Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Serendipity and Mexican Hot Chocolate Recipe

NPR : A Recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate

Oh my...my...my...that hot chocolate sounds good. Out of the blue I found the link for that creamy drink while reading about hi monkey's trip to NPR.

That lucky break made me think how much I like the word and thought of serendipity.

I knew something good would come my way today.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Baking Bread - Carbs and Diets

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread

That sounds like a good book. Nothing like the smell, taste and texture of good bread.

I noticed there's a book out called "No White at Night". The idea is that you don't eat potatoes, pasta or other foods made with white flour or sugar at night. That sounds like maybe a doable plan for the most part. I wouldn't skip a good spagetti dinner or good bread if someone offered it to me after dark though.

I was thinking the best shape I was in was when I ate a balanced diet and did a lot of exercising.

I was on a diet once called the Prism diet, where you didn't eat any starches like bread, potatoes, spagetthi, sugar, anything made of refined flour. It worked until I got tired of missing a lot of my favorite foods and gave up the diet and just for good measure - exercise. I'd tell people I was on the diet and they'd say..."you say you're on a Prison diet?". Yeah that's it the prison diet.

The nice thing about being human is we can always change. No matter how far down one road we go we always can choose another. You can always start an improvement plan of one sort or another.

I like to challenge myself by getting way down the wrong road and then see if I can get back on track :-)

The way I see it getting really out of shape, or lazy, or taking on any number of vices gives you an opportunity to improve. Who would ever want to be perfect anyway? It seems like you wouldn't have any reason to go on.

I heard a guy on the radio say that we have to cheat. Not in the sense that immediately comes to mind. He was saying that we can never get everything we need to get done for our work, for ourselves, for our family, for our spirit, for our friends. So we cheat one or the other or all. He said you could work 24/7 and still not get everything done at work.

Very true. The trick, and it's a hard trick, is to find a balance between mind, body, spirit, family, friends and work. I'll let you know if I ever get it figured out.


Watched the movies Matchstick Men and Cold Mountain this weekend. Both were good. Nicholas Cage is the main character in Matchstick Men and Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain. They both are stories about hope.

The rest of my family watched the movie Mystic River (I think that's what it's called). I believe it's a movie about retribution for someone who sexually abused a young boy. My daughter couldn't sleep after watching it. There's some movies some people don't need to watch.

There's so much suffering in the world, I'm not sure why we need to remind ourselves about things we already know for the sake of Hollywood. Thinking about suffering and the need for compassion and detachment in a Buddhist or Christlike sense I can see...but not the glorification of violence, pain or suffering for movie revenues.


I stepped on a wasp Friday while watering some hanging baskets in my bare feet. Now my foot is sort of infected. I've been soaking it in hot water and bleach, hot water and Tide, and hot water and hydrogen peroxide. Took some Bennedryl, put some Neomycin, anti-itch stuff on it. I wonder where that wasp had been before he stung me.


Let's make this week another good one. Hope you are enjoying yourself wherever you may be. Maybe bake some bread if it's not too hot in your house already or buy some good bread. Make some sun tea. Get some nice flowers. Drink some cold water or good hot coffee. Breathe nice and deep and slow and relax. Looking forward to the warm days of August. Summer is great...fall, winter and spring too. Days and nights. Try to grab ahold of a few moments. It all goes by sooooo fast. Take it slow, think about where you are and where you've been. People you've loved and people who love you. ahhhhhhh that feels good.

Wishing you a great week and moments of grace and peace.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Government Provides Website for the Homeless and Other Ramblings

Who says our government isn't looking out for the little guy? Now if we can just figure out a way to get homeless people laptops and wireless internet access so they can read the U.S. Department of Labor - Homeless & Homeless Providers we'll be all set.

I've got a few ideas for ending chronic homelessness (besides building them a home on the web).

Pay anyone with a job a livable wage.

If private industry is unable to employ people willing and able to work have the government do it.

Set up government programs to train people who need training to become employable.

Roll back the Reagan era programs that took away hospitals and other care facilities for people with mental disease that prevents them from working and having their own homes.

Revamp our zoning laws to allow and encourage affordable housing to be built in cities. This could be as simple as allowing mother in law apartments in peoples back yards to discouraging box store spawl and bringing back mom and pop operations that have apartments above the store (when was the last time you saw a 7-11 with an apartment on top).

We can scratch up the money by eliminating the subsidies we pay large Corporations (see links below).

Public Citizen Corporate Welfare - Corporate Welfare

Sprawl Costs Us All - Sprawl - Sierra Club

AlterNet: HIGHTOWER: Corporate Pledge of Allegiance

Jim Hightower

The Austin Chronicle Politics: The Hightower Lowdown

A couple of things come to mind for me related to homelessness that have occurred where I live.

The first was my experience with building a new garage. I wanted to tear down a 60 year old dilapitated garage and replace it with a new garage....maybe with a second story living space. Due to zoning laws where I live that prevent more than a certain amount of your property being devoted to living space the second story apartment was out.

My dealings with the city planning office in getting a building permit to just build the simple replacement structure was interesting in that it showed their priorities.

I spent an inordinant amount of time with the planners convincing them why it would be okay to put a new garage in the exact same location as my old one. Why? City code requires a 5 foot set back from your neighbors property line. My old garage was right next to the neighbors property line and that was fine for the last 60 years. I wanted to put my new garage up with a 3 foot setback, otherwise it would have been nearly impossible to drive into it straight. My neighbor was all for the plan of either the 3 foot setback or no setback or whatever I wanted to do as long as I tore down the eyesore I was calling a garage.

