Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cape Sebastian

Dear Friend and LBR Deano posted a comment to the post below this one--the Feb. 27 post.  Here is the text of his comment: "Tsunami hits Oregon shores! Lora & I spent the day at the impact zone of Cape Sebastian where we witnessed the GIANT crashing waves, 30 foot waves, about 8 seconds apart, coming in sets every 4 minutes. Anticipated rise above normal from the tsunami in our area was predicted to be just .7 foot. So the giant waves were more from the moon and storm that gave us over 5 inchs of rain the day before. All in all it was amazing sitting so close to the inpact zone as we were on the cliffs with blue skys, one of the very few clear days in months. Deano

Susun and I have been to this place and it is awesome. Hence, we felt compelled to embed a Oregon State Parks YouTube Video of Cape Sebastian in this blog post--here goes:

THANKS, Deano!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010

I am going to try to tell this day to the best of my ability.

Last night, I was very tired and went to sleep about 8 pm. I slept 5 hours straight, waking at 1 pm for the "call of nature." I then slept another 2.5 hours straight and then from 3:30 am until 6:30 am. All-in-all, I would call that a GREAT night's sleep.

I worked on the internet for 2 hours until Susun returned from her dog-sitting gig.
We had custom oatmeal for breakfast.

Someplace during the course of the morning, I discovered the Chile Earthquake and its potential impact on The Hawaiian Islands. This discovery changed the day.

First, Susun contacted Stasea Rae and then the "tsunami watch" began. Susun was glued to the TV and all of the words that fell forth from therein.

Meanwhile, I actually went to the office to do some stuff. I happened to meet with Emily H. there for a nice long talk. I actually went to the office a total of 4 times today.

Meanwhile, I had some email interchange with Mike in Clayton. Mike agreed to become the very first partner for "Idaho Volunteer, Inc." (iV) So, I spent 6 hours today messing with some way that Mike could sign up to be a partner with iV.
While it was very frustrating to enjoy failure for so long today, I endured success later in the day and was finally able to enable Mike to sign the partnership agreement online and finalize it today.

Why is that important? It was precisely four years ago today--February 27--that we sat in a title company office in Arizona and signed the papers that propelled us to Idaho. So, this day is aa anniversary. It was very important for me to be able to have some actual SUCCESS today in signing on Partner #1 for iV.

I have to admit, I would have been bummed out if I would have totally failed to make this happen. Luckily, I found an online forms company and they are great.Click here to go to the webpage that shows the entire form in 100% of its glory.

Meanwhile, Susun was dealing with all sorts of variables. Her dog-sitting clients are in Hawaii and they were moved to a top floor of their hotel as a precaution. For quite some time, there was doubt they would catch their late night flight tonight. Luckily, it appears they will be leaving the Big Island soon.

Meanwhile, Susun had a Symphony Ushering gig tonight, too, in addition to dog dealings. Well, gee, it sure must sound like a complicated day. It was. Meanwhile, I decided to put my toe into WINCO. WOW--what a wild & crazy place to be.

Have a great night and enjoy Many Cheers! jp

Friday, February 26, 2010

Back home

Everything went smoothly and I walked inside the house at 5:39 pm.  So great to be back on Real Time!
Susun went all out for her welcome--a great sign and TWO balloons--one hidden in my basement workshop--she even CLEANED my basement workshop--now that's a REAL welcome home.  She's set the bar pretty high for the next time she travels.  Gee, I am already thinking, "What can I do to top that?"

She made this awesome dinner--I took a picture of it and will post it tomorrow.  Grilled Salmon, fresh green beans, fresh cauliflower, incredible salad--WOW!  talk about setting the bar high, hum...

Unpacking and tending to stuff.  Will write more tomorrow.  Glad to be home.

PS--I did write yet another water report over on the Arizona blog.  Click here to read it.

Comment moderation turned back ON

Sorry, Loyal Blog Readers (LBRs), I had to turn the Comment Moderation back ON this morning.  Yep, I got spammed by a nasty commenter.  I'm not even sure how to remove the offending comment.  It looks like it's from the Ukraine.  Luckily, it does have profanities, just a veiled death threat.  That's the trouble with the internet these days, even an lowly blog like mine can still get hit.  So, there will always be a delay once again when you post your comments.  I am sorry to have to do this.  It was fun having comments unmoderated for as long as we did.

(PS--Added later--I did figure out how to delete the comment--it's gone forever.)

Didn't sleep much better and finally gave up attempting to pretend I was sleeping and arose at 5:30 am.  At least I can take solace in knowing the REAL time was actually 6:30 am!  This is fake time up here.

Not much in the morning CDA newspaper.  The local Native Americans are having their Winter Blessing Ceremonies right now from Thursday to Saturday.  I wish I could have gone to them yesterday.  Even though I have no beefs with the conference, the Ceremonies would have been a LOT more fun!

There's a lot of stuff I wish I had the time to do, explore, check out and otherwise enjoy.  I guess that means we will have to return here someday.  I would imagine it's a total zoo scene in the warm weather.  Guess we'll have to find out.

I don't have to leave here until 11 am, well before checkout.  I've decided to forego any of the morning seminars.  I guess that means I can do at least a little bit of exploring around these parts--maybe hike the Tubbs Hill Trail one more time.

They actually do have really good coffee downstairs.  It opened @ 6 am and I was just walking up as the turned the "OPEN" sign on.  Got just about the freshest coffee possible.  Gotta love that caffeine. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marathon finished

Well, at least I finished my marathon today.  Whew.  Figure a little less than 12 hours.  Gee, come to think of it, I guess I better fill out my time card.  Lotsa time to log this week.

We bussed  off site to some hip hamburger joint. Click here for their website. There ain't no two buck burgers there!  Nope, I'd reckon most of the menu items were in the $10-$20 range.  Of course, SERVE Idaho was popping for the bill.  I finally got something resembling real food--a chicken Caesar salad with Spanish white anchovies.  It was one of those typical giant plates of salad but it had a few pieces of anchovy and a medium decent portion of grilled chicken on it.  Mostly iceberg lettuce but, hey, I ain't seen no lettuce in days so it looked real good to me. (Just checked the online menu and it was an $10.95 salad.)

I sat with two young VISTA's and picked their brains on their tasks and descriptions.  The other seatmate is the RSVP guy from Twin.  He's quite the story unto himself.  The VISTA's were real fun to talk with, I enjoy those kids. They were both quite exasperated with the bureaucracy and I gave them a pep talk about how they were learning "Life Lessons" that would stand them in good stead forever.  I told them that anyday they beat the bureaucracy is a good day and it's like baseball.  Some guy who hits .400 is considered hall of fame but that means he's missing dang near two out of every three balls through his way.  Just keep swinging and dont' take your eyes off the ball--sooner or later you're gonna start knocking 'em out of the park.  That's teh way it is with bureaucracy--ya just gotta keep on swinging and don't worry about your strike outs.  Swing hard and swing like every ball is gonna sail over the centerfield fence.  I could tell they liked the pep talk--their eyes were sparkling and their faces rosy and cheery.  Kids.

I gotta admit that I am bone tired to the core.  Lack of sleep and poor nutrition and a typical conference schedule are wearing me down.  I'm not gonna chatter any more tonight, I'm just gonna lie in that giant bed and  blankly stare at the ceiling, hoping eventually to fall asleep.  Wish me luck.

Cheers, jp

It's 5 pm here--seems like 6 to me

I finally figured out how to use the "Panorama" setting on my digital camera.  You have to go left-to-right and take three shots.  The camera stitches them together for you.  This is a scene from the balcony of the room.  Tomorrow morning, I will get the other side of the view.  You can click on the above photo for a larger view.

Today went well. The first half morning show was great--really great and I learned a lot. I checked out one seminar during the second half of the morning schedule. It wasn't worth my time but it was a spark that got me writing a mission statement for Idaho Volunteer, Inc. So, that was a bonus.

Lunch was a sack lunch. I threw away the bread and ate the ham innards of the sandwich. Our PM gig started about 1:15 and lasted until nearly 4 pm. It was fun--just the RSVP Directors from Idaho. The Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions people went into their own corner. We got to talk a bunch within our own peer group.

