Monday, March 31, 2008

The Little Squirt's Big Shot

Many years ago I had a friend named Maynard who had a criminal mind. It wasn’t so much that he practiced any criminal activities, he just thought like a criminal. He would point out all sorts of criminal opportunities, like this or that would be so easy to abscond with, or here’s a great confidence scheme that would hood-wink people.

Though he would have made a world class criminal, the only criminal activity I ever knew him to be involved in was when he was a child growing in a Federal Housing Project in Upstate New York. He was poor and grew up in a large family. His father and older brothers hunted and fished to put food on the table. He wanted to grow up and be in the hunting party, so at a young age his parents bought him a BB gun.

Now when a kid has a gun, he or she has to shoot it. Remember that parents, you don’t give a kid a gun and expect them to just look at it and use it only at appropriate times. Maynard took his BB gun onto his porch one day and started shooting. He enjoyed the sound of the BB plunking its target. The ringing sound was especially good when a BB hit a window. He was sure it was a sound only because he couldn’t see that any windows were cracking while being shot.

After about a half hour of this joyful sound, the police showed up and pointed out to him and his mother, who was unaware of what was going on that the sound of the BBs hitting the window was actually the sound of a small circle of glass being popped out the back side.

There were close to a hundred windows in the housing project that were pocked like the photo above on that morning. I don’t recall what his punishment was, but it was a lesson he never forgot or repeated. This all happened about 50 years ago. Think of what would happen to not only the kid, but to his parents if that happened today.
The kid would be taken out to the kid jail in Warrenton and the parents would loose custody. It's sad that the judicial process has totally lost touch with the reality that sometimes people make unintentional mistakes, and there should be a financial payback for unintentional wrongs, but there should also be forgiveness.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hearing is Believing

I’m amazed by the noise we all get used to. The other day I sat in a quiet house. There was no rain or hail hitting the roof. There was no wind and the refrigerator compressor was not running. The heat pump was silent. There were no motorized sounds coming inside from the outdoors; no cars, trucks trimmers, motorcycles or chainsaws.

It was so refreshing sitting there reading only accompanied by the ringing in my ears and the sound of a clock ticking on a wall far away. When you can hear a clock ticking you know it’s quiet.

Though I do have ringing in my ears, I still seem to hear pretty well. I can hear things like when someone turns a dimmer all the way down but not off. I can hear a light bulb buzz a B flat and it annoys the heck out of me. I can hear when my tires need to be rotated. I wonder how much better my hearing would be if I were blind?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Good Deeds, Bad Deeds

Twenty one years ago when I decided to move out here, people back East asked me what I was going to do out here. To most of them I was insane for quitting my job, selling my house and moving three thousand miles away without any job or occupation to go to. They feared I’d starve, piss all my money and return a year later in ruins.

At that time I suppose I was an optimist, and I didn’t take the potential perils all that seriously. I got tired of telling all the concerned friends that I planned to do nothing for a couple years and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. This to them was an unacceptable answer, so I started telling people that I planned on spending my life doing good deeds. I also told them that if I do what I enjoy eventually I will get paid for it.

When one does good deeds without even thinking of it they always seem to be repaid. I was driving past some cows the other day and I noticed one looked injured, so I turned the truck around and drove down the long driveway to the farmer’s house. I’d never met this rancher before, but I had to tell him my concerns. He was grateful I stopped, but told me that cow had a cancerous growth, and that he and the vet have been treating it. False alarm, but no harm, no foul.

I was reminded of the times people have driven by my place and pointed things out to me. Once I was having a chimney fire and a guy stopped by to tell me. Another time people told me of a wounded deer they saw on my property. It is so good that people take the time for good deeds. It is so easy to just drive by and ignore something, but the doers of good deed seem to have paid me back several times over for the good deeds I have done over the years.

And, by the way, I don’t consider it a good deed to come to my house and talk to me about religion. That is the antithesis of a good deed in my book and will spread negatively through the community. Good begets good, and bad begets bad. This can make one realize that people who do bad things more than likely have a lot of bad things happen to them.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Acquired Taste

Every once in a while I hear the term, “Acquired Taste.” This is reserved for things that are so dreadful at first sampling that one must repeat the pain of endurance of whatever it is until we are desensitized to its disagreeable nature.

I’ve listened to music that was an acquired taste. I drink Campari, but I really draw the line at food; especially health food.

I once had some friends who were deeply into natural food which was for the most part tasteless mush with a Hindi name. One night they served a dessert bread after the meal. I took a bite and I nearly vomited. I spat it out. They both looked at me as I asked, “What the hell is that, tobacco bread?”