I spent hours and hours at the library and in the planning office showing them old insurance maps (proving my garage was where it was)....found the original permit in the old garage (they accused me of maybe forging it...it was really old and yellowed).

Any hoo the point of this diatribe is although city planning has lots of time to screw around with me about a garage, they don't seem to be able to find the time to think through the advisability of building new housing developments on some of the last remaining timbered land in the city. And building those houses nowhere near schools, churches or stores. At least they put in some sidewalks. Not that anyone would be walking 3 or 4 miles to the store, library, church or school.

The other thing that happened where I live was a debate over a homeless tent city that was being forced to move from it's current location. No one wanted those poor homeless people in their backyard. Particularly the homeowners with big dough invested in their piece of real estate. They ended up putting the tents up in some property owned by a church, that was adjacent to the church. Interestingly enough some of those churchgoers didn't like the idea of having the unwashed that close to their place of worship either, but that's another story.


I've had a heck of a week at work. We are lean and mean where I work. Or as I like to say in my case anyway, at least mean.

About 30,000 jobs have been eliminated from the company I work for in the last several years. The effect of that downsizing was of course devastating to those left unemployed. Suffice it to say, it has had it's impact on those still employed as well, in that we have to do as much work or sometimes more with a lot less workers.

Lucky for us we still have more than ample people in supervisory and management positions to think up ideas like selling off a piece of the company in a slow and painful year long process (painful for the people who's jobs were at stake).

The end result of that exercise was that the intellectual capital (people who knew how to do the work) all left for new jobs since they didn't know if they would have a job with NewCo or a pension. We ended up selling a shell. Sort of like selling you a building with a bunch of machines inside that make something (you aren't sure what)...but no one know's how to run them and the available documentation/instructions for their use is spotty or non-existent.


Now that I've solved the world's problems what can I do?

Maybe I'll go on a tuna fishing trip in September.

I hope so anyway. I received a brochure in the mail about albacore tuna fishing available in September.

It sounds great!

You get to use live bait (always fun), fish up near the top of the water (not a lot of reeling up), the tuna are in the 20-30 pound range, they would put up a heck of a fight when you catch them near the surface, no license required and there's no limit.

The boat leaves between midnight and 4 am depending on how far out the tuna are. It's 300 bucks per person.

In my fishermanly optimism I figure I can end up making money on the deal. I'll probably catch at least ten of those 30 pounders, so I'll only be paying a buck a pound for nice fresh tuna. Or maybe I'll hook one of those 400 pound bluefins and sell it to the sushi dealers for a couple of grand....

yeahhhhh that's the ticket.

More than likely I'll hopefully catch a tuna and have fun. I hope I can find some people to go with me. The boat holds six. It goes out on September 3, 10, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22 and 25th.


It's been hotter than old Billy around here lately. I heard it was 98 somewhere on the radio. Maybe in the Puget Sound area where I live. That's downright hot for here. I like it since I don't have a job that involves standing on a roof with a bucket of hot tar or using a shovel or something like that. I imagine some of the people who have those jobs don't mind either since they tend to have a lot less natural insulation than us desk jockeys.

I was watching something on the weather channel about general warming causing changes in Alaska. Just a few degrees increase in the average temperature had made the life cycle of a beetle a one year deal instead of two. The net result was these critters were munching on a lot more trees.

I see the definition of severe drought in the west is getting closer to the last big one that brought on the dustbowl in the 30's. Man I hope for my kids and their kids that this is just a cycle.

Just heard on the radio that Lance Armstrong is set to seal his 6th straight Tour title. What a great story that guy is considering his health problems and where he is today. I wish I had a tenth of his intestinal fortitude. Maybe I'll ride my bike to Safeway today.


Speaking of health problems and people's ability to cope...

There was a long article in the NY Times last week about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder The New York Times > Magazine > Office Messes.

If you don't care to read the whole thing I'll cut to the chase, (a) some people aren't wired to work in offices, and would be better off as salesman or preachers or dancers or piano tuners or any number of other occupations and (b) a lot of people who are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder are very successful in what they do because they use their "syndrome" / "disorder" to their advantage(that tidbit is on the very last page of the article).

I think I get obsessed with this topic a bit because I have a touch of that ADHD and I've worked with people who have more than a touch. I just can't get on the bus that it's a disease that we necessarily need to treat with pharmaceuticals. Maybe drugs are the answer for some but I can't help but wonder if we are trying to force some square pegs in round holes.

The other health issue that I am getting a kick out of is the obesity issue. Since I like to be in on popular culture and being fat is in vogue now..I'm fat. I might start to try and buck the trend though just to feel better and have more energy and be around to see some grandkids if they happen to show up. Or at least see my kids become adults.

I get a kick out of the idea that there is something new about being fat. Studies showing that we inherited a gene from our root and berry gathering ancestors that makes it darn near impossible to not eat a whole bag of Cheetos. We are programmed to feast to prepare for the famine. Okay.....I guess I'm not responsible for my weight. Good I'll go back to the chips and dip now.

I'm not sure but I think the deal is really you are what you eat and if you eat more calories than you burn you gain weight. I think I'll try (a) eating less or (b) being more active...or maybe a little of both and see how that works.