I brought up my failure to enlist volunteerism in the LDS Church. I was surprised to learn no one had EVER had any luck with the LDS Church either. I somehow had thought I was The Lone Ranger in this failure to succeed. Nope, I have a LOT of company. Bill L. said I ought to get a high ranking Mormon on the Board of my new Idaho Volunteer, Inc. gig and maybe that would change things. Food for thought.

After our meeting adjourned after 4 pm, Kent and I talked for a really long time about EICAP's situation and so forth. We are both really pulling for Debby as she is the only person who can keep that program viable and worthwhile. He pledged his total support for her. I laid out all the facts as best I could and he agreed to "play the hand we've been dealt" and work together on behalf of the volunteers and the stations and not to get hung up on all the other stuff. It was a frank and productive conversation.

Earlier in the session, I presented Kent & Colette with custom certificates. They were very happy. Colette said it would be the FIRST thing that would go up on the wall of her new office in the Federal Building. We took a group photo that I will post up later when I have time to review the various photos.

Record low snow?

They hang the local daily newspaper on your door here. The resort owner also owns the newspaper. It's a pretty good news rag, actually, and would make a GREAT fish wrapper as it is the full size needed for most fish. Today's headline is exactly the story I wanted to see when I arrived here Tuesday. it reads, "Lack of snow sets new record." Unfortunately, the paper hasn't posted the story online yet. However, I am certain it will be available online by this afternoon. Basically, the city has rec'd 2.7 inches of snow from January 1 to February 24, and all of that fell yesterday. Technically, it probably shouldn't count since it was gone well before noon. The article is a little ambiguous. In one portion is says it broke the record from 1933-34 and on the other hand it says this year is second to 2005. No clarification is given for this discrepancy. Last year the city has 146 inches during the same time period and it rec'd 173 inches during the same time period in 2007-08! A CDA climatologist stated in print, "This year is the ying to that yang." Interesting concept.

Here's a link to the story. I printed the story as a PDF, uploaded to my Google Docs and then shortened and renamed the link:

Thursday, eh?

Well, time does pass---eventually. Although I'm liking the conference, I'm definitely not liking my crummy sleep. I can't seem to sleep well here. Heck, the beds probably cost more than I paid for our Suzuki Sidekick and the thread count on the sheets if probably higher than my paycheck but I still can't sleep. I wake up every half hour or hour and look at the clock in dismay: 11-12-1-2-3-4-5-6and so it goes. Finally crawled from under my rock at 630am today. Only one more night of this sleep deficit before being able to go home and get some REAL sleep!

I didn't even get to crawl UNDER my rock until 10 pm (Idaho Falls Time). The afternoon was very slow. I tried taking a nap but failed. Dinner was at 6 pm and finally at 5 pm, I figured, this is ridiculous--go outside and DO something! So, I dressed really warm and did the 2-mile loop again on Tubbs Hill. It's probably a little bit over 2 miles but not much. This time I didn't even get on the trail until 5:15 and I covered the loop in 40 minutes. I was hiking at my "3 mile pace" and so that's how I know it really is probably close to 2 miles. It was purt near dark when I came back to the starting point and I was really sweated up good. I went to the dining room and people looked like they were wearing their Sunday Best. Opps. So, I told one of our State Staff I would be right back. Rushed to room, swapped clothes and came back well before dinner was served. They had to seat me way off in teh Back 40.

Ironically, I got to sit next to the kid who was doing some so-called "official" video. He was the ONLY kid I had hoped to talk, too. He looks maybe 17 but I'd guess he's probably 20-21. Anyway, we proceed to chatter about video and the internet. I actually told him some stuff he didn't know. Imagine that. Anyway, it was a lot more fun than sitting with some old person who wouldn't know a Tweet from a...hum...well, I won't go there.

After dinner, I cornered Kent and we talked well into the evening. The SERVE Idaho leader joined us and we three chatted until 8:30 local time. It was a very rewarding evening and the food was good, too, a great big pile of perfectly done roast beef, sliced to perfection. It was actually an excellent low carb meal.

Came back to the room and checked email and then pretended to go to sleep. HA!

Well, my employer advertised my position internally yesterday. They flew out the notice about an hour after everyone went home for the day so it will be in people's inboxes this morning. I will put up a link to my position description soon.

Click here to view my position description:

Gonna go get coffee this morning. They charges $4 for the in room coffee or $4 to buy it downstairs. It's better coffee and more of it downstairs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good Morning

No, I am NOT wishing you a "Good Morning" in the traditional sense. I am saying that it was a GOOD Morning today. A good morning beats a bad morning hands down.

This is the fourth conference I have had to attend since August 2007. The first in Boise October 2007. The meeting room there drove me nuts. The second was in Los Angeles in January 2008. The presenters there drove me nuts. The third was in Atlanta in June 2008. The organization there drove me nuts.

This one is not driving me nuts. It's OK and I had a good morning. So far, I have nothing but good things to say about this event, from the planning to the delivery.
My Senior Corps Directors meeting this morning was great. I give it very high marks, probably an 8 or 9 on a ten scale. Those who know how I despise these types of meetings will be shocked to read the above words and rating. It's true, this event has been going splendidly. It's a great way to end my tenure in this position. I am actually looking forward to the remainder of the event--that's so rare that it's hard to believe. I have nothing cynical or comical to say about the event. How rare is that? VERY rare!

Anyway, it was a fun morning--a very good morning--and a fine lunch with fun people.
I am taking a break now but will attend a seminar or two later this afternoon.

One thing I learned this morning is that this is a real good time to be leaving the RSVP program. The national federal bureaucracy that administers us is getting really heavy-handed with a lot of stuff and there a HUGE amount of new bureaucracy heading our way real soon. It's almost like a tsunami of bureaucracy and it's not a pretty sight. I am heading to the high ground not a moment too soon.

I made a real nice little "hooray" speech for Kent 7 Colette and had the other State Directors join me in a round of applause for them. I've learned they are two of the greatest people I could have ever had the pleasure of working with in this position. They are so awesome and I am so proud of them.

There were about 200+ people for lunch so I suspect that's a safe bet for the approximate attendance for this event as VISTA's and AMERICORPS kids continue to trickle in. I must admit that it is a lot of fun watching the wide-eyed "service kids." You can see their idealism written large across their 20-something faces. Their urge to serve is almost oozing from their pores. They emit a palpable positive energy that's really fun to be around--kind of like standing around a waterfall soaking up the negative ions. I really love seeing young people so eager to serve--it really makes an old person feel proud to be alive. Kind-hearted kids are still out there!

I don't know if I am going to be able to "take a hike" today. It's been trying to make up its mind between snow and rain all morning. Most of the time, it's been rain--not heavy, more of a Seattle Rain (AKA--a heavy mist). Afterall, they call this place The Inland Northwest so sometimes they have to have a Northwest-style rain to prove it.

Well, that's about all for now. More tonight. Cheers, jp

Socked in

Dense fog this morning. A little snow overnight. Tubbs Hill is now white. It didn't stick to the parking lot but it turned the hill white. Visibility perhaps a half mile.

Click here to link to the photos I took of yesterday's travel and interior shots of the room, balcony, etc. It's not a slide show--simply a mosaic of the photos. You can pick and choose from the shots you may wish to view.

To sleep @ 9 pm and up at 6 am. Hoped to get up at 5--didn't happen. Got lots to get done this AM so no long, rambling post. Hasta! jp

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tubbs Hill

Tubbs Hill is a little 120 acre slice of "wild-ness" right smack dab in the hub of the city
The Mudgy Moose Trail only uses part of Tubbs Hill.
Click here to read more about Mudgy.
Click here to read the city's webpage for Tubbs Hill.

Whitewater guide training in Coeur d'Alene!

A lot of my LBR's are connected to rivers.  Many of this blog's readers have worked as commercial river guides, myself included.  We learned this week that a commercial guiding company is actually reading one of our blogs.  This is cool to know.