They laughed and told me what it was, which sounded more like a yoga pose than something someone would stick in their mouths. It was revolting to say the least.

This event was yet another nail in the coffin for my never wanting to eat in public, and this is really getting in the way of being normal.

I have a big speaking engagement coming up. This small organization is paying me big bucks to come to their part of the world to do an all day lecture class. They are very excited and have been preparing for this event for months. They already have sixty people registered and are expecting ninety to a hundred people all together. They’ve invited me to join a group of them for dinner after the lecture, and I can’t tell them I hate eating around people and being around people who are eating. I must be gracious and suck it up. I’m sure I’ll be tricked into eating some sort of regional swill that they have been eating since their ancestors plowed with mules. They take it for granted, but it is an acquired taste for anyone from anywhere else.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you all laughing...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rung Out

I don’t have a real fear of heights. I have been uncomfortable while visiting some heights but quickly become acclimated once I relax and start my mission. Even after working on roof top for an hour or so I feel comfortable walking the ridge or even steep angles without thinking about it.

Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but lately I seem to only take a limited amount of work that involves ladders. I spent a couple hours on Saturday on a ladder replacing some fascia boards that had gutters pulled from them during the storm. I put up new boards, primed and painted them. After only a few hours I was exhausted. It seems the most exhausting work is when your heels leave the ground, be it on a ladder or on ones knees.

It’s also funny how when one is on a ladder people seem to feel obligated to blow their horns and wave at you as they drive by. Yes, I’m on a ladder holding a twenty-foot 2 by 6 with one hand and hammering a nail through it with the other hand; sorry I couldn’t wave back.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It is still a surprise to me when I hear of someone who has had their property vandalized. I wonder if it is being done by someone with personal malicious intent, if it is a random act of opportunity.

I had a neighbor who lived over the hill at the back end of my property. He’d wander over from time to time to tell me of events where some local neighbors had their homes broken into or had their property vandalized. His horrific stories even convinced me to lock my door when I was away for a time, but then I realized that when ever I left my door unlocked I often came home to surprises. Sometimes I’d come home and find plants or pies or cookies or an occasional check on my table from friends or business associates. When you lock your door there is a good chance that people won’t leave things by your door from fear that something will be stolen or eaten by animals.

In my living here over the past twenty years I have only had one event of vandalism ever hit my property. One night during Spring Break about fifteen years ago at about 2am I heard a car stop in front of the house. I then heard a clunk, some laughter, a door slam and then the car sped off. The next morning I found my rural mail box had been ripped out of the ground and tossed aside. I found this happened to the mail boxes of other neighbors as well.

As I prepared to replace the post I thought about deterrents so I wouldn’t have to ever revisit this problem. Not only did I cement the post deep into the ground, but I lined the bottom of the board the mail box is mounted to with carpet tack strips, which are the thin boards that are spiked with nails that hold carpets in place around where floors meet the walls. I also ran sheetrock screws through some wood on the back of the box, so if you grabbed the box from the bottom or from the back you would shred any clothing or skin that touched it.

It was just about a week later when I heard a car pull up and stop again at 2am. I am a light sleeper. Suddenly I heard a blood curdling shout, followed a bunch of “Oh Shit, Oh Fuck” statements. A car door slammed and sped away. The next morning I saw my mailbox was still standing as were all the rest of the mailboxes down the road from mine, but the boxes leading up to mine had been uprooted again. We haven’t had another mailbox incident on our road since.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's a Wonder They Haven't Killed Us All

The present state of most medical records is a disaster. Doctors can operate on a patient who is physically thousands of miles away via a computer and a remote robot, but when you are sitting right there in front of them they look bewildered when you bring up something you discussed with them just the week before.

I was at the Dentist office yesterday and he asked about a tooth that is showing some signs that a filling may be necessary. I had to tell him that he had done a glass ionomer filling on that tooth two years previous and I suspected that there was some micro leakage on the lingual/distal edge. He was surprised I knew my filling locations.

Now I don’t expect him to remember everything, however they keep an electronic chart on me along with a paper chart. Had the electronic chart been set up correctly he should have been able to look at the entire history of each tooth in my head. He should have been able to see a comparative historic periodontal charting. He should have been able to flip through a historic progression of the several radiographs I’ve had of that tooth over the years. But no, each time I go in there it is like I’m there for the first time.

Sometimes the staff shuffles through my records that have been layered in my chart over the last 15 years. Eventually I ask what event they are looking for and then I’ll give them the range of dates to look for or I’ll answer their question from my memory.