I guess if that fails I'll never run out of infomercials that tell me how I can lose weight while I shower or sleep or how to develop rock hard abs in 5 minutes a day. Maybe a pill or surgery. There has to be some easy/easier way than exercising and a little self discipline.

I'll get off my high horse..we all have vices. Better fat than mean to people. Better a smoker than a liar. etc.


Have a great weekend wherever you are. Remember to breathe, relax, stop and smell the flowers...have some laughs and share some love.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Waiting For Godot - "Oh That's Nice" Joke - Florida Town's Juvenile Delinquent is 56 - Grilled Cyprus Cheese Halloumi

I'm hanging with my self waiting for Godot. Saw that play years ago with my mom. Don't know what it means...but I've sort of condensed it into a simple form where "waiting for Godot" means doing nothing, just living, and waiting for God. It's almost 2 am. here at Cafe Jack's; not much else to do.

I'd go see that play again. Reading the dialogue doesn't work so good. You have to watch and listen to kind of get into it.

Here's a link to a brief biography of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). He doesn't look like a barrel of laughs, at least in the picture they put on that page. Looks like a mug shot or one of my Driver's license photo's. I guess I shouldn't be so superficial. Sounds like he had a hard go of it in some ways. Sort of interesting to think about talent and adversity? Not sure of the right word. The idea that genius (in anything maybe) borders on insanity. I remember many moons ago in a Philosophy class I got into a minor squabble with a fellow student about the inadvisability of "curing" people of some pyschological "ailments".

Samuel Beckett probably could get a psychologist to talk to and a scrip for Prozac now but we wouldn't have any of his work. Part of my ongoing theme to justify my own crazy behaviour I guess.

God I wish I was insaner some times thinking about the old It's Five O'Clock Somewhere mentality. You smooth out all the bumps and end up with a life that's the equivalent of a drive across North Dakota. No thank you very much.


I heard a joke from a guy at lunch a couple of days ago. It came up because a friend was kidding me that I needed to go to charm school because so many people who work in my area are leaving(moving, retiring, getting new jobs).

It's better if you say it than read it, and you can make it up as you go along, but the gist of it is that two elderly women are talking. (You have to imagine Maxine has a really sweet voice.)

Maxine asks, "Well Josephine what did you do this summer?"
Josephine says, "My son bought me a new Cadillac."
Maxine says, "Oh that's nice."
Josephine goes on to say, "And my boyfriend bought me a 2 carat diamond ring."
Maxine says, "Oh that's nice."
Josphine says, "I got a letter from the mayor and he asked me to lead the 4th of July parade."
Maxine says, "Oh that's nice."
Josephine says, "My daughter had a baby and it was picked as cutest baby of the year by the local newspaper."
Maxine says, "Oh that's nice."
Josephine keeps going with all the incredible and wonderful things that have happened to her over the summer...finally she takes a breath and says, "So what have you been up to Maxine?"

Maxine says, "I went to Charm School this summer."
Josephine says, "Oh really what did you learn?"

Maxine replies, "Well now instead of saying "bullshit", I just say -

"Oh that's nice."


Sotiris my co-worker from Cyprus left this week. We'll miss him. It's great to have some young (in this case mid-20's) people around. The average age where I work now is about 50. I was reading about a town in Florida where the youngest person was 56. I was thinking I could move there and be a juvenile delinquent again. It didn't sound like that great a place though...they didn't let dogs live there and who the hell would just want to be around people your own age all the time?

He's going to head down the coast to California, then over to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons and finally back to Cyprus. First part driving...second part on an airplane.

One thing he introduced us to was grilled cheese, not the usual Cafe Jack grilled Velveeta or Kraft (not to imply that isn't good) but real grilled cheese. The secret ingrediant in this case is a cheese made in Cyprus called Halloumi. Here's a link describing the cheese Cypriot Cheese. Pretty simple; just put it on the BBQ and when it's ready serve on Pita with sliced tomato and maybe some kind of yogurt based dressing.

I think the one you might want is the Tzatziki, made with yogurt, garlic, and cucumber.

This article mentions some healthy eating in Greek, Indian, and Japanese restaurants.

Sotiris got his pita and cheese from a local bakery called the Pita King.

Speaking of Middle Eastern food, My sister took me to the Falafel King in San Francisco and it was some good eats. I'd like to try and make some Falafel sometime. Or maybe go to this place to try it Dinner Site Restaurant Guide Jerusalem: restaurant Maoz


All that talk about healthy food makes me think I'd like to try one of these fried bologna sandwiches.

This one sounds good too (more work though) Food Network: BBQ Bologna Sandwich.


Take care of yourself. Don't take any wooden nickels. Don't look any gift horses in the mouth and whatever you do don't pay any attention to people who say don't.

I need to hit the hay. I wonder what it means to look a gift horse in the mouth? Does it mean you don't trust the gift giver so you are checking the horses teeth to see if it's healthy? I wish my wife was around she loves it when I bring up those kinds of questions :-)

I wet myself at work today.

It's part of getting older don't you know.

Actually I spilled a can of pepsi on my pants when I picked up the phone and snagged the can with the cord. Luckily for me I had on some khakis and it was a diet coke...so once it dried it was fine. It was good for a few laughs anyway. About the not so pleasant thought of me (an old fat guy) sitting pantless at work, or if anyone would notice..etc.

