Friday, January 30, 2009

Almost made the Third Mistake

I've read lots of stories about people in peril. They get caught in a flash flood or they see a car barreling down on them. Perhaps they are in a burning building or they see a dog running at them ready to attack. It seems that whenever you hear these stories, the people who survive tell about having to make decisions many times during the experience and if they'd made the wrong decisions, they wouldn't have lived to tell the story. Well, my experience today wasn't nearly that dramatic but I could have gotten myself into a mess.

We've been having dramatic changes in temperature recently where we get snow one day then warm weather the next. But there has not been enough warmth to completely melt the snow and it has been freezing at night. So, there is a lot of ice around. I went out for my walk in the woods today and noticed that the paths were icy. I made the first mistake: I ignored the bad conditions and went anyway.

As I walked, I slipped and nearly fell many times. Also, I found myself in mud in a few places and that was treacherous, too. I wasn't really able to enjoy my walk like I normally do because I had to look at the ground the entire time. This led, partly, to my making the second mistake: I assumed the conditions would get better up ahead.

I stopped from time to time to see if there was anything worth a picture but the woods were completely silent. No birds, no rustling in the underbrush to indicate squirrels or chipmunks were around. I kept going. Then, it finally dawned on me that I was close to making the third mistake: I was going to have to go back through all the mess I had already walked through.

I stopped and decided not to make that third mistake. I took a picture of the path ahead of me (the top picture) and on my way back, took a close-up of the path I had come through to get to this point (the bottom picture to the left). That was enough excitement for me. It felt good to get back on solid footing and into a warm office. The birds will be coming back to the woods soon enough and the path will be much easier to walk.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Walking is free exercise

I had one of those moments tonight that annoy me. After work, I was running a little late to get into the post office before they closed. I normally don't look for a parking spot as close as possible to where I'm going. I don't mind walking and actually like getting a little extra exercise by parking away from the building I'm going to. But tonight, every second mattered as I was trying to get to the post office before they closed. I didn't make it because I had to park too far away.

There is a health club in the same building as the post office. All the spots close to the building were taken up by the people who joined the health club as their New Year's resolution. Isn't it strange that people who are going to the health club for exercise have to take all the parking spots as close to the building as possible? This is why they need to join a club to get exercise - they're not capable of getting their own exercise. They wouldn't need the health club as much if they would change their lifestyle a little bit. Park a little further away from buildings. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Lay off the snacks. But they'd rather spend money to get their exercise.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A sad day for history and sports

It's January 23 and as usual, I checked the This Day in History site to see some events that happened on this day in the past. The site divides up the events into categories like General Interest, Crime, the Civil War and Sports. Usually in Sports, it's something from baseball, American football, soccer (football to the rest of the world), basketball or cycling. In other words, a real sport. The entry for today was in wrestling. Not collegiate wrestling or even high school wrestling but professional wrestling. The World Wrestling Federation (as it was called then). The headline is "Hulk Hogan beats Iron Sheik to first WWF title".

I'm sorry but this is not sport. It is entertainment (to some). They even changed the name to World Wrestling Entertainment to reflect that fact. Yes, I know, the men and women who "compete" in the WWE are in very good shape. They are athletic. I could not do what they do. But the same could be said for acrobats. The same could be said for the Harlem Globetrotters. We don't see Globetrotter scores listed in the sports pages. The acrobats are entertainers and so are the men and women of the WWE. The members of the WWE do not compete. They act out stories where the "winner" is known ahead of time. Mr. Hogan is listed for something that the owners of the WWE had decided before January 23, 1984.

So, I was angry with the This Day in History folks. Then I turn to the Sports Illustrated site and see a heading for "Jan 23: Historic Sports Moments" and what does it list [you will probably have to hit "Next" a couple of times to get to it]? "Hulk Hogan beats The Iron Sheik to become World Wrestling Federation champion for the first time. The victory marked the start of the "Rock 'n Wrestling" era." Good grief.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Day After

Yesterday was inauguration day. I was hoping to watch some of the historic events on TV and our company graciously allowed us to see some of it on our breaks (it was streamed into some of our conference rooms via the Internet and shown on screens with projectors) but we had somewhat of an emergency in the Software Department and I was limited to seeing only some of the preparations leading up to the swearing in and a few minutes of Mr. Obama's speech. I got to see replays of a lot of the action on the news last night and I read the full text of the speech on the Internet. I've read a few reports about the inauguration, too. I do feel that yesterday's inauguration was a historic event. Both because Mr. Obama is the first African-American President and because he takes office under such bad conditions. That's why I title this article, "The Day After". It was nice to see and read about the pomp and excitement of yesterday. It was heartening to see such an intelligent and motivated man become our President. It was thrilling to see the size and enthusiasm of the crowds. But today, the day after, the real work begins.