Charts are basically used to cover their asses in a law suit, but they could be so much more. Data bases are powerful programs that should be used to show progress in either direction.

The doctors we go to have no idea of what they prescribe to us. Every chart should have a sheet of medicines only. If you visit your physician for any reason, you should bring all your medications with you. Don’t forget all that non prescription stuff. Some of that may react with what you are already taking.

It will be so nice when we have a down load of our medical records to carry with us. That is if the data is organized and usable by others in the medical field. We really need to advocate for our selves and more importantly know our medical history. We need to act as though we are physicians who are hiring someone for a consultation on a complicated case. That case is our lives.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ducks Deluxe

There is something about ducks that add quality and relaxation to one’s life. If you were fan of the Sopranos you will remember that it was the calming influence of ducks in Tony Soprano’s pool that seemed to set the stage for conflict in Tony’s life that lead him to panic attacks and eventual mental health therapy. Any other invader would have been dealt with, but this simple family of ducks seemed to pull the character into wanting a simple life.

Recently, I had an over night stay in the Portland area where I made a reservation at hotel I had never visited before. Upon arrival in the artificially landscaped parking area I felt very much at home and comforted by the two mallard drakes that were scavenging in the undergrowth.

The idea of ducks is much more charming than the reality of ducks. Though many breeds have beautiful plumage and are able to deal with human activity at a near distance, they can be violent towards one another. They can be noisy, and they crap all over the place.

When I moved here, the previous owner of my house left me a mallard drake. I named him Howard. This duck would walk up to you in a friendly way but when he was in striking distance he would grab onto your pant leg like a snapping turtle. He would not let go until you physically removed him and put him back in his pen.

Though he was a psycho; he added value to my little farm. Another benefit was that I never had a slug on my property as long as he lived there.

I normally locked Howard up with the chickens at night, but there were some nights where he couldn’t be lured or caught and was then allowed to run free, but one night I found him in several pieces back by the pond. It was a sad day for me.

Every home that has a missing member seems to have their ghost occasionally wander in and out from time to time. My mind is often visited by the memories of our dog who always sat in the kitchen in perpetual hope that some morsels of food would fall to the floor. I am visited by the memory of our first cat that never liked being any higher than the ground and would drape himself over my feet like a personal foot warmer. I look out and I can still see a white horse with black eyes looking out over the gate for me to bring her some grain.

I think that maybe when I get my new chicks this year, I might be tempted to add a few ducklings in the order as well to start making new memories.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I am getting more annoyed by the pundits as time goes by. I don’t care which side they are on. I am just as annoyed by Jim Hightower as I am by Rush Limbaugh. Everything they say is truth that is bent far past recognition.

The problem is that the truth of any situation is usually so boring that it needs to be bent just so people who like to argue can discover points and counter points.

Sadly it is often the winners who have their version history adopted as truth. In reality many of the historical events were in reality hardly worth a mention.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Cracker Jack of Disappointment

I was once being interviewed and I was asked what my biggest disappointment in life had been. I thought for a moment and then it came to me and I said, “It was the first time I tried Asti Spumante.” For those unfamiliar that is a sweet white sparkling wine made from fragrant Muscat grapes, often served as an apéritif or dessert wine.

I guess I’ve lived a charmed life if that is how I rank my disappointments. With this in mind I think I have to confess to a new disappointment. This would be Cracker Jacks. I recently purchased a small 1 ¼ ounce snack bag and was dismayed through the entire consumption process.

Yes, there is still a prize in every box or bag of Cracker Jacks, but I suppose due to the choking hazard the prizes have been reduced to prizes printed on paper. They don’t even have those cool tattoos that they used to have where you wet your skin and place the paper tattoo on your wet skin and the image would come off the paper onto your arm.

The caramel coated popcorn was fine, but they were not the large popped corn I remembered from the past. The disappointment was the nuts. Now peanuts are less expensive than dirt, but somehow they have now resorted to using the smallest nuts they could possibly find. The nuts were absolutely bitter and there were only nine and one half nuts in the bag…and they were barely coated.

Frito Lay has really dropped the ball on this product. I wouldn’t be surprised to one day see a tear in the eye of Sailor Jack and Bingo over the misrepresentation and treatment of a product that has been a national snack since forever.

I really hope that Frito Lay has blog spies out there and will render a comment here. My disappointment is vast. Yes, I am that shallow.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Roberts Did Good

I went to the Richard Lee Town Hall on Wednesday. There was a collection of supporters and detractors there. There was one person there posing as some sort of a journalist who didn't hide his lack of objectivity, while Joe Gamm and Carrie Bartoldus behaved themselves and scribbled notes quietly in the back of the room through out the meeting and said nothing. It will be interesting to see how their impressions compare. Joe Gamm did find himself at the pointy end of the stick on several occasions when references were made to the slanted reporting by the Daily Astorian, but he did not let himself address any of the accusations.