Well, the weather here is weird.  What's that got to do with whitewater guiding, John?  Gee, I'm glad you asked.  You see, the weather is really weird here this year--there's no snow whatsoever and our van driver said he couldn't remember a day when it's be UNDER 50 degrees for the high temp!  It's dry as a bone here, the lake is down and people are clearly worried about the weather.  The NWS sez it's supposed to change soon but...

well, anyway, I went looking for stories about local weather so I could do a blog post on the weird weather.  Lo & behold, I found this really GREAT article about whitewater guide training right here in Coeur d'Alene!!
That's how the "weird weather" got somehow connected to "whitewater guiding."  Anyway, those of you readers who have connections to river running will appreciate this story--it's recent--only about a week old.

I took some time to download PDF Forge's PDF Creator so I could capture this story permanently and put it in my Google Docs.  It's a cool story.  I especially like the last line.  Click this link to read the story:

If you want to see the story in its "native" format--click here.

Time warp

I had no idea that Idaho's Panhandle is on a different time than the rest of us in Idaho.  This area up here is on Pacific Time.  The rest of us are on Mountain Time.  That means they say it's 6 pm right now but it's really 7 pm for me.  I don't like time warps, especially silly tricks like this one.  Oh, I think I know why they do it--it's because they all shop in. But still, it's irksome.

I copped a second break from the resort.  They say you get 2 free hours of WIFI.  So, I used only about 10 minutes, thinking I could log on tonight and use the remainder of the 2 hours.  HA!  When I tried to log on, the machine said I had used my once a day allotment of free time.  I tried feeding it a credit card--no luck.  So I called the front desk and they said they would call me back.  By and by they called and said, well, check the back of the drawer and you will find an ethernet cable.  Plug it in and you're good to go for free for as much time as you care to use!  How 'bout that?

I really enjoyed my hike.  It was a real hike--not a walk.  The trail had a lots of tread roughness, it was muddy as heck and slippery, too.  It went up and down and around and even had a suspension bridge.  Based on my walking pace and time it was on the high side of 2 miles. Very popular trail.  Very scenic and very non-urban.  I hope to post some more stuff about it.  I wore only a flannel shirt and my summer hat.  By the end of the hike, I was getting a wee bit chilled.  I went and put on a jacket and a warm hat and went out looking for El Cheap-O Greasy Spoon.  I found it in the Paul Bunyan burger joint.  In spades.  As the Tweets note, I got a double bacon cheeseburger--two patties--with a LOT of veggies and sauces for $2.11 total.  The place was tended by 2 high school girls.  I told the one at the register that I didn't want the hamburger bun so they piled it all into a french fry paper thingie.  There was even 4 pieces of bacon. Yeah, I know it's like a million milligrams of cholesterol but, hey, at least it was virtually no carbs.  Anyway, it was about a half mile from the resort so I fast walked back here to the Tower, hoping some of that gutbomb would kinda, sorta settle somehow.

There a huge fireplace down in the lobby.  It's a gas log affair, of course, but it's huge.  The flame size is probably 3 feet, easily, maybe more.  BIG flames!  I'd guess the fireplace is 8 foot square and it's surrounded by cushy resort chairs.  Tonight, that whole area is filled with young VISTA's.  It was great to walk past and see the glow of the fire on their idealistic young faces as they chatted eagerly with each other.  VISTA is a really cool program--Thanks Gawd it exists and Thank Gawd Obama supports it so much.

This resort is owned by somebody who I would guess to be the equivalent of  "JR" on that old TV series, "Dallas."  Everywhere you look, his last name--Hegeboom--or something like that--is plastered everywhere.  His corporate HQ is out in the lake water and has boat slips underneath it.  Very obscenely wealthy.

I have to do some technical stuff with the computer right now so will return later.  Bye,

OK--I'm BAAACK!  I had to go download Irfanview onto this netbook so I could process my photos.  Now that we have Irfanview installed on this thing, we will post up a BUNCH of photos!  Uh, huh!

Checked in and logged on

It was a minor skirmish to get checked into this room--pure luck prevailed and we dodged a huge bullet.  meanwhile, it's taken 15-20 minutes to configure the WIFI.  As you can tell, we must have "got it right" since we are here, so to speak.  This place is so over-the-top Rancho it's ridiculous--there's a remote control for the curtains!  Press a button and the fireplace comes on for an hour.  There's a private balcony with a high dollar view and the place is like so over-the-top.  I will proc some pix and post them up later.  In the meantime, I am simply overjoyed that I made it past teh check-in desk.  WHEW!  That was a close call--too close for comfort.

I'm not gonna hang out here in this room long---I see a great lakeside trail over yonder--I'm outta here. I gotta get some fresh air and get outta the confines of this Rich Man's Paradise.  Maybe I will go gnaw on a gneiss rock to feel more at home.

Connected at the airport

Using a computer sure can make the time fly.  It's nearing the time when I have to skeedaddle to get on board the next plane so I don't have much time--I wasted a lot of time trying to get connected here.  At least I had success.  Well, I wanted to tell a karma story.  So, I get on the airplane and pick up the airplane magazine and Monument Valley is on the cover.  I yawn but decide to read what gushing glorious things they have to say about Monument Valley.  Lo and behold, there a photo of Montezumawell right smack next to the stereotypical photo of Monument Valley.  WOW--so I read the story and the author says that out of all of the places he visited in Arizona, Montezuma Well Nat'l Monument was HIS FAVORITE!  How awesome is that?  As 99% of you Loyal Blog Readers know, our Arizona property boundary is contiguous with Montezuma Well Nat'l Monument.  Yeah, it's our favorite place, too!  Pretty amazing coincidence.

As I said on the TXT from the aeroplane, the flight path followed the Ketchum-Featherville Forest Road #227.  I got to trace the whole route and see how it interacts with the topography.  Man, I can't wait to drive that road.  AWESOME! Well, I gotta power down and run along.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Knight in White Satin

The title of this post is our new name for a big snow as seen at night.  Snow lovers all across the Southwest have to be celebrating tonight.  The storm progged yesterday produced in spades.  Yep, snow spades!  We wrote all about it on our other blog:  You'll have to excuse the euphoria, it comes with the turf--and the snow. 

Our day today was pretty robust.  Up at 5 am and worked until 7:30 am--off to a frenzied day at the office--meeting at 9 am at Parks & Rec--lasted forever, lunch @ home and then back to the future meeting @ 2 pm for another shin deep slog through Greenbelt snow--think we finally got everybody on the same page--or is that the "same bench?"  Got home @ 4 pm and had to leave immediately for some financial errands and then a fast track to WINCO to listen to the requisite screaming children while buying walnuts, cranberries and bananas.  Ah, shopping.

Happy hour came none too quickly today.  Susun whipped up some awesome flounder fillets with creamed red yam and a succulent veggie variety.  Her daughter Stasea sent a picture of her (Stasea) holding the sunset in her hand.  Quite a nifty photo--I think I will post it here.  Hope that's OK, Stasea!  Here goes!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Our daily acquisitions

In a normal day, I normally go shopping for food.  That's about it.  Today I scored the grill and a computer. Big day for acquisitions.

Here's the grill story.  I got a Patio Caddie off Craig's List in September 2007, right about the time we moved into this house.  I love the little Patio Caddie--it's the best grill I've ever used.  I have pretty much worn it out.  I started pricing them online and got sticker shock.  One day I was walking through Home Depot and here was this lonely Patio Caddie marked down to $129.  I think this was about 2-3 weeks ago.  I thought, "Hum...I'd pay $100 for it."  But then my intuition took over and is whispered, "Just be patient and you can get it for less."  Well, I started to check on the Patio Caddie once or twice a week.  It was always in the same spot and always had the same price.  I even toyed with contacting the manager to lowball it for $75.  Once again the intuition took over and gave me the same "be patient" routine.