We're in a real financial crisis. We are in two wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our country is at odds with many other powerful countries in the world. The Middle East is in one of its swings on the "troubling" end of the scale (where the "good" side of the scale seems to top out at "all the countries' armies are within their own borders") as Israel has withdrawn from Gaza after fighting with Hamas over their sending rockets into Israel. India and Pakistan are accusing each other of wanting to go to war because India accuses Pakistan of allowing terrorists to attack Mumbai. While Mr. Obama's speech stressed the need for everyone to pull together to help get through these problems, I worry that people in this country have been forced into a state of subservience to the government's running of everything.

Isn't that ironic? The party in power for the last eight years is the party that wants smaller government. Yet, they tore into anyone who questioned them. They refused to account for their actions. They acted like they knew what was best for us and we could just butt out. They felt they didn't have to answer to anyone. I don't think (at least I hope) this is not the attitude of the entire party. I think it was just the people who were in charge for the last eight years. They are gone. Can we learn to all get involved in our national concerns again? It is going to be a long, hard road.

In a way, I think we have Mr. Bush and his people to thank for Mr. Obama being the new President. If the Bush years had not been as wrenching and painful, perhaps the voters would not have been as willing to elect the first African-American President. If the Bush administration had not been as arrogant and unable to meet problems head on, would the voters have been as willing to elect a man with as little elected office experience as Mr. Obama? I'm not sure. All I know is thatthere has been a welcome change. I am hopeful. I now feel we have a thoughtful man as President. I now feel that we have a man who knows how to make decisions after getting all the facts instead of Mr. Bush who always seemed to have his mind made up before any decision. Mr. Bush talked as if his single mindedness was a virtue. Mr. Bush acted as if "sticking to his principles" and not changing his mind were ethical conduct. As for me, I'm glad we have a leader who, when the situation changes or the facts point in a different direction, has the ability to change course. You don't keep the steering wheel in one position when the road ahead is a curve.

I just realized the other day that Barack Obama is the first President in my lifetime who is younger than me. I'm 57 (soon to be 58) and he is 47. How did he gets so much done with ten fewer years to do it? I could say that about a lot of young people but this is an exceptional case. I have a hard time organizing my desk but this young guy is now the most powerful man in the world. I wish you well, Barack Obama. The hopes of the entire country (and perhaps much of the World) are with you but our hopes are also depending on you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Get used to it

One of the blogs that I read every day is Just Thinking... written by Earl Pomerantz. He is a real writer (as opposed to what I attempt here). His blog has been in my "Other Blogs" list for a while but I haven't written about it until today. His article today is entitled, "Conversation Stoppers". It's very good and the comments are good, too. As a matter of fact, make sure you take the time to not only read Earl's article but to look at the fifth comment (posted by "A. Buck Short" at 9:31 AM on January 19) for some really funny situations that leave a lot to your imagination.

But the reason I'm writing is that, as usual, reading Earl's article reminded me of a conversation stopper in my own life. As a husband, I sometimes disappoint my wife. It's only natural. We can't all be perfect and she realizes this. Most of the time, when I realize that I've caused her to feel badly, I'll go to her with a look as close to our hound dog Charlie as possible and apologize and she'll make me feel better by being understanding and saying, "That's OK."

But if I've done something really stupid or, to her thinking, indefensible, she will say, "Well, I've just gotten used to it." Wow. I have nothing to say after that. But then, nothing more needs to be said. Actually, after that, it's better that I don't say anything because I'm just going to get into more trouble. I know then that I've crossed the line. I then know exactly how she feels and that I'd better get my act together.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Markets, competition and fairness

This entry was prompted by a commentary by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on the CNN website. Really, this entry was prompted by two sentences in the commentary. You don't have to read the entire commentary to understand my anger over the sentences. You should read the entire Frist commentary but here is the section that got me to write my own opinion:

"Initially, conservatives howled because the prescription drug initiative "cost too much." Liberals hated it because it involved the markets and competition."