I'm rambling, but have you heard the term "heavy breathers" used at all where you work? I've heard a couple of people at work use that term in conversation. One time as a reference to high-powered executives and the other as an apparent reference to smart people. As in "we don't get paid to make those types of decisions that's left to the heavy breathers." or "Jim's not sure how he can complete the technical part of the project since all the heavy breathers have moved to new jobs."

I don't get it, and since my wife is gone I have to ask people I work with if they get it. The best we could come up with was http://www.freesearch.co.uk/dictionary/heavy+breather

When I got that definition from my buddy, a couple of cubes over, on email...I had to reply to him that I laughed so hard I wet my pants (so the pepsi spillage fit right into my day).

anyway...have a good weekend. Buy some flowers, take some deep breaths...and relax.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Chicken Man Retrained - Philip K Dick - Jack Kerouac - Best Road Songs

MSNBC - Aid Workers Retrain Man Raised As Chicken

Who says you can't get the news you need from MSNBC?

Here's a picture of him at a baseball game before the retraining.

I watched the movie Paycheck yesterday. It's based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.

Here's a quote from that Wired article,

"It's all very Buddhist," says Uma Thurman, sitting in a dressing room as a makeup artist dabs at her face. She means Philip K. Dick, of course. Her father, Columbia University professor Robert Thurman, is a leading Buddhist scholar and a good friend of the Dalai Lama, so she's no stranger to discussions of memory and reality. "Reality is an illusion - that's the principle of ancient Buddhist thought," she continues. "And the basic idea of being reborn is that you erase the memory. Everybody is interconnected, and you're working out your karma with people - so you get erased, but all work left undone has to be completed."

So Thurman is a fan. Blade Runner was one of her favorite movies growing up - the plight of the replicants was so affecting it made her cry - and after seeing it she read Dick's novel. "There's something very earthly in his imaginings," she says. "You don't have to set them on Mars - they're projections from here on Earth. There's class struggle, there's government deceit. And these nightmarish fantasies about corporations owning the world - I mean, obviously there's a reason people relate to that."

What an interesting guy. Really a genius. As the Wired article mentions, his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was the inspiration for Blade Runner.

Here's a link to an MP3 where you can hear Rutger Hauer, who plays a replicant named Roy, say as he nears death, "all those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain" The MovieWavs Page Copyright � 1997 - 2003. It's a great scene.


Thinking about writers and amphetamines; brings to mind this Jack. He burned bright Jack Kerouac - On the Road.

I feel compassion for people who can't get outside themselves at least once in awhile and burn burn burn. You might last a long time on a low flame but you wouldn't want to end up thinking; what's the point? I lived a long time but what's the point?

Amphetamines used to be more common and I guess less destructive than the meta-amphetamines available today. I remember back in the sixties someone I know was given a prescription, by a reputable Doctor, for a thousand tab jar of whites for weight control purposes.

Have you ever listened to this song Willin' Little Feat. I thought Emmylou Harris had done a version that I liked but I can't find it. Loved listening to it back in my hippier days. All together now:

I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Now I driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me.....

My wife and I had a part time job one summer driving beater used cars from the Fargo auto-auction to a used car lot in Northern Minnesota. I use the term used car lot loosely it was more like a line of old cars beside the road in a field out in the toolies. The guy that owned the cars also owned a set-up bar. That's a bar where they sell mixes and you bring your own liquor. We got to be friends with him when we would stop by his bar once in awhile. That driving job was fun. We'd each get a car and zoom up to the used-car field North of Bemidji.

One of our favorite road songs was Radar Love by Golden Earring. Great road tune, turn it up!

Another time I was hitchhiking with a friend up to see my wife. A guy stopped to pick us up and gave us his car. He was going to a family reunion or something about halfway to where we were headed and said he'd catch a ride back home to Fargo with his family. I guess it would be more correct to say he lent us his car; since all he asked was that we return his car to his place in Fargo when we came back after the weekend trip. He didn't know us from Adam. I guess we looked trustworthy. Things were different in that time and place.

Once when I was stationed in Pennsacola, I was hitchhiking along the gulf coast in Southern Alabama. I was a young man and got a ride with an old perv. We were in some backcountry area and he kept asking me if I wanted to visit his farm, which was the last thing I wanted to do with someone resembling the toothless guy from Deliverance. I should have known something was fishy when he stopped for me in his Motor Home. It was fairly unnerving to say the least. That was the last time I voluntarily hitched a ride.

It wasn't at all uncommon in the 60's and into the 70's to see lots of normal looking men and women thumbing rides. Too much risk nowadays. Times have changed.

Another time my brother and I were working on my sister's 58 bug back in Montana and took it for a test drive. It quit about 10 miles from the nearest town. It was hotter than old billy that day. I thought we were lucky to be on a fairly busy highway. My brother was on crutches having hurt his knee in a motorcycle accident. I was frustrated that we couldn't get a ride for a long time. I guess people thought the crutches and the broke down car were some kind of a trick. Finally a guy and his wife stopped for us in a really nice BMW; leather, air conditioning, nice sound and he gives us a ride back to town. Thanks buddy...whoever you were.

Speaking of the open road....

Here's some lists and an article on driving songs -

Berklee News | Top 50 Driving Songs

Best Songs for the Road

"Running on empty DAN NEIL; Los Angeles Times ". List of his top 25 road songs at the end of the article.