Today I was out freezing my anatomy off on the Greenbelt.  It was 20 degrees and the windchill was probably zero.  I was bone chilled and went to Wal Mart to warm up--driving home would have taken too long--I was REALLY that cold!  Anyway, after I warmed up (I didn't buy anything) my intuition said, "John, you really oughta go check that grill."  So, I drove over to Home Depot and, lo and behold, they had moved the grill right out beside the big, fat greeter guy.  WOW--I rushed to it and nearly fell over--it was priced at $40, well below what I WOULD have paid!  Immediately, my radar went up and so I checked it out.  Sure enough there was a piece missing.  A key piece--the flame diffuser.  So, I checked the hang tag and it said it was being marked down because it was a "slow mover" and NOT because it was damaged.  So I called the big fat greeter guy over and he said "tough luck," and he pissed me off so I demanded to talk to the manager and at first the big fat greeter guy was gonna shine me off so I raised my voice and REALLY DEMANDED to talk to the manager.  So the big fat greeter guy got on his Buck Rogers radio and called for the manager.  I could tell the manager must have been tipped off about an "irate customer" by the look on his face as he approached "the scene."

I was very cordial and introduced myself and shook his hand and then proceeded to lay out the facts, showing him the evidence.  He agreed with me and said, "You are right, John," and then added, "I called this to the attention of the section manager and told him to order the piece from the vendor.  I guarantee that you will get the piece."  I told him we would be in Arizona by the time the piece arrived and he said, "We will mail it to you at no charge." Gee, I thanked him for his outstanding Customer Service and loaded up the grill and skee-daddled right out of there, of course giving the big fat greeter guy a smug smirk as I departed.  It was a very gratifying trip to Home Depot and, once again, Intuition ROX!

OK, the computer...what can I say....I am hooked on netbooks.  I love the little buggers.  It took me awhile to get it to shake hands with my wireless router but it wasn't all that much of a hassle. Now, I am sitting at the kitchen table happily typing away on these tiny keys.  These little things are so cute!  This one is purple and that's kind of "rad" for an old guy but, what the heck.  One of these days I am going to buy a pink one just so I can watch people's faces.  By Tuesday morning, I will have this puppy totally trick and all tuned up and ready to howl at the moon from the Coeur d'Alene Reort this week.  Just when you thought you might get a blog break, nah, we're taking this puppy for an aero-plane ride.  Saddle up the netbook, Bucky, let's ride!

The Snow Job Continues

We'd like to put a shameless plug in here to direct you to a blog post we just wrote on our Arizona Snowbirds blog.  Some awesome white stuff is happening there in Arizona.  We hope you read both the top post and the post below it.  What's happening there in Arizona could well be shaping up as one of the all-time best river running seasons in modern history.  There's a lot of "if's" still waiting in the wings but, look at it this way--the last time we had a snowpack like this is, well....a really, really long time ago!

PS--It's 9 am Monday.  Lookie here at the Baker Butte numbers:
02/21 0000 19.5 63.0 0.4 3.0

02/22 0000 20.3 66.0 0.8 3.0

The site gained EIGHT TENTHS of an inch of water but only THREE INCHES of snow.  WOW!

Speaking of change

I know that some of you have your own blog.  Dear Friend & LBR, Wayne R. has one of the best blogs I know of.  He's definitely at the head of his class in the Blog-O-Sphere.  If you manage one or more blogs, you know how complex they "can" become.  Yes, they are very simple at face value.  However, if you want to get really complicated with your blog, Google certainly will open the door wide open and let you wander around the innards of your blog's plumbing.  You have to be really careful when you are roaming the catacombs because you might step in some HTML or CSS coding that will mess everything up and leave a bad smell on your blog.

OK, well, speaking of change, I noticed this little piece of script in my blog that got me to scratching my head.  I decided to grad a virtual flashlight and climb down into the sewer main and check it out.  Google has a way to swap a domain name for a blog address.  We have this domain nbame that we've owned since Christmas Day 2004 called ""  It pretty well sums up our lives into a neat little internet address.  Note that we get this address WAAAAY before the whole "live simple" schtick got morphed into magazines and TV shows.  Anyway, this past December, I decided to keep the domain name but drop the web hosting service and eliminate the website.  We weren't maintaining the website and paying for a hosting service was a total waste of $50 a year.  Meanwhile, the forelorn little domain name has been sitting 'round without a home page to call home.

Voila, enter Google today.  It seems that I can actually change the name of this blog from "" to ""  Hum...I was sufficiently intrigued to actually print out 3 full pages of VERY complicated technical instructions to make this happen.  Trust me, this really IS rocket science.  If I can pull this one off, I am going to apply for my Buck Rogers Badge and finally get my Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring.

Why am I telling you all of this arcane mumbo jumbo?  Well, here's the downside,  if I screw up, this blog disappears--poof, just like that.  It's kind of like working on the bomb squad.  If you do everything right, you look like a hero.  If you get the wrong wires crossed, well, you're history.  It's a very risky proposition.

I have gone to the very edge of this process and stepped back from the cliff for a breather.  I am not certain I want to mess with this complicated procedure.  It's quite daunting.  Knowing me, chances are I will be drawn to the process like the proverbial moth to the candle flame.  So, this is a warning:  if you attempt to come back to this blog later and it has disappeared, at least you will know why. 

I am going to let this blog post sit here and "age" for awhile before attempting to proceed.  At least then my LBR's will know what happened if the blog is gone.  Wish me luck--this is heavy lifting kinda stuff.

On that cheery note, we bid you a fond adieu (not as good as fondue, but OK) & Cheers, jp

Nine degrees of Sunday

'Tis true-'tis 9 outside.  The mornings lately have been quite chilly and even the afternoons, too.  We'll wait until early afternoon to go to the Greenbelt to attempt to wrap up Phase One of the Art Bench Project.  Susun is happily enjoying her dog house duties.  She has a way with pets.  I'm living proof of that.

I hit the wall late yesterday and the hectic schedule caught up with me.  I slept over 11 hours last night.  "Wiped out" would be a good description of my mental & physical state.

As you can see from the Twitter over yonder, I took two largely symbolic steps yesterday.  First was fueling the Big Truck. Second was actually getting at least one box totally ready to go.  Both steps are rather meaningless in the Big Picture but highly significant from a psychological point of view.  Right now, our mentality is all about changing lifestyles, changing gears, changing places and changing perspectives.  Sometimes it takes small and subtle steps to assist the "flow" of change.  So it was yesterday.

I promise not to make this paragraph a rant.  However, I'm intrigued by the price of gasoline again.  It's rising steadily and relentlessly.  It's beginning to get back into the nose bleed seats. It's starting to be painful again to go to the pump.  We all remember when gas was firmly below $2 and two dollars seemed astronomical.  Now, $2 would seem like a gift from OPEC.  My piddly little purchase of 13.5 gallons was $35.  Ok, so it still would have been $27 at $2 a gallons and so what's eight bucks anyway?  Not much, I guess.  Back when gas starting rising like a rocket a few years ago, we adopted a motto: "Smile & Pay."  I guess it's time to get back into that line of thinking and attempt to put the price of gas into perspective.  It's all too easy to get hung up on the gas price.  Likewise, it's all too easy to let the price of gas affect travel plans.  We've always felt like that's a trap and there's no reason to change our perspectives now.  Typically, the price of gas is actually a very small portion of the overall cost of traveling.  Lodging, food and incidentals make up the lion's share of the cost of traveling.  Let's say you budgeted $1000 for a trip when gas was @ $2.  Let's say gas goes up 50%.  OK, how much does that bump up the TOTAL cost of the $1000 trip?  Actually, it probably only increases the total cost of the trip by perhaps 10-15%--twenty percent tops.  So, let's say you stand to pay out a max extra of only $200 for the same trip.  Are you going to let $200 stand in the way of those memories that only travel can create?  Hardly.  So, that's the way we are feeling about it as far as going back and forth to Arizona.  Big whoop.

Luckily, of course, we are towing a fuel efficient Nissan.  This is going to greatly reduce our "cost of stay" when we get to Arizona.  In our last trip, our budget got hammered because we had to drive the Big Truck far more miles than originally planned.  This cost us several hundred extra dollars.  Luckily, we won't have to wince (too much) when we go to the gas pump with the little truck.  From here forward, the motto returned: SMILE & PAY!

My big packing goals today (after dealing with the Art Bench Scene) are to complete packing the cast iron, all of our hiking gear and all of our camping gear.  I want that stuff STUFFED into the Big Truck right & proper according to the Tom Joad School of Scientific Stuff Packing.  (See Joad post here.)