Richard was bold yet sincere and appeared to have all his ducks in a row and handled questions with a healthy sense of humor. Though most people who were there already had their minds made up and have probably already voted, I can say it was a good forum and maybe a mind or two were changed.

However, an unsung hero there was Patricia Roberts who was sitting quietly in the back of the room. Richard deferred some questions to her being she is the BOCC Chair. Patricia was eloquent and showed she has a great understanding of County business and the challenges of the things placed before the BOCC. Her statements were comprehensive to all concerns, and she presented herself as one who deeply studies and understands all sides of matters brought before her.

One of the responsibilities of the BOCC is to vote on issues. Hearing her speak reminded me of how diligently the Commissioners work at the issues brought before them. What the public sees is what is reported from the public meetings, but what they don’t see is the volumes of information that Commissioners slog through and all the meetings and phone calls they are a part of.

Patricia came up with several examples of how this Commission has wisely used their resources for the betterment of the County infrastructure and public safety without asking the tax payers for one additional penny.

It is easy for constituent voters to trust that they are given enough information about the candidates from the editorial pages, but nothing could be further from the truth. Editorials are the opinion of one person on a bully pulpit. Responsible voters owe it to the candidates to actually get out there and meet them and ask questions. With the upcoming election I encourage all to go to at least one candidate forum and actually take time to meet the candidates. Voting for any candidate or issue by using only the information you glean from a news paper is akin to selling your vote to the editor.

I do not live in Patricia’s district, but I have a lot of respect for her and what she does. I do challenge the voters in her district to meet her and the other candidates in the upcoming election. You may be impressed by the knowledge and character of those on the ballot. For me, Patricia raised the bar by what she had to say at the Town Hall.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bad Bunnies

Way back in the early days of our relationship my wife thought it was a good idea to add some rabbits to our farm. At this point we had no other animals other than the dog. We had a massive garden and lots of fruit trees, grape, kiwi and hops vines. I figured it would be alright so she got a Dutch Lop from someone, for which I needed to build a coop.

My first coop was not up to her liking, so I had to build another, which was also not to her liking. I then built the ultimate coop with polished hardware and all sorts of amenities. It only lacked central air.

After only a week, she deduced that her rabbit was lonely, so she got another rabbit. This time it was a Hoto.

Sexing rabbit kittens is difficult so you generally can’t determine their sex until they are adults. Two females would have been nice, but we ended up with two males. When they reached maturity we saw their constant need to express their sexuality. Yes, we had gay rabbits. The constant humping was maddening, so we made an appointment to have then fixed. This is a difficult procedure because rabbits’ testicles are actually inside their body, not a dangling appendage like most mammals.

Fixing them helped, but they still partook in the occasional hump every now and then. It was tolerable.

Besides their mansion they had an enclosed pen on the ground where they could eat grass and dig holes. They got to live freely in the greenhouse during the winter.

One day I went out and found the Hoto was dead. Rather than restart another rabbit adventure we found it best to give the Dutch to someone who really wanted a rabbit. After giving the new owner the rabbit and the coop the Dutch somehow got away from the new owner and lived a wild life for the next year and a half. The Dutch could not be caught.

I post this story as a warning for those who have the intention of getting rabbits for their kids for Easter…Don’t Do It! That is unless you want to show the kids what rabbit love is all about or want to teach them about diversity if you get rabbits of the same sex. These critters never give it a rest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't Laugh

I don’t care how much of a people person one might claim to be, I am willing to bet there are people in your life; at home, at work, at school or at a business you frequent that you simply can not stand. I am not a people person so my list is lengthy.

My latest pet peeve is laughers. Sure it’s nice to hear the joy in a good occasional laugh, but I frequent a place where there is one woman who laughs are reminiscent of the sound of Flipper. Worse yet, they are non stop. It is like hearing a television from a different room. You can’t see the show, but you can hear the canned laughter erupt every five seconds.

When ever I visit this place I can hear this woman, never fail. Every five seconds Flipper comes to life. What could possibly be that funny? How can her co-workers stand it? My interactions there are brief and I’m ready to wield a hatchet and hack up cubicles and their contents until there is silence. I mean, damn…

One good thing is that it makes me appreciate the silence when I leave, but Flipper is now in my head.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This was the first weekend in many weeks where I’ve actually been able to stay at home. The rain on Saturday afforded me the opportunity to have the luxury of a nap. What a luxury it was.