I'd have to include the

Sheryl Crow song "Everyday is a Winding Road" on my list and maybe "All I Wanna Do" for when you stop.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Giving Thanks






What I’m thankful for this Friday –

I have a job.

I have a loving family.

I have some friends.

Nothing on or in my body hurts. I can walk. I can see. I can hear.

I have a house, a car, some money, food, clean water.


Freedom to choose what I do today.

Health care, medicine.

Computers, cameras, DVD players and various other tech items to play with.

A 401K plan of some value.

Social security and a pension waiting for me down the road.

A diverse group of mostly kind and fun people to work with.

No one will hit me today, or scream at me or throw anything at me.

I can take a shower and shave, brush my teeth.

Being able to appreciate the small things.

Learning early that money can’t buy you happiness.

The ability to read and write.

Access to a library, bookstore, internet that allows me to learn as much as I can.

Electricity, phones, lights, heat or a fan if I’m hot.

Government and police that will leave me alone unless I break laws created by our elected government officials and decided on by our courts.

Freedom to say or write what I think.

Clean air to breathe and Being able to take a deep breath.

Beautiful mountains and water around me.

Sunsets, sunrises

The ability to change, or at least the hope.

An appreciation for the short time we have here…how quickly things change.

Knowing that no matter what I’m forgiven and every day is a new chance.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Right Tool For the Job - Planting - Pictures - Good Food/Weird Food/Aphrodesiacs

Have you ever thought about how great it is to have the right tool for the job?

A good tool can be something you take pride in, a pleasure to use and allow you to create/repair/maintain things of importance to you.

Have you ever used a rock instead of a hammer? Or maybe a dull saw, ax or drill bit? a short shovel? They end up being frustrating, slow and sometimes even dangerous.

I've been thinking about how people who live on farms develop tools as opposed to how people who live in a the world of big business develop tools.

This is a picture from the U.S. Forest Service of a, beaver slide, a tool used for stacking hay in Montana's Big Hole Valley.

A hundred years ago two farmers came up with this design. Why?

Because it worked better than raking hay into stacks by hand, it was expedient, it used the materials they had available...but most of all because it worked better than what they had done previously.

In the world of farming a tool is developed to fit a particular job. If you visit small farms you will see a variety of unique tools that farmers have built. or bought, to do a particular job. Why?

Because it worked better than whatever they were doing before.

You see the same thing in a good workshop and small businesses. One of my brother's in law was in the shim manufacturing business for awhile. He bought the shop from an old gentleman who had started it. Both the original owner and my brother in law after him created a number of specialized practical tools starting with the original electrical/mechanical and moving into computer controlled cutting/forming machines. He branched out from shims, wooden toys, to wooden toilet seats, interior of car doors and pallets. It was a profitable enterprise that I think ended up employing around 50 people before he "retired" to go back to flying.

On the other hand if you visit the Corporate world you will sometimes see a variety of *tools that don't work, don't fit the task they were intended for or don't have a task associated with them.

I will use *tools in a generic sense to mean; computers, computer applications/software and processes to perform jobs.

In big business there is an internal and external business of creating and selling tools. One of the differences between a business tool and a workshop or farm tool is that the people developing business tools often have never used previous tools used to complete the task, or have no direct knowledge of the task. Not always the case but not unusual either. Another difference is that it's sometimes (maybe often) hard to describe or understand the purpose of a tool in a business world. If I came to your farm and said here's a tool that will bale hay we both know what that means. If I come to your big business (or already work there) and tell you I have a tool that will help perform a task that no one, or at least no one person, understands that's a horse of a different color.

You might be amazed to know the time and money a big business would spend on a tool that is less efficient than the tool that was used before, or for a tool that has no use at all. A good Powerpoint presentation and some smooth talking can go a long way baby. Who knows maybe you could even learn to play a musical instrument using the "think system" like in The Music Man (1962)?

In a big business it's possible to hide in-efficiencies for a matter of time, or in the case of defense/government contract work maybe indefinitely. The end result is people conform their work to fit the tool rather than picking the best (most efficient) tool for the job. On the plus side whoever sold/developed the tool has a job and in some cases may be making a ton of moolah. At an individual level one still has the ability to create their own little personal beaver slide or whatever it may be to make their job more efficient/enjoyable.


I got a Canon A310 camera yesterday. It's not an expensive model, but it so far it seems to do the things I need. The Canon is 3.2 megapixals (since that seems to be the spec most people talk about with digital cameras).

Whatever tool you get it seems like you need to decide on the use. For me I like to take mostly snapshot type photos and would like to have them in the 30 to 50 or at least less than 100 KByte range for ease of use on email or webpages.

For an example I took this picture of some hydrangeas with a higher resolution setting.

It's detailed picture but it uses about 5 times the amount of memory I would think practical for email/web use since it's over 500 KBytes or 1/2 MByte. You could fit two of these on a 3.5 inch floppy. On the other hand you could store 1200 of these resolution/size pictures on a CD...and a bazillion or so on a DVD. So I guess it all depends.

Here's a page All About Hydrangeas in case you want to read a little more about them.


Next time I start planting flowers or shrubs/trees I hope to plan ahead a little better. A lot of times an amateur like me will take plants/shrubs/trees/bushes and plant them where they look good to based on their current size. A 12 inch camellia looks fine next to the fence until after a decade or so it becomes a 12 foot camellia.