Speaking of the Joad Post, I will be ramping up my posts on our Arizona Snowbird blog.  Each week, I will be writing a review of streamflow and snowpack conditions.  This morning, I will take a look at the long range weather forecasts as well.  We are moving inside the window in which such long range forecasts tend to be considerably more accurate for the time period of our travel.

Not much else to blather about.  Have a great day & Cheers, jp

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gonna use Twitter more often

Sometimes I feel like making notes on stuff but don't feel like using up a whole blog post.  That's when I'm gonna use Twitter as the "microblogging" platform that it was designed to be.  Sometimes I just like having a date and time stamp on stuff so my feeble brain can remember stuff.  Enter Twitter.  It's perfect for little ditties like that.
I realized that today when I gassed up the truck--why bother using a whole blog post?  Anyway, the really boring routine stuff is now gonna go into the Twitter--mostly as a record keeping tool for me.

Saturday morning

Whew, yesterday was a high energy day.  First off, I didn't get much sleep the night before--up every two hours to stoke the fire in the yurt.  Then we spent Friday morning packing up, splitting wood, towing gear to the car and driving home.  Within less than an hour, I was at the office prepping the "retirement letter" shown in the post below.  I didn't get out of the office until a little before 3 pm and then had to run some financial errands and do some shopping.  Got home at 5 pm for Wine Time and we both tried to unwind and celebrate a milestone day for the remainder of the evening.  Went to sleep about 9 pm.

Susun got up at 4 am today.  That is not a typo.  We are talking FOUR EH EM!  Why?  Well, she's doing a dog-sitting gig and needed to be at the dog house by 5 am.  She took the dog owners to the airport so they could fly away to Hawaii.  Now Susun will be leading a double life for a week, here at our home for awhile but overnight at the Dog House.  The two little doggies are cutie pies and well mannered.  They love Susun.  Who wouldn't?  Anyway, the owners pay her well for all her trouble and, now that we are "fixed-income seniors," every little bit helps.  They have already booked her again for May 18 so that's a real good excuse to get back here to River City after our Arizona Spring Sojourn. (I'm not touching the acronym for THAT one!)

Things went really well at the office yesterday--far better than I expected.  In fact, I'd have to say it was great.  I really didn't expect things to go as smoothly as they went.  I don't think they could have been smoother, actually.  I met with the HR person and it was a great and cordial meeting.  I even had a 30-minute meeting with the new director and that went great, too.  The receptionist cried real tears when I gave her a copy of my letter.  I passed around signed copies of the letter to everyone in my division.  I also had some great one-to-one talks with some of the Staff.  It was excellent and I am definitely leaving on The High Road.
I am greatly relieved that things went so well.

Well, today promises to be a less busy day but busy nonetheless.  I have to meet this afternoon with the art bench woman down on the greenbelt.  We have to begin the painstaking documentation process of precisely where to place each of these benches.  I figure two more hours today and another couple of hours tomorrow.
Then another meeting at 9 am Monday.  Hopefully, that's going to be the extent of it for now.

Today, I plan to do some fun stuff.  What would be fun for me?  Packing cast iron dutch ovens and cast iron cooking utensils for the Arizona trip.  That's fun.

Well, here's a story that constitutes a "blast from the past."  Waaay back in the Waaay Back Time Machine, some of you will recall I worked for the Verde NRCD in Camp Verde, Arizona.  There was this developer who pestered me a lot trying to get the NRCD involved in his grandiose land development plan.  From the very first phone call, my intuition told me the guy was a con man and a scammer.  He was unforgettable because he used the "F" word as much or more than Jeff Bridges & John Goodman in "The Big Lebowski."

Lo & behold, Dear Friend & LBR Bill C. sent along this hilarious link.  The guy really WAS a con man and scammer of Major Magnitude.  Check this story out, it's absolutely over the top:

On that cheery note, I will leave you to have yet another wonderful day.  jp

PS--Today is Stasea Rae's Birthday!  Happy Birthday, Stasea!!!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Notice of Resignation

Well, I turned in my two week notice today about 12:45 pm.  Here it is:

"It is with fond memories, a sense of sadness and best wishes for AAA & EICAP that I submit my two week notice of retirement from my position as Director of The Eastern Idaho Retired & Senior Volunteer Program.

I have been honored and privileged to be able to work with the Great Staff of the Area VI Agency on Aging and EICAP during the past 2.5 years. It has been one of the greatest and certainly most memorable experiences of my life. I am continually amazed and awed by the superb professional work performed by the dedicated and diligent Staff of AAA and EICAP. You are all truly making a genuine positive difference in your community.

My service as RSVP Director also allowed me to learn first hand about the incredible contributions of almost 700 RSVP volunteers serving in over 170 locations through the sprawling 19,300 sq. mi. Area VI. I have been continually impressed and often humbled by the energy, enthusiasm and excitement that these selfless volunteers bring to their duties and tasks.

As my wife and I move into the next phase of our lives, we will be forever grateful for the priceless opportunity to have served alongside the wonderful people who make AAA & EICAP the outstanding service agencies that they are.
I look forward to keeping in contact with my former co-workers and plan to serve as an RSVP Volunteer in the future. I care deeply about your success and wish to express my heartfelt best wishes to each and everyone in AAA & EICAP. I am certain that AAA & EICAP have a bright and productive future and you all have my utmost respect.

Thank You for your Bright Smiles, Selfless Spirits and Happy Hearts!

Sincerely and with Many Cheers,  John P."

Great yurt trip

Got home before 11:30 am Friday.  Wonderful trip to yurt.  More later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sweet tweets

We just bought another $30 airtime card for our Wally World prepaid phone.  This is the one that gives us 1000 free text messages in a 30-day period.  (Plus 1000 minutes of talk time, too!)  Anyway, we get 'er all activated and linked up and the phone can talk to the Twitter and everything is good.  Note that I moved the Twitter back to the top of this blog left hand column.  You can see I have sent a test Tweet to the account and it was rec'd OK.  We will now send some Tweets from the yurt on this trip.  You can check this blog or oyu can go directly to the Twitter:

I will also be linking the cell phone number to our google voice account.  Anyway, that's the deal.  We're msotly packed and ready to roll--it's starting to become a misty rain outside and that spells freezing rain up north.  Hope the roads are OK!  C-YA soon!  jp

Looking good to go

There's been a rumor of snow today and it looks like the rumor might be false.  So far, no snow.  Temp is 26 up at Osborne Bridge and it's been flatlined all night.  The weather wonks are chattering about an "omega block pattern."  As far as I can discern, it means we're going to be dry most of the day and it might start snowing up there before dark tonight.  Most of the snow will fall while we are in the yurt and then it appears Friday will be OK once again to travel back home.  I hope they are correct as it will be really fun to be there when it's snowing nicely.  A light fluffy snow and a hot wood stove are a great combination.

This morning will be almost entirely devoted to packing as we have procrastinated profusely prior to now.
It ought to be interesting to see how quickly (or not so quickly) it all comes together.

I forgot to tell a story last night.  OK, you already know about the NVUM excitement.  Well, the plan now is to consider doing some subcontracting at some point during the summer--when and where we don't know.
However, we want to be travelign with all the various maps and documents in case we wind up communicating with the contractor while we are in Arizona.  We were missing the Forest map for the South Division of the Sawtooth National Forest.  We went over to the Chamber of Commerce to buy the map.
Luckily, Idaho Falls has an honest-to-gosh MAP ROOM!  No kidding.  You can find practically ANY map your heart might desire--including the USGS quads and so forth.  It's amazing.

Sure enough, they had the correct map and after forking over $10, I owned it.  Meanwhile, the two female clerks there know us both well because we are always in there buying maps, even if we don't need the maps.  People like Susun and I can never have enough maps.  Maps R Us.  I digress.

So, we were bagging with the clerks and, right smack out of the clear blue sky, one of them blurted out, "You really ought to write guidebooks for Senior Citizens."  Bam--just like that.  Gee, I told them just how "omen-ish" the comment was in light of me retiring from the job and how much I appreciated their suggestion.
I told them that was one of my goals in this phase of retirement and all three of us then commenced to chatter about how to proceed.  It was another great omen in the string of omens that make this life change so exciting and welcome!