Normally when I go to bed for the night I will sleep on one side or the other, however for some reason when I nap I will sleep on my back. This is probably because if I napped on my side I’d sleep for six hours.

Anyway, I was napping on my back in a deep wonderful sleep and somehow I felt like one of the cats had jumped up on the bed and was purring furiously. It woke me up, but when I fully came to, I realized that it wasn’t a cat purring at all, but it was my snoring that woke me up. This makes me wonder if snoring is actually a manifestation of ultimate human contentment, a restful afternoon sleep in a warm bed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let's Not Make-up

I’m not a big fan of makeup. I often see it applied so poorly that it looks like the wearer applied it in the dark with tools from the kitchen drawer. The other extreme is that there is so much that the wearer looks like they just came off the set of a John Waters film.

I can understand the cultural/theatrical aspect of applying makeup, but I really don’t think it’s called for on a daily basis. I do understand that it is a ritual and that some women wouldn’t consider leaving the house without the paint, but I find so much charm and warmth in a natural face without cosmetic alterations. There is a certain honesty in a face that doesn’t hide freckles. Natural eye lashes softens a look and will take years off ones face.

There is something grotesque about a foundation that makes one look like a kabuki performer. There is something grotesque about the line on the neck where the makeup ends.

Most women feel that they look better with red lips and blue stuff above their eyes and black stuff outlining their eyes, but let’s face it, if you woke up one morning looking like that naturally you would seek medical help immediately.

Can you imagine what sort of chemicals is in that makeup? It’s amazing that faces can survive this daily onslaught of chemical pore fillers without systemic toxicity.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What Your Art Says About You

I find it odd to go into someone’s office who displays pictures of predators. I’ve seen them in doctors, lawyers and other professional offices; prints of wolves and cougars. Are they trying to send some sort of subliminal message to their clients? I'm not sure if I want to deal with them when I see this sort of worship going on, or even worse, having them identifying with these predators.

I was recently driving behind an RV that had a painting of a mountain scene with a giant cougar head in the center. What the hell is that all about? First I wonder who would actually pay for that sort of thing, next I wonder what sort of message are they sending to others on the road? If an RV were to have a factual painting it should have a giant hogs ass painted on the back.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Clear Waters

I miss clear rivers. The river water here isn’t quite so clear unless you pack yourself up way up into the hills. On a good day you may be able to see down a couple of feet in the brackish Columbia or Lewis and Clark River. If you go up the Lewis and Clark above the 400 line the water can be clear to eight or ten feet if it hasn’t rained for a month or so, but the river takes on color after a day of mist.

I’ve been thinking about some of the rivers I’ve been on in Upstate New York like the Ausable or the Blanc River in Quebec that run clear and deep and fast with water so clear it resembles liquid air.

It was always fun to spot fish of any size swimming like ghostly shadows in these clear rivers. Sometimes they are motionless in the river and you don't see them until you frighten them into moving. Though I’m not into fishing so much any more. I suspect if I had the opportunity to return to these rivers I’d be searching for black sand these days. I’d rather pan through black sand that harass fish in the wild, especially since gold is now up to $1,000 an ounce. (Sorry Matt)

Friday, March 14, 2008


Many people have no idea of what pi is or why it is such a cool formula. Much of the coolness of pi comes from it being an irrational number and also a transcendental number; meaning its fractional numbers never repeat in a pattern. To calculate divide 22 by 7 and you will see what I mean.

Pi is a convenient formulaic tool, which simply allows one to measure across a circle and multiply that figure by 3.14… to find out the linear dimension outside the circle. This formula was helpful to me when I built a round pen for my horses. My round pen was 60 feet across which meant that I would need 188.4 feet of fencing to go around it.

It is so easy to get bogged down in math, but if you can remember a few formulas you can move through many projects with confidence.

Every profession has roots in mathematics. It is good to get acquainted with your roots from time to time. Every carpenter and musician should get acquainted with Pythagoras. Every accountant and bookkeeper should acquaint themselves with Pacioli. Warriors and communication specialists should study Archimedes. Also those who study the psychology of obsession should study him as well. Everyone needs to find their mathematical patron and matron saints.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Talkin Bout My G G Generation

I am a part of the Boomer Generation. After that era, children were known as "Gen X’ers." This generation was born and for the most part may have at best known only a grand parent or a great grand parent of the depression era.