I just planted a few new plants in the corner of our yard. One is a Russian Sage which I learned was perennial of the year in 1995. I also learned it grows to be about 4 foot by 5 and likes a lot of room, so I might have crowded it a little. It can be propagated by cuttings and is hardy down to -30 F, plus it's drought resistant. I think I can grow one of those. Sort of like planting a sagebrush in your yard in Eastern Montana.

That reminds me of a little story about the Burpee Seed Catalogue. Always liked looking at that when it came. Thinking about the strawberries, watermelons, flowers and all the nice descriptions of how gigantic, beautiful, juicy and delicious things were. One year, while we were living in Montana, we ordered enough seeds/plants from Burpee to get a "free" gift. I couldn't wait to see what our free gift was. We all got a bit of a laugh when we opened the package and found Burpee had sent us a free yucca plant, since they grew like weeds among the sagebrush in our front yard.
There's a picture of the type of yucca I was thinking of here Agavaceae - Yucca Family.

Here's a link to the perennial of the year for 2003, a Shasta Daisy 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Next time....though, I'm going to read about how big a plant gets and try to place it appropriately. It would be smart to make a garden plan/sketch. Maybe in my next life I'll be smart.

My great-grandfather was a gardener, by profession, in Norway. I'm not sure if he worked for a private family or the government. I'll have to ask my Aunt and see if she remembers. I don't think I inherited much of his green thumb though. Luckily my wife is a good gardener, and I can grow some things pretty good. I love Sweet Pea (flowers) and Cosmos and they are easy to grow.

The Bozeman Sweet Pea Festival is a fun event if you happen to be in the area. There's some info and a cool cover page you could print on a color printer if you were so inclined here Sweet Pea 2004 Schedule of Events & Map of Lindley Park.

We've filled in some of our beds with grass because it was too much work (even in our small yard) to weed and keep up the flowers. The lady that owned this house before we did must have been a tremendous gardener, she had compost bins, and the soil in the beds was amazingly fertile. We grew some sunflowers that were huge and some really nice cosmos thanks to her work and that rich soil. I think now that the kids are getting older and we have more free time it might be fun to get some more plantings going. We do a lot of pot/container planting now (no weeding). I'm not much of a hand weeder. Give me a hoe, or a rototiller or some chemicals.


Besides a lot of nice growing things in this part of the world I like this picture of a Northwest picture of some clamdiggers that my wife got me for my birthday one year.

For my money a razor clam is about one of the best things there is to eat. Hard to dig them up and the season is short, but great texture and taste. Regular clams can be pretty easy to dig. When I first came out here we went on a fishing boat with a friend of a friend. It was a 52 foot purse seiner and he had put a cabin on the very top part of it for better pilot visibility and wanted to try it out. Plus he wanted to take his wife and some friends on a few day tour of the San Juans. We got to go through Deception Pass in that boat (much more exciting than skimming through it in a power boat).

The main thing was though we stopped on some remote beaches and dug 2 or 3 five gallon buckets of clams. We ended up eating clams for breakfast, lunch and dinner all three days and I couldn't even think about a clam for a few years.

I heard on the radio this morning that some guy is attempting to start a commercial growing operation for geoducks. Now there's a clam for you...Geoducks. He was saying they pay 1000 dollars for a plate of them in China?

I'm guessing geoducks are considered some form of aphrodisiac. Some others are mentioned here SALON Departments: The Moveable Feast. I used to work with a Korean guy and that was a big joke for us. Everytime we or he mentioned some weird food item he'd say, "Oh that's an aphrodisiac." He told me they ate live tiny octopus. They would stick to your throat and then you'd take a quick swig of hot sauce to knock em down. That was the story anyway.

Kind of reminds me of the woman who told me she was in China and they served her some odd insect dish (like they all wouldn't be odd I guess). Anyway she was saying it was because she was the honored guest. I can't help but wonder if sometimes it isn't, "let's see if we can get this tourist to eat a pile of dried grasshoppers...we can tell him/her it's an honor." Reminds me of the time in Singapore my dinner hosts saved the eyeball of the fish for me. It wasn't bad. Kind of chewy.

Probably an aphrodisiac.

Have a good Thursday.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

My Friend Oxbow Lebach - Some Medical Stories - Fair Use Doctrine - Teaching Ethics - Free Haircut!

Any information in this blog may be purely fictional and have no relation to actual events. The person writing this blog is a figment of someone's imagination. I just wanted to clear that up for legal purposes.

This is a site an imaginary, or imaginative, friend of mine Oxbow Lebach created. At least the picture of the guy in the Mexican sombrero looks like someone I know.

He invented The Amazing Swedish MicroTan Tanning System and might know where you can get a hyperdimensional resonator or a flux capacitor or some of the other parts you need to build a time machine, or the best way to use a dishwasher to clean motorcycle parts.

He likes to collect odd facts and stories like Successful Time Travel? - Strange Magazine Interview or maybe the news you get from Weekly World News Reader Survey

He can think up outrageously strange/funny stuff and appreciate goofy humor like The Jerk or more subtle things like Being There Plus he can say a lot of funny things and not crack a smile.

We've worked together for about 17 years now and probably generated as many goofy emails or other funny tales or other on the job jokes, (that at least we think are funny) as anyone who has a theoretically full time job.