This morning I drafted my two week notice of retirement letter.  I will deliver it on Friday after we return from the yurt.  Next week, I'm scheduled to fly up to Coeur d'Alene for a conference.  Then it's one more week in the office and we go bye-bye March 5.  Click here for a link to the conference.  I will be staying in a really swanky resort up there.  Times are slow what with the recession and all.  The resort offered rooms for El Cheap-o to this conference.  I think their normal rate is something like $225 a night and the conference people are getting them for $79.  The SERVE Idaho people are paying all my expenses.  Everything.
Click here for a link to the resort's website.   It's gonna be real interesting--no doubt about it and it's a nice way to go out of this position.

Well, time to begin the duffel shuffle.  I doubt we will post up again until Friday night but ya just never know.
Have a great day & Cheers!  jp

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blurry day

Today was a real blur--finally slowed down about 5:30.  A couple of meetings, lots of phone calls, running many errands.  Whew, I felt like a hamster in a cage spinning at full speed.  Tomorrow's going to seem real low key compared to today.

Mea culpa: Yesterday I wrote a political tirade on the Arizona Snowbirds blog.  This morning I deleted it.  I'm not going to let politics intrude into any of my blogs, regardless of their topic.  Yesterday's post was an aberration.  Sorry 'bout that.  There are enough political commentators in this country alone to fill a fleet of Titanics. I have no need to add my name to the list.  Enough!  So, worry to not, LBR's, we will never let a hint of political commentary ooze into this or any other blog ever again!

Everyone here is talking about the changing seasons.  The river is almost entirely thawed out now.  That's a "major marker" for the local folks.  They are all wagging their tongues about how early this is for the river to thaw.  The evening temp is 30 degrees here and it sure feels like the harsh mid-winter temps are gone.
Soon, we will enter what everyone calls "Wind Season."  That's when the wind blows a million miles an hour every day all the time for weeks and weeks.  Hopefully, we will be in Arizona before it begins and return after it ends.  It's actually quite annoying.

As you know, we're really pushing hard to tie up our loose ends before heading south.  Tidying loose ends takes gobs of time.  The nice thing, though, is that one a loose end has been tied up and finished--it's done--and the list shrinks by one.  Eventually each one crossed off the list grows and now the list looks so much smaller than it did when we first prepared it.

Here's a story.  I went to the post office last week and they told me the various offices can now communicate with each other via the internet.  Novel idea, eh?  I even commented about it in a blog post that day.  OK, well, today I went back to go to the correct window to "deal with it."  I politely asked the lady to tell the Sedona Post Office to stop forwarding our mail.  She asked, "What are you talking about?"  I politely said, "Well that gentleman over there behind YOUR counter here in THIS post office told me that YOU could send an email to the Sedona Post Office to stop our forwarding."  She said, "He said WHAT?  That's ridiculous!  We can't do that!"  Then she pulled out an old fashioned forwarding card and said, "This is how we do it here."  I rolled my eyes and said Thanks but no thanks and split.

Meanwhile, I went home and called up the Sedona Post Office and, luckily, got the manager.  I told him my story and he laughed this great big belly laugh and then said, "Oh, just give me your names and box numbers and I will take care of it right now."  What can I say?

Go figure.

Luckily, all my other errands were far more productive than the local post office.  We triple checked the procedure to shut off our water and electricity and got yet another conflicting answer.  Luckily, we also got a DEFINITIVE answer so that case is closed and we really DO know the correct procedure.  I really believe that it's worth the time and trouble to double and triple check various procedures.  if we wait until the last minute and find out we've been given incorrect information, where does that leave us?  Stranded.  That's where.

Here's another goofy story.  Last week, I opened an internet banking account--the kind that says "Open in Minutes."  OK, so I opened the account in minutes, just like they said--except for one small detail--the signature card.  See, you really CANNOT open the account in minutes because it takes them one freaking WEEK to mail you the signature card and it's not a valid account until you fill out the hard copy and mail it BACK to them or hand deliver it to a branch.  This is NOT an account you can "open in minutes."  HA!

As you can easily see, there's a whole lot more details going on behind the scenes when it comes to making a seasonal move such as our upcoming trip to Arizona.  Someday, maybe we will get all this stuff wired.  This time around, running all these errands and solving all these puzzles makes any given day one giant blur.

Cheers, jp

Our One Day Week

Today is the only day I will have to be in the office today.  As a result of working 2.5 hours yesterday, I will only have to actually be in the office for 3.5 hours.  Hum...let's see, if I run another errand today, then I can cut that time down to 2.5 hours.  Hum...if I go to the office at 7:30 am, that means I can leave at 10 am.  Gee, that's a pretty good deal, methinks.

Actually, I had a great time yesterday meeting on the Greenbelt to tramp around in the deep snow and discuss where to site about 20 such benches.  The promoter of this idea was very agreeable to my ideas and concepts about where to locate the benches.  I came away from the meeting feeling very good about the idea and about where the benches will go.  What could have turned into a train wreck now looks like a decent proposal.  The main reason for going to the office real early today will be to attempt to meet with the Parks Director to go over our ideas prior to next week's subcommittee get together that precedes the regular Commission meeting March 1.  I think we might have better than 50-50 odds of getting the idea to fly before the Commission March 1.  If so, it's a done deal as the majority of the City Council members plus the Mayor have already given the project their informal "nod" of approval.  Getting Commission approval is a polite formality to smooth some ruffled feathers.  Municipal politics are always entertaining.  I enjoy being at this level of the local political system.  It's far enough below the radar to be comfortable yet sufficiently engaged to make a difference in my favorite areas--parks and recreation.

We started out the day by realizing that our microwave oven had fried.  It wasn't anything specific that fried it--just old age.  Electronic devices are designed to fry out sooner rather than later because the industry depends on you, the consumer, being forced to buy another one.  How else could the manufacturers stay in business?  We probably ought to measure the life span of a microwave oven the way people measure Dog Years versus People Years.  You know how that goes.  A ten year old dog is supposedly about 65 years old in People Years.  OK, a 2.5 year old microwave oven died a tad young at 55 years of age in People years.

(Editor's Note: After I wrote the above, I followed a hunch and googled "dog years vs people years" and, poof, I found a "Dog Year Calculator."  I kid you not--try it yourself.  The corrected human age for the microwave would be 23 years old--a mere pup.)

We bought two microwaves yesterday--took the first one back because it was too small and underpowered.  The second one appears to work fine and cost $80 out the door.  Its styling is quite nice and its feng-seng-nality is excellent.  Susun loves that it has a "melt" button on it.  Now she can soften cream cheese and chocolate and other sinfully rich stuff.

We have to run a long errand today--probably having to drive to Blackfoot to meet with Zions Bank CSR Patsy H.  Patsy has won CSR of The Year twice at Zions--she's really awesome.  Ironically, she turned out to be the sister-in-law of Jeff, The Jon-E Handwarmer King.  Small world.

Once we are back here in River City, we will then put our noses back to the yurt packing grindstone.  We'll be leaving tomorrow for another two nights up there in Harriman Heaven.  This time we will bring along all the other items we wish we had the first time.  Ah, the "stuff" of life!

We won't be going up o the yurt quite as early this time.  We won't have to face a two-hour meeting with park officials this time around.  Magically, park mgmt. heeded all the advice we tendered on January 27.  They are so far along on forming a friends group it's amazing.  We are really, really proud of them.  Check-in time is 3 pm so we will probably leave here about one-ish tomorrow.  That takes the pressure off of today in terms of packing our stuff.  Heck, we have all morning tomorrow so why not procrastinate, eh?

That's about it for this morning.  C-YA SOON, jp

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy President's Day

This is about as bogus a paid holiday as it gets during the annual cycle of paid holidays.  I mean, really, come on, folks, why should we be having a paid holiday to honor some dead presidents?  BOGUS!  Hey, I'll take it, though, who cares?

Speaking of George Washington, I'd like to share a little tidbit with you that I learned back in the 1970's.  If Washington was alive today, he would be at the forefront of social networking and especially blogging.  One of Washington's little known traits was that he was a truly obsessive journal keeper.  He would write down teh details of each and every day--including reams of minute details that no one would seem to care about.  He was especially big on describing the weather.  Very few people of his era--those of the goose quill pen--were so dedicated and faithful about keeping daily notes.  Washington really had no peer in this category--he was way ahead of his time.  Way to go, George!

