately in the Pacific Northwest. Good weather to be inside; writing, working, studying, drinking coffee etc., eating, watching TV, playing games, conversing. I can't complain and as they say it wouldn't do any good anyway.

One thing I am thankful for this morning is that I'm not living in Cicada country. If I was I'm sure I'd get use to it. Maybe wear a Walkman or I-Pod to drown out the buzzing.

I'm watching "O Brother Where Art Thou". They just played the part where Delmar asks Everett, Care for some gopher?. You can hear the hymn singing folks moving to the river to be baptized in the background.


Have you ever wondered if a million monkeys typed for a million years what the odds are that one of them would write this weblog? I'm thinking more like one monkey typing part time could get pretty close. I'm in that "nothing to say but too lazy to edit" mode.

Our younger daughter has an assignment to create a scrapbook of her life as an assignment for school. From what I gather it's due tomorrow and she got started about 4 pm. I'm thinking the title could be, "My short and happy life by Rebecca." Maybe she could just make up something like, my parents never let me get out much. Here's a picture of the closet they kept me in. It's sort of dark.

That sounds more like something I'd do, thank God, rather than my wise daughter. I used to have a knack for creative excuses for why I didn't have my homework done or why I was late or absent from school. I told the principle once that I was late because the train was stopped for some reason blocking the road I had to take to school. That had an element of truth in it anyway.

Once that principle let our vocational tech class work on his pickup. I learned to braze a little fixing his radiator. While backing his pickup out of the shop I was screwing around and joking with my friends and didn't close the passenger door of the principle's pickup. The pickup door caught on the garage door and bent all the way back to the front fender. My buddies told me I should go in and say, "Uhhhh Mr. Kober you know that door that used to be on your pickup?"

Another time a friend of mine and I were in the locker room horsing around when I was a freshman in high school. I think we were supposed to be outside on the football field for P.E. We were seeing who could climb a water pipe up the side of a wall in the locker room. I got about half way up the wall and the pipe broke. It started to spray high-pressure water all over the locker room; every one's clothes...the football teams uniforms. I had to go out on to the football field and say to the coach, "You know that pipe that used to be in the locker room?" Here's a sketch to give you an idea..


Actually....I think I said, "Greg and I were just looking at the pipe and it broke." That was a bit of a joke for us nitwits. Once in the eighth grade Greg had been fiddling with a steam radiator valve in the back of the class (during class) and accidently unscrewed it. That caused steam to start spraying and a lot of hissing noise. Luckily know one was hurt. He told the teacher, "I was just looking at it and it broke."

Some people huh?

I knew a guy who was given the task of removing the paper from a high school float that was built on a flatbed truck. He took the float to the town dump and started pulling off the pom-poms or whatever they call those things they stick in the chicken wire on a float. That was taking too long so he decided it would be quicker if he just burned the paper off. I guess he thought the chicken wire was far enough from the paint of the truck to prevent damage to the new truck donated by a kind local merchant for use in the Homecoming Parade.

He was wrong.

Not sure what he ended up doing maybe he had a future at Burning Man.


Sun is going down around here. I hope you had a great weekend.


P.S. - Our daughter Becca ended up getting her Aunt, who is visiting from Minnesota, her sister, sister's friend who is a boy, and her Mom all involved in helping find pictures and creating a scrapbook of her life so far, for her school assignment this Monday. They had a great time doing it. Contrary to my assumption that she had just started, she had put considerable work into the writing part before yesterday. I saw her leaving for school this morning bright-eyed and ready to go.

Have you ever heard about the Ladder of Inference? The idea being you take a skimpy amount of information about something and then make a lot of inferences? or assumptions to come to a conclusion. Kind of like a police officer seeing a black guy walking down the street with a color TV or something like that. We all do it. I do it and want to try to cut back.

Last week we asked Rachel to pick her Aunt up at the airport. Rachel didn't want to drive her car, but wanted to take her Mom's (which she isn't insured for). I heard my wife say the words "CD player". I inferred Rachel wanted to take her Mom's car because it had a CD player. The actual deal was Rachel's car is full of books, volleyballs, basketballs, clothes etc....and was recently decorated with a lot of writing like "Class of 2004" "Go Seagulls" "Everett High Senior". She didn't think her Aunt would like to ride in that rig. I think it turned out just fine...but I'll try to stay lower on the ladder of inference today.

Peace to you and yours.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Making Concrete Leaf Castings

I've been playing around with mud lately.

How do I make a concrete leaf casting?

I've made 8 hosta leaf castings so far. It's fun to experiment.

We're getting ready for an open house for my daughter Rachel's graduation this Saturday. Looking forward to seeing people. I get to use the big electric roaster my mom gave me a couple of years ago.

I'm going to use this -

Simple Recipe for BBQ Beef Sandwiches -

Get some beef like a chuck roast or top round (doesn't have to be an expensive cut).

Put the beef in a roaster.

Pour some ginger ale and ketchup on it. You can experiment a little to see what you like as far as a ratio of ketchup to ginger ale. Maybe 2 part ginger ale to 1 part ketchup and if that's too kechuppy try 3 to 1.

Let it bake at medium temperature 350 or so, until the meat can be shredded with a fork.

That's it. You'll be surprised how good it is.

I've played around with garlic, onions, barbeque sauce, pepsi instead of ginger ale but I don't think anything turned out better than the simple ginger ale and ketchup method.

Got tickets to see Natalie Merchant at Marymore Park this August. Looking forward to seeing her in person. One of my favourite albums is 10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe. I always like watching her sing and move when I see her on TV. Should be good.

Mud, food and music...sounds like Woodstock.

Not much going on in my neck of the woods....just practicing my ability to sit still tonight. I was wondering what it would be like to put that on a job application under special skills? My wife told me I might get a job as a mannequin.

Have you ever watched American Chopperon the Discovery Channel? There's some funny stuff on there; usually between the dad and the sons.

I hope you are having a great beginning of summer and know that people love you wherever you may be.

It really is a Wonderful World