We work in a sometimes stressful environment and it's really nice to have someone with a sense of the absurd/funny. Not only is he quick witted to see the funny side of things, but he's played more than a few practical jokes on me.

A couple of examples; one time I took a week long fishing trip to Canada. He found a book of matches from a Canadian Motel and wrote on it "Loved the "fishing" trip with you" and signed it Suzie, then planted it in my briefcase/lunchbox. He thought it would be funny if my wife found it. I guess that was funnier than the time he put the urinal cakes in another guys briefcase.

Another time he sent me an email that made it look like he'd sent an attractive women in our office an email with a doctered-up header, making it look like I'd sent it to her. He'd written, "If I told you, you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me." I took the bait hook line and sinker and thought I must apologize to this woman and explain the situation. I walked to her desk and start babbling about the inappropriate comments about her beautiful body and how it was all a mistake. She's just looking at me, with a confused look on her face. As I'm talking I realize he hadn't actually sent her anything and she thinks I'm off my rocker. ha ha ha.

Someday I might compile the email, and some of the pranks, we have exchanged over the years to see if anyone else thinks they are funny. I should probably wait until he and I retire to protect the innocent. I know he and I can crack each other up. From what I gather most people he shares these gems with, get a kick out of them too.

The nice thing about it is that he's really a helpful guy and has done a lot of good work for the company we work for, for over 25 years. It's interesting that some people can apparently screw around/joke around/fiddle around and get so much done, whereas some unhappy/mean people who apparently work work work work don't seem to get nearly the same amount of productive work done.

I heard a woman on the radio saying yesterday that you have a choice to choose a positive or a negative attitude. She was saying choosing a positive attitude makes your life so much easier. Some people can't help it. We are all wired differently. I feel empathy for people who can't relax and see the funny side. On the other hand if someone is being rude or mean to you or someone you care about it's a little hard at the time to feel empathy...need to take a deep breath and walk away for awhile sometimes.


It's a rainy Saturday to start our July 4th weekend. Not surprising, for some reason the 4th tends to be cloudy and or rainy most years. It's fine with me since it gives me an excuse to sit still and click on my keyboard. That reminds me of a situation we had years ago at work where a guy who was having a bad day most days complained that we were typing to loud. He also didn't like to hear the phone ring so he would unplug peoples phones when they weren't around. He used to refer to my buddy above and me (at least I think he was talking about us) as either deadwood or clowns. We still like to call each other that...because it seems soooo funny to us anyway. Definitely on the clown-side, but I think the deadwood was a bit harsh. We are still fairly animated, and are able to move our lips and some appendages pretty good.

I have to find the poster that friend made me for the fictitous Crossen Clown School and put it up at work again.

We used to work with a pretty pompous guy that had some really serious ideas about good and evil...and would talk about them at work a lot. They ranged from sort of bizarre theological discussions (this particular standard business form is a creation of the Devil) to typical geek rants on the evil of Microsoft vs the good of Amiga (at that time, he liked Apple too, but he was a big fan of the Amiga).

We were working off- site in an office building near a mall then and skateboarders would use our parking lot or steps to skate around sometimes. This guy would occasionally (seriously) blame the skateboarders for things that went wrong with our computer systems. "Those damn skateboarders probably got in here and were messing with the computers last night." There were cipher locks on our doors...but anyway, my friend and I can't let go of the idea that when things are going wrong at work it has something to do with skateboarders. We crack each other up anyway.


We have flex time where I work and the ability to work from home on occasion. That's a nice perk. Especially in an area where the freeways can have bad traffic jams anytime of day.

That reminds me of a story my sister told me about where she works. She's a nurse practitioner in a medical office for a government agency. It's the patients, her, a receptionist and sometimes a doctor in the office. She told me that Carol had decided she would work flex time and start coming in at noon and working until late at night. Sis told Carol, "but you're the receptionist. It's kind of important that you are in the office when we are open and people are here."

I just heard another nurse story about an unidentified Dr. (not from my sister) another nurse, another town. She was talking about how the Dr. she was working with had trouble with reports. He had mixed up a high school kid's report with a 60 or 70 year old overweight out of shape real nice guy, who most everyone in the small town knew. For cause of injury the Doc had written, "injured ankle while pole vaulting."

You get some weird medical care in small towns or anywhere I suppose sometimes. Our town dentist was maybe in his 80's before he retired. Getting a little frail. I remember I thought I was going to have to help him yank out a tooth one time (one of my own).

Another time one of my sisters told me she was working as an aide at the hospital when she was about 16 I think. I was quite a bit older and away from home by then. Anyway... In the small town they had - her, a nurse and the Doctor who thought the 70 year old man "injured ankle while pole vaulting" in the delivery room delivering a baby. The nurse thought it was best to concentrate on the woman's head so she was at the head of the bed talking while the woman was in labor. The baby came out and the Dr. handed it to my sister and said, "What's this baby's apgar score?". Not only was she surprised that he handed her the newborn, she said she had no idea what apgar score meant. Luckily she thought quickly, saw a sign on the wall that said something about apgar, and gave the Dr. a snappy reply like "it's a perfect ten". I think apgar means the overall health of the baby or something. The baby and mother turned out fine.