One thing that bugs me is that Washington gets his mug on a lowly dollar bil while that scumbag Grant gets his face on the Grant.  Grant was about as corrupt as they come, at least in terms of corrupt Presidents.  We sstill have to deal with his legacy with the ridiculous 1872 mining law.  I think they should put Grant on a Penny and elevate Lincoln to something respectable and take George off the dollar bill and give him some status, dang it!

Name brand tools don't go on sale very often.  Today, however, Fred Meyer pegs all their name brand hand tools at 50% off--for six hours only.  It's a smokin' deal and time to restock on all the tools I left down in Arizona.  This puts the name brand tools almost at the same price level as that cheap-o stuff from Harbor Freight.

It's snowing again--very light snow but still snow.  Not enough to shovel or blow--we will probably sweep it.

That's about it for this morning.  Cheers, jp

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Still lots of snow here, too

Since the weather has been awesome down in Ol' Airy Zonie lately, I figured I'd show you our little house on Valentine's Day. Typical Idaho winter.  There's probably 18 inches in the front yard.  We haven't really had what you would call a "big snow" for weeks.  We're getting little dribs of snow now and then.  But the snow hangs on up here for months.  It wn't really start leaving until sometime in March.  The last remnants will be gone by mid-April.


(Editor's Note: I posted up tonight's dinner photos several hours after writing the post below.)

Nice weather here today--mid-30's and sunny.  Looking down in Arizona we see it's mid-60's at the straw house and mid-70's down in Phoenix.  Typical Arizona Spring.

We've finished most of our pa-diddly little house things.  We only need to do a trail run with the compressor and a couple of other nit-picky things and we're finished.  All the hard work is done.  The place is about as secure as we can make it.  Once the pipes are purged and the water and electricity turned off, we don't have to worry about a thing here while we are gone.

We treated ourselves to a snake today--a big chunk of fried cod from Wendy's  We had them hold the tartar sauce and we threw away the buns.  We split the piece of cod so it wasn't much of a "cheat" on our diet.  Sure did taste good.

Yesterday, our Dear Friend Jeff The Jon-E Handwarmer King, and I talked ourselfs into thinking we could bid on that NVUM project.  Is BS could walk, our BS really had LEGS!  Yes sirree, we had ourselves walking that talk well into the evening.  Today, in the cold hard light of Sunday, we both realized we had temporarily taken leave of our senses.  Susun and I still stand behind every word in the blog post below about NVUM and we will solicit some sub-contracting from whoever gets the contract.  That would be a much more sane way to approach the Karma of NVUM.  It's exciting to think that we will be doing something with NVUM again this summer.  Meanwhile we can rest easy as far as what might have been a mad scramble to submit a bid.  We really want (and NEED) some serious goof-off time this summer.  Working practically non-stop from early May to early October doesn't count as goofing off.

Not much else going on today--just an easy going Sunday.  CHEERS!  J&S

Saturday, February 13, 2010

That Big Wheel

What goes around come around, eh?  Remember a snippet of the lyrics from The Steve Miller Band's 1977 "Book of Dreams?"

"I've got to keep on keepin' on,
You know the big wheel keeps on spinnin' around.."

That catchy little phrase has always stuck in my synapses as a metaphor for "all in a day's karma," as Dear Friend Wayne R. would say.  What is it about our lives that always causes the Big Wheel to bring us back...back to the past...and back to the future?

So it was yesterday with NVUM.  I'm not going to digress on the meaning of that acronym at this point--that comes later.  First, I'd like to tell a story.  When we retired the first time in 2001, we had a magical summer up in Dixie.  (Now, it's Down in Dixie.)  We thought we would be going back to Dixie forever.  Meanwhile on New Year's Eve of 2001, we discovered NVUM online.  We sent an email to the individual listed as a contact and were amazed to receive a reply only a few days later.  One thing led to another and we became Secret Shoppers for NVUM, a life change that lasted over 5.5 years and took us into perhaps 50 National Forests in roughly two dozen states all over America. Our involvement with NVUM was truly life changing.  When we look back on our lives, there is no doubt that NVUM and our Supervisor had a profound impact on our future, changing it into what it is today.  The timing of our NVUM discovery on December 31, 2001, is now viewed a a key turning point and milestone in our lives.  We will be forever thankful and indebted to Our Supervisor for the gifts of our participation in the NVUM program.  THANK YOU, SUE!  (Cue online applause and virtual standing ovation for Sue.)

Well, our NVUM involvement closed on an incredibly poetic note in October 2007.  Susun's Mom and Sister came to visit us in Idaho Falls.  We invited them to go to Slide Lake on the Gros Ventre River north of Jackson Hole to do an NVUM interview there.  The day turned out to be way beyond magical and we wound up standing on the shore of Jenny Lake snapping a photo of Susun and her Beloved Mom.  Who could have known that a mere year later, Susun and her daughters would be at the same spot scattering Doris' ashes at that special place?  Our last NVUM experience was so special to both of us that we decided it would have to be the last--it would be impossible to create anything more special than those golden moments.

Meanwhile, time passed and that Big Wheel?  Well, it kept on spinnin' around.

Here we find ourselves at yet another critical juncture in our lives--one filled with opportunity, challenge, mystery and surprise.  LBR's know that's the very reason we're writing this lumbering blog--to chronicle how these changes are taking place in yet another milestone year.

LBR's know that we've Crossed The Rubicon as far as our job is concerned and as Major Powell said before entering the Granite Gorge, "We know not what lies ahead."  Susun and I are big on omens.  A little omen here and there goes a long way.  LBR's know that we observed a key omen on January 29 when we made the phone call to Kent in Boise.  (Click here to review that omen.)

Meanwhile, time passed and that Big Wheel?  Well, it kept on spinnin' around.

In the back of my mind, I have been wondering when the next omen would appear.  What would it be?  What would it look like?  How would it manifest itself?  Would we recognize it?   Well, wonder no more.  It happened yesterday right about the time I got off the clock at 2 pm.  We re-discovered NVUM!!!!  Can you believe it?  Well, lemme tell ya,  we even had a hard time believing it.  How poetic, how perfectly timed and how Big Wheel is that?

Just when we really needed a sign we could almost here the Blue Collar Tour comedians intoning. "Here's Your Sign."  It was (is) a great feeling and totally filled each of us with a whole level of energy and expectation.

So, what's so different about NVUM this time around?  Good question!

In our past life with NVUM, we were Secret Shoppers.  In our newly reincarnated NVUM life we will be either a contractor in charge of an entire National Forest or we will sign on to work for a contractor so that we could actually become real interviewers.  Back when we were Secret Shoppers, we often said to each other, "Wouldn't it be fun to be the interviewer?"  Well, now that's what we're going to do this summer in some capacity most likely on the Sawtooth National Forest--our old stomping grounds here in Idaho.
The gubmint has put the NVUM process on the Sawtooth up for bid--all 242 interviews from May 16 to September 30.  I'm not real sure I can get a valid bid in by the upcoming Thursday (2/18) deadline, but I'll betcha a dime to a dollar that whoever wins the bid would hire us in a heartbeat to be field interviewers.  We've already scoped out a potential win-win situation for ourselves.  The extra cash we're going to earn from this gig will be just what we need to bridge ourselves from the job to the upcoming increase in interest rates we need to make ends meet.

Some of you LBR's might be thinking, "Hum, aren't they counting chickens before they are hatched?"  Well, sure we are!  However, the karma of this whole thing is so compelling, so poetic and so profound that it's one of those things that could only happen to us.  Hence, we'd be pretty much 99% certain that we will once again become involved with NVUM on a whole new level.  That Big Wheel sure is amazing!

(Editor's Note added about 10 am--Gee, I just noticed that this is the 100th post of this blog since it started on New Year's Day.  More karma, huh?)