Shortly after the last X’er was released from the maternity ward Gen Y started. Y was and is a more conservative and traditional group that questions everything. If Gen X kids were Goth on a hole, Gen Y is back to taking shop classes and joining the scouts. There is little face value with them. Everything gets questioned and re-ordered in to logic.

I’ve since learned that the new kids on the block are called Generation Z. They have a logic attitude about them that they reinforce with technology. They are fearless and inquisitive.

The strange thing I see about this is that the “Generations” are like oil and water. Each generation has their own work styles and ethics. Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. X’ers were born between 1965 and 1982. Gen Y’ers were born between 1983 and 2000. Gen Z is also known as Generation 911. They were born from 2001 and will continue being born until 2021.

If one thinks the generation gap effects the parent/child relationship, consider it in the work place. It's a wonder anything ever gets done. It is a skillful employee that can cross over and understand the generation before or after them and know how not to ruffle feathers. Every once in a while Jaggy writes about her frustration of being the youngest employee in her working environment.

I come across it often as well when I'm working with old school agriculture organizations who hire me to come out to speak to a group or do a class for them. Somehow the person in charge usually has the technological limit that stops at the FAX machine. They don't use e-mail and they are too impatient for snail mail, so everything needs to be faxed to them. This is when I have to consider the generational thing and hope that those who are younger than I are as understanding when I eventually allow my technological rationale to slip away from me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Baby Face

A friend just hired a new employee who started their job this week. I met him, seems like a nice fellow, but when I got my friend on the side I asked her if she hired him because she missed having a high schooler around since her son is now off to college. She got all embarrassed but explained that he is actually much older than he looks. Yeah, yeah, yeah…

It is times like this when I realize how old I am getting. There was a time when I was as young as this fellow and I felt like I ruled the world. Now a-days I meet people in their 30s and realize that they are young enough to be my children. It wasn’t all that long ago when I was dating women in their 30 who were older than me.

Welcome to the work force, Baby Face.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Write to Remember and Then I Forget

I think that I write too much. Case in point, I was recently walking into the building where my friend, Barbie works. I was probably about fifty feet from her office I heard her distinctive laugh. It’s a great laugh and one that make you feel good if she is laughing as something that you may have said that was witty, but not a laugh you want to hear if she just caught you in an embarrassing situation.

She was laughing so I popped into her office to see what was tickling her funny bone, and I was honored to see that she was reading my blog. She quoted the line that I had written, and I frankly didn’t remember writing that line. I asked if she was reading what I had written or if she was reading a comment left by someone. The line just didn’t seem familiar to me at all, and it was a good line. I couldn’t recall the context in which I had written it.

She invited me to look over her shoulder, and there it was; something I had written and quickly forgotten. I was pretty embarrassed to find her laughter from my words turning into laughter over me being a dumb ass for forgetting my own words.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Buzz Words of Sales

While driving through a rural area of Oregon recently I saw some road signs that were almost representative of the old Burma Shave campaign. The signs held words that are now buzz words that entice us to buy.

The first sign said, “Oregon Grown.” I like that. I’m into supporting the local economy. The more local it is the better I like it.

The next sign said, “Organic.” OK, that sells a lot, but I don’t usually fall prey to this buzzword because I have little respect for certifying agencies, especially Oregon Tilth. However, it got me to read the next sign.

“Free Range” was the next sign, so I’m thinking poultry. There are no free range cattle in Tillamook County unless there is a broken fence. I like free range because animals can actually have a life before they are sacrificed for our nourishment.

The next sign simply said, “Fire Wood.” Yes, fire wood can be all those things. It can also be “Aged to Perfection”, “Hand Sliced.” Good marketing can go a long way with well chosen descriptions of what ever one is trying to sell. If I were in the market for fire wood I would have supported this individual, not only because he exaggerates about his product, but because he cares enough about it to exaggerate.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's All Connected

Modern transportation is a pretty amazing concept and reality. Considering it all began with trails that early hunters and traders used to hunt for food and trade goods with distant villages we have since developed interstate and international highways. I find it interesting that if one had a reason to, one could leave their driveway and drive ribbons of roads and end up at Hudson Bay or Terra Del Fuego. Every road connects to other roads which connect to other roads.

It’s interesting to think of all the petroleum that has been used to create all that asphalt. It’s a wonder the ground doesn’t collapse from the void left behind when the oil is removed from the ground.

I always find it odd when a road or a bridge is called “The Road or The Bridge to Nowhere.” There is one in Alaska and Seattle. The Astoria Bridge was once called “A Bridge to Nowhere.” I wonder how the residents of Washington felt about that? Personally I would love to live in a place that was deemed “Nowhere.”