I've been mulling over the Fair Use Doctrine of Copyrighted material a bit today. I was thinking it was okay to put inline images I'd found other places on the web as long as it was a small part of the work, I attributed them to the author and I was doing it for educational/critical/informational purposes and not for making a profit. I was also thinking any images I used were not put on the web to be sold by the originator anyway...so what was the harm? I'm not plagerizing something as long as I attribute it to the owner.

The law on copyrights is a blurry line. I don't think I'm doing anything wrong but I think I'll cease and desist from sticking any inline pictures that someone else created on my blog. Once I get a new digital camera (our old one got lost) I can create a lot of my own stuff. Plus we have a couple of zillion photographs to scan. Just didn't have any of pictures of Lupine or Slurpees that I needed recently.


The place where I work has been teaching us what they call Ethics (primarily because of some high profile unethical behaviour on the part of some top executives). Teaching ethics in a public setting is an interesting and controversial subject. Some people might argue that if you don't have a personal compass about what's ethical by the time you are an adult, it's too late to learn them. That may be why some adults are put in jail rather than sent to ethics school.

When I was about 4 or 5 my grandmother and I were in the dime store and I shoplifted some candy. She found out after we left; made me go back to the store, tell the owner and apologize. That was a pretty good lesson. Not that it made me into a saint but it was a lesson anyway.

How do we learn ethics? Hopefully from our parents, friends and teachers. It pretty much is the Golden rule I think, treat others as you would like to be treated.

It gets sticky and blurry though. In my mind I can't quite say a bank robber, for instance, is not an ethical person. Certainly broke one of the ten commandments, our law and is a thief. But does that make them a bad person?

Of course not. Could I follow all our laws, the ten commandments and be a bad person? Of course.

Is being a good person the same as being an ethical person?

I don't even know what ethics means. I can say in the corporate world I live in Ethics has somehow been defined to following a huge set of sometimes convoluted, unclear rules that range from acceptable places for a coffee pot or use of plastic fans, to taking or giving bribes. We had some training years ago where they were telling us it was unethical to accept an item of value more than say a coffee cup from a supplier. Or you should never let a government employee pay for lunch/dinner. My buddy and I made up a bunch of hypothetical cases;

Say you and a vendor's employee are backpacking in the high mountains in the summer and an unexpected winter-like storm comes in and you are trapped. He offers to give you a spare jacket he has in his backpack to save your life. What should you do?

Your mother is an employee of the U.S. Forest Service she wants to buy you lunch for your birthday. What should you do?

The point was that you could never make enough rules to cover every situation and if you had to look up the rule to figure out was right or wrong you're screwed anyway.

Interestingly enough the supervisor teaching the class did not have that opinion and seriously thought we should find our moral/ethical compass in the Company rules. I kind of think he may have had a set of religious rules he followed too. He's a jerk and I don't say that about many people. He is also a trained theologian/minister and from what I gather, goes on overseas missions to help poor blighters of some sort. Still a complete jackass, who would hurt people, lie or whatever and not blink an eye. I don't think he deliberately does things wrong...just a clueless not so nice guy. I guess it's the hyprocrisy that bugs me maybe more than anything. If you are a bastard or bullshitter and admit it and are proud of it that's one thing. I'll calm down now...I don't work in or around him anyway. So who cares.

When I listen to some management folks talk about absurd, impossible or impractical policies I think "is that unethical?" Don't you know that's not true? No one can do that, no one does that, and that doesn't work that way. Is lying unethical? It depends on why you are doing it I guess. If part of being a manager requires "suspension of disbelief" on certain things so you can make a living and feed your kids, I'm not going to fault you. Not my cup of tea but that's fine. Most of my circle of friends think it's best to say what we think is the truth which may detract from an ability to be either a Corporate manager or a politician. Oh well, most of us like being who we are and are no happier or unhappier than people with power or money.

I found this an intersting quote about happiness,

"One finding, for instance, shows that both for people lucky enough to win a lottery and those unlucky souls who become paraplegic from an accident, by a year or so after the events their daily moods are about the same as before the momentous occurrences, indicating that the emotional set point changes little, if at all."

in this article Finding Happiness: Cajole Your Brain to Lean to the Left

Sounds like the Dalai Lama is one happy guy.

Just for the record one of the Company rules, which was serious enough to lead to termination, was "Horseplay" or maybe it was excessive horseplay, I forget things. Never knew what that meant, I thought of it as something like giving someone a noogie or sitting on them and tapping on their chest until they say uncle, but it was one of a dozen or so that was in our old company phone books. Things were simpler then....now we have hundreds of policies and procedures we can read at work to figure out how to do the right thing.

Unfortunately even all those rules it didn't prevent our CEO from using Company funds to remodel his suite at the Four Seasons. We are all sinners I'm not going to throw stones, but we don't need a Corporation to teach us what's right and wrong.

Our society is a little unclear on some lessons. I grew up watching Robin Hood, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. This guy has some interesting things to say about corporations and government Jim Hightower's Weblog. I read this book awhile back an it has some really interesting commentary Powell's Books - There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos by Jim Hightower.

Reminds me of a bumpersticker I just saw, "I'm For Someone Else For President".


I just got a free haircut, courtesy of my daugther Rachel, and my wife won a hundred bucks last night playing slot machines. How can I complain? The world is good. Now I have a summer hairdo and enough money for a tank of gas. We have a non-attachment style with money, sort of a Buddhist philosophy I guess. The sun's coming out. I think it's going to be a nice weekend.

Peace to you and yours.