I'd be mad at this either as a Conservative or as a Liberal. I can't really classify myself as either of these. Politically, I tend to be more liberal but I am more conservative in religion. I am mixed on many social issues which I won't get right now. But I'm trying to be fair here. I personally respect Bill Frist and I know many Democratic senators say things like this too. But I can't comment on everything. I am going to concentrate on the second sentence, "Liberals hated it because it involved the markets and competition." I can categorically state that liberals do not hate the markets and do not hate competition - whether in the markets or in any other area.

One thing that liberals [and everyone I've ever met] do hate is unfair competition and markets that are not competitive. In any competition there are rules and there are judges or referees of some sort. What liberals [and most reasonable people] hate is when people want to get rid of (or lessen the influence of) the judges and referees or to reduce market competition. We are now living through the results of this. There are a lot of reasons to be mad at government (just as we often get mad at the umpire in a ball game) but one of the great strengths of government is that it acts (or should act) as a fair, unbiased referee. When it doesn't do this, it is time to vote them out! Our federal, state and local governments are made up of people of various backgrounds and they always disagree about how to do something but that all averages out so that they become the fairness factor in our markets. Markets and companies must always make decisions in their own self interest. They can't worry about being fair to their competitors. That is the job of the government.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons

I make a pot of tea in the morning when I first arrive at work. It steeps through the day and I pour out a cup as I need it and then walk down to our cafeteria to put in milk (or half and half) and a bit of sugar. If it's late in the day, I'll need to heat up the tea in the microwave. I think tea tastes better when brewed in a pot rather than one cup at a time.

Today, I went through the ritual and, when I went to get the milk, there was none. So, I reached further in the back of the refrigerator to get a new one. I opened it and poured it into my tea and a bunch of lumps appeared. It looked like the stuff had curdled. And it was a brand new container. I knew this because the brand we use has a plastic pouring spout and that has a little plastic stopper you have to separate from the top before you can use it. I was going to have to report this to the folks who buy our supplies - the store must have left this out of the refrigeration unit too long or something. So, to save everyone else the trouble of seeing the curdled half and half, I poured it all down the drain and washed it out (so it wouldn't smell) before putting it in the trash. Then I just got a cup of coffee because I didn't want to walk all the way back to my desk to get a new cup of tea. I opened another new quart of half and half and used that. It was fine.

Just now (it's about 2PM), I went down to have another cup of tea. I put in the sugar and got the half and half and was just about to pour it in when I noticed lumps (of something) in my tea. Good grief. It wasn't the half and half this morning that was the problem. I need to clean out my tea pot. Now I feel guilty about wasting a quart of good half and half. I've also wasted two good tea bags. I should have done a little checking before deciding the half and half was bad. I also need to check my tea pot once in a while.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A quick joke

I cannot take credit for this but I don't remember who told me this one-liner so I can't give that person credit either. I heard this many years ago and it remains one of my favorite quotes. This will be attributed to anonymous:

"The only difference between a two-wheel drive vehicle and a four-wheel drive vehicle is that the four-wheel drive vehicle will get stuck further off the road."

Here's to snow, ice, bad roads and people who have misplaced faith in their cars and trucks.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

It's another new year. How long will I still write "2008" when I'm supposed to write "2009"? That will be my first New Year's Resolution. Last year, I think I still used "2007" until some time in March!

This is the year I cut down on eating Doritos. I eat too many so if I can just cut down, it will be a good thing. I'd like to just stop them entirely but I'm not going to set that as my goal. Last year I cut way down on the coffee I drink and I feel much better for it. Of course, I was able to do it because I switched to tea. My parents both drank tea and it was natural for me to drink it, too. I only started to drink coffee when I worked on construction jobs in the summer between years at college. I wanted to be "one of the guys". Plus, being the youngest and least experienced of the workers, it was my job to get the coffee for the rest of the crew. So, I'd drink a cup during the break. I sort of dropped off the coffee wagon when I got my first real job and switched back to tea. Then, I got a job in the Marine Geology branch of the US Geological Survey and went to sea on research cruises for months at a time. I usually got the 12 - 4 watch (12 noon to 4 PM and then 12 midnight to 4 AM) and it was tough getting through the midnight to 4 AM part without a boost so I started drinking coffee again. After that, I was hooked. I was drinking up to 6 to 8 cups of coffee a day. Not good for sleeping at night. For some reason, even though some studies show that tea has as much or more caffeine as coffee, tea doesn't affect me as much as coffee.

So, here's hoping that eating fewer Doritos (with their salt and spices) will help me feel even better in 2009. May we all have a better year this year than last year.