Being that my neighborhood has gained in popularity I no longer live in “Nowhere.” The traffic out my way is amazing. It used to be one car passed my house every half hour. Now there is a constant stream of traffic.

A funny thing is that one development that generates the most traffic in my area is suddenly finding itself in transition. All the folks who purchased these new homes are finding out that they can’t afford to live out here, so all the homes are on the market again. What a waste of good forest land. Those homes were totally unnecessary. There were plenty of homes that needed new owners elsewhere. There were enough roads out there already without creating a new one.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Entertainment

Have you ever dated someone in the entertainment industry? Did you find it to be a one sided relationship and that you were merely there to feed an ego?

I once dated a minor local (east coast) rock star. It felt as though I were just along for the ride. Her stage persona was mild and sheepish and somewhat dingy, but her off-stage ego was stellar. We had some fun and then we fizzled out and I don’t remember why. I guess it was inevitable and it all worked out well for the both of us.

I looked her up on the net today. She’s still out there working her music. I heard some samples of her stuff and it sounds the same as it did in the 80s, which isn’t bad. I never have been able to continue doing something for 30 years without changing it somewhat if not dropping it all together. She must really love what she does.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I miss the maps that I was able to collect as a child. Back then, one could obtain great maps for free from racks in gas stations. I would get one of each from the Esso station, and then head over to the Sunoco station and finish off my collection by visiting the Shell and the Texaco stations. By the time Mobil came to town they were no longer giving maps away for free.

Maps were great to hang on a wall. With the colorful wiggly road lines one could almost see them as Jackson Pollock creations.

Maps were also great to visualize where you were in relation to other places. My favorite use for maps was for covering school books with them. In my school we were given our school books and we were expected to cover them to protect them so future generations of children could use them. Maps were great for this purpose since they were large sheets of paper, and they contained all sorts of useful information on them. They also went a long way to help one through a boring section of class. One could pick a spot on the map and develop a fantasy about what it would be like to go there instead of going over those damn times tables again.

I still have some maps and an atlas or two, but I sadly admit that I use the internet for map services more often than I consult paper maps. I had a GPS device for about a week and I hated it and sold it on ebay.

I wonder if future generations will lose the skill of using a map just as many of us don’t possess the skill to use a sexton. Worse yet, I fear that future generations will also lose the skill to fold up maps for storage. We may be totally doomed when the power goes out.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Kostal Kitsch

While driving down the Coast it seems that every little berg and hamlet has a shop where one can buy things such as statuary of gulls perched on a piece of driftwood or on something that looks like a piling. Now to me, gulls are rats with wings. Though social creatures that tolerate and thrive from human activity, they are troublesome in their numbers. Visit the transfer station some day and watch them fight and squawk and shitting on everything in sight. If gulls started appearing on my lawn I would have to review my position regarding having a dog.

I just wonder if there are actual people out there who purchase these gull statues and think they are charming. This could truly be the next incarnation of the pink flamingos that appear on someone’s lawn, except they would be harder to get rid of. At least there are people who collect pink flamingo items.

Someone must be buying them. They are for sale everywhere. Or is it possible that these shops have had them since the 50s? It may be kind of like the myth of the Christmas fruit cake, wandering the earth like spirits that can't die.

Next, is anyone buying those cedar wind mills that you see people selling out of vans at any wide spot in the road? I never see anyone with one in their yard. They are too small for the miniature golf courses and generally too useless and ugly for mass consumption. The only place you might see them is in the yards of the people who make them, and somehow I doubt one would see them there either.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What's In Your Rig?

We are all used to seeing local pick-up trucks and the cargo in their beds. Around here the items most often found it pick-up beds are fuel tanks, fishing gear, empty cans, coolers and dogs. However if you travel in other parts of the state you will find all sorts of other regional cargo like surf boards, wood, trash, engine parts.

Some people have vanity pick-ups that never carry anything in them but occasional rain. It’s hard to believe that people would buy a pick-up truck and never use it to haul stuff.

On a recent trip to Coos Bay I found that their regional pay load was much different than ours. Just about ever truck bed down there contains a 4-wheeler. No motorcycles, just 4-wheelers. Pick-up owners down there spend their recreation time riding the dunes. They also often have a couple on the truck and even more on a trailer they are pulling behind.

Folks down there could immediately tell I was from out of town. I have hay in my truck bed. It’s not that I drive around with bales of hay. It’s just that I haul hay so often that I’ve given up on cleaning the scraps out of the truck. The loose hay just sits there and turns to compost. I try to clean it out quarterly and add it to the garden. I’m long past due for a clean-out, but I have to get hay again today.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Road Side Memorials

I used to do a lot of driving on the East Coast and I have to say that I never saw road-side memorials there like I see here in Oregon.

I recently drove down to Myrtle Point to give a lecture and it seemed that not ten miles would pass without seeing a white cross beside the road, decorated with a wreath, or flowers, or stuffed animals, or photographs marking the spot where someone’s loved one lost their life on the road. There are several in Clatsop County as well on Hwy 30, 101, 105 and 26. There are even some back on country roads.

It’s alarming that I know more people who have died in automobile crashes than from any other cause. The next would be suicide. I lost my eldest brother in a car crash. He was driving down a road when someone who was leaving a convenience store pulled out in front of him. Though his death would have been totally prevented had he been wearing a seat belt.

I once pulled out in front of a car like that when I was 17. Fortunately, I and the driver who struck my car were wearing seat belts. I couldn’t live with myself that the driver died in the crash.

I when I was in my 20s, my divorce attorney ran into the back of a semi and was beheaded. Many childhood friends died in wrecks as well.

I recall the first roadside fatality I saw as a kid. It was a drunk driver who hit a utility pole near my house. The car was nearly sliced in half. I recall seeing the driver by the reflection of the police car lights. He was slumped over the wheel, dead. There were beer cans on his dash board. I didn’t know him, but I’m sure that forty years later someone still thinks of him and remembers the last time they saw him alive. I didn’t even know him and I remember seeing him dead.

I used to think that these white cross road side memorials were gaudy, but now I see them and I reflect on the lives that were lost and how fragile we really are even with seat belts and air bags. When I drive by them I try to imagine what when wrong and I slow down, making sure I don’t succumb to the same fate.

Monday, March 03, 2008


I wonder about the word “onomatopoeia.” I wonder if a better word could have been used. It can’t be used to describe itself because there is no sound to mimic.

Yiddish is definitely an onomatopoeiac language not so much because the words mimics any particular sound, but the words sound exactly like the activity or state of mind which it describes. When you hear the word “schlep” you immediately know what it means.
See if you can tell the meaning of the words below by their sound:
Chutzpah, Dreck, Glitch, Kibits, Klutz, Meshuga, Nebbish, Putz, Schlemiel, Schmo, Schnoz, Shtick, Yutz…

These words and most Yiddish words are perfectly descriptive of the situation without translation.

OK, admit it. Most of you had no idea what an onomatopoeia was when you first started reading this. Had the word been Yiddish you would have understood it perfectly.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sweetening the News

A long while ago I complained that I don’t take TV news seriously when they sweeten a story by playing a music track beneath the news. Well now I can no longer listen to NPR news because they sweeten their news with programmed sounds. I driving somewhere the other day and they are doing a story and they bump up the sound of a police siren.

The sound system in my truck is so good that I thought there was a cruiser behind me. It scared the crap out of me. Later in the newscast there was the sound of an engine revving, and it sounded like my truck. I looked at the tachometer to see what the hell was going on, and then I realized it was the radio. I don’t need this crap when I’m driving. From now on I’m going to turn off the news and turn up Marilyn Manson and drive on.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

This Window

The photo above is what inspires my writing today. I was cruising Flickr and it just popped out at me. This looks very much like the place where spent my summers in Canada while I was a lad. It looks like the outer wall of my bedroom and I often slept with my window open with the curtains often being enough to keep the mosquitoes out.

Where I stayed was a primitive farm on a lake in the wilderness. They did have running water and they did become electrified just a few years previous to my first arrival, however there were no phones or television or machinery. They also had an ice house for their cold storage. They had draft horses to haul their ice from the lake and their logs from the forest and to plough their gardens.

This is where I first saw self sufficiency in action. Nothing was wasted. They grew all their own food and raised their food animals. Their infrequent runs to town were for things they simply could not grow or make on their own.

I was always fascinated by their draft horses. They roamed the unfenced property. The only fences were around the gardens to keep the horses and other livestock out. They didn’t need fences to keep the horses in because the only place the horses could go if they wanted to run away was in the lake or in the woods. Needless to say they were very content to wander and graze in the open areas and never ran away.

Some horses can be very curious. They had one Belgium horse that would often poke its head in my open bedroom window and wake me up. Draft horses are usually large animals with necks and heads nearly the size of a file cabinets. There is something startling about waking up with that sort of presence in your bedroom. After a week or so I just slept through those events.

When I saw this photo I was taken back to a time when a very tall horse poked its head in a window that looked very much like this.