Friday Night Lights

(Editor's Note--This blog post was going to be a part of the blog post below this one.  The one below became too long so we decided to make another one.  You might want to read the one below before you read this one.  That's one of the trouble's with this blogging platform.  You can't rearrange the order of the posts--they are "set in their ways" and are totally chronological.  If someone knows a trick to trick Google's blog feng shui into letting me rearrange the posting order, please let me know.  THX)

OK, LBR's where were we?  Oh, yes, Friday.  Luckily, Susun did all the snow shoveling so I got off scot free. Friday at the office was dragging along at the Speed of Molasses until Susun brought lunch.  There's something about a great home made lunch hand delivered with love and smiles and hugs that really energizes a guy's day.  Thank You, Sweetie!

Anyway, I made up Kudo Cards for everybody in my division and a few others as well.  My employer has this outdated and not-so-quaint schtick with little funky things called "Kudo Cards."  If someone does something cutesy or nice, you're supposed to dutifully fill out a Kudo Card and hand deliver it to the person.
The person then drops the card in a box and once a month, they have a drawing and you can win some sort of a prize--usually some pocket change.  I have mixed feelings about these cards--on one hand they seem to be nice but when you reflect further, you realize they are a devious trick by the employer to absolve them of any need for "employee recognition" and appreciation.  Whenever I've complained that the employer does nothing to show the staff they truly care, they always say, "Well, YOU have kudo cards to do that."  Meanwhile, all of the sorority girls downstairs in Head Start swap kudo cards like kids swap baseball cards.  They give each other a kudo card if some giggles or has a nice hairdo.  I often think that's all they do down there is write little kudo cards to each other like high schoolesr pass notes back and forth (er, TEXTS, excuse me).  Anyway, you get the picture.

Anyway, despite my long running "issues" with kudo cards, I decided to make one for each and every member of my division.  I even typde them out--a first in the history of the agency.  No one had ever received a typed kudo card before.  Luckily, we have an antique IBM Selectric in my office so typing was the only way to fly.  Then I went around and passed them out to everyone I could find.  I think I actually got to connect with maybe 10-12 people--Friday's aren't fully staffed.  They were all happy to receive them and one staffer said she hadn't rec'd a kudo card in almost a year.  That's the difference between us old codgers and those young lassies down in Head Start.  They are practically fresh out of high school and we are all counting our days remaining to Medicare.

One of my co-workers inadvertently (and luckily) brought in a flyer on a workshop next week on bidding for gubmint contracts.  I noticed something on it that intrigued me and, by and by, I had Googled my way to an arcane division of state gubmint over in Boise.  One thing led to another and, believe it or not, I actually stumbled onto a bid solicitation for the NVUM process in the Sawtooth National Forest in 2010.  I may overuse this word but I was truly stunned--practically stuttering in speechlessness.  This discovery played a big role in the remainder of the day.  Hum...if I ramble on here about it, then THIS post will be too long, too.
Gee, I better reserve a separate post for the NVUM discovery.  OK?  OK.

After I got out of school (er, work, I mean) I had to hotfoot it to a doctor's appt.  I arrived 5 minutes late.
That may not sound like much but it is to my Doc--I call him The Minute Man.  He charges by the minute.
I kid you not.  He charges a $2.18 a minute.  How he arrived at that figure is a mystery to me.  Anyway, he's a renegade doc and I love renegade docs.  He hates the insurance industry and won't deal with ANY insurance, Medicare or whatever, fuggetaboutit.  He operates out of a hole-in-the-wall in his house.
Man, lemme, tell ya, when you are being charged by the minute, you want to show up on time and get back outta Dodge as fast as ya can.  Today, he only charged me for 17 minutes or $37.  He added $4 for some anti-fungal meds and I chipped in another $4 as a tip so the total came to $45.  I got three prescriptions and 28 days of fluconazole on the deal.  The Doc is a hoot and he's such a throwback.  He won't even set foot in Yellowstone or The Tetons because he can't legally take his pistol inside.  Hilarious. 

I actually wanted a kenalog steroid shot but he wouldn't give me one--he says the side effects are too dangerous.  Instead he gave me a script for a nasal anti-allergen mist.  Nah, I don't have no allergies right now--but you can bet I sure will in Arizona in the springtime!  We shall see if the nasal stuff works.  he laughed when he wrote the script and said, "Hey, John, if it don't work, just drive 1600 miles round trip and I will give you the shot."  You gotta love a Doc with a sense of humor.

After leaving the Doc's place, I went to Wally World on a hunch.  Our bathroom sink drain clogged up Thursday and no amount of messing with it would clear the blockage.  I tried cheap-o drain cleaner Thursday and I tried two different snakes and nothing worked.  So, I knew I needed something much more wicked to clear the drain--something that would destroy my carbon credits--SULFURIC ACID! (Cue applause for acid.)  Man, I'm telling ya what--sulfuric acid can open a danged drain!  POOF--just like that.  Yea, verily, that's just what happened and now we don't have no mo pro-ble-mo.

We ran a few more errands and did some shopping and got home at the obligatory 5 pm beginning of Wine Time.  We're trying to master the new "arcanities" of post mail forwarding.  As the Post Office moves slowly into modern civilization, the Neanderthals who run the place are becoming somewhat more conversant with each other.  We have learned, for example, that it MIGHT be possible for our post office to actually communicate with the Sedona post office.  Wouldn't that be a novel idea?

The evening was spent discussing the NVUM discovery and also discussing the karma of the NVUM discovery and what it means in the whole big overall scheme of things.  Those who know us know that we can become quite immersed into very esoteric details of the whole "chain of karma" stuff and how this relates to that and that relates to this and on and on forever.  I finally hit the wall about 9 pm but Susun watched all four hours of the Olympic Opening before she finally retired.

Gray Saturday

No snow on show today--valley stratus clouds so nice even monotone of gray overhead.  Started the morning off by replying to a great newsy email from a Dear Friend & Loyal Blog Reader (LBR for you acronym lovers).
Getting long, newsy emails is pretty much a thing of the past.  Hardly anyone writes long emails any more.  Most emails are like electronic grunts.  Twitter, of course, is the classic example of such a phenomena--140 characters max content.  Heck, that's mere electronic flatulence!  Anyway, I probably spent at least 30 minutes preparing a reply to that email.  I suspect one reason people don't send long emails any more is the sheer amount of time it takes to write them.

Our Dear Friend Betty M. is 87 years young and is now in an assisted living facility.  Betty still hand writes out these beautiful letters that look like they are from the Victorian Era.  Her cursive writing is as crisp as the day she learned it in grade school back in the 1930's.  She still carries on long and caring correspondence with girlfriends she made in SECOND GRADE!  Getting one of those hand written letters from Betty is like finding a gold nugget in your mailbox.

Once in awhile--a great while--we get long emails from a few people.  One of our Dear Friends likes to tell a story now and then.  Out of the clear blue sky, this individual will decide to write a complete short story--just like the stories they made us write in high school.  It will have a beginning, a middle and an end.  It will have a theme, a point and all of the various adverbs and adjectives will match up correctly.  Heck, if you used sentence diagramming on one of those stories, it would probably look like a piece of classical artwork.

I must admit I am one of the worst offenders in not sending long emails these days--I spend all of my "free" writing time on this and a few other blogs.  Unless I reply right away to one of those long emails, I usually don't.  Here's what happens--I think, "Gee, that email really deserves an equally long reply but I don't have time now."  Then time passes.  Meanwhile, I begin to feel terribly guilty about my inability to reply.  As more time passes, I become incapable of a reply because I am so guilt ridden.  It's a vicious cycle. Whatever.

I have a lot of stuff to recap for Friday.  I am thinking that doing so in this post would make it far too long so maybe I will make a different post for all of yesterday's stuff.

Since we have been discussing communication this morning, I would like to tell you yet another story--it's about cell phones.  Cell phones are NOT like land lines.  Somehow, though, as time has passed, I tend to think of a cell phone like a landline.  If I call a cell number and hear a familiar voice, I leave a message and expect a call back--sooner or later.  Well, it doesn't work that way with cell phones--they aren't like hardwired answering machines sitting in someone's house.  Case in point:  We have a Dear Friend in a very faraway State.  We've been calling that individual's cell phone for weeks and leaving messages with no reply.
As time has passed, our minds have conjured up all sorts of dire scenarios.  Yesterday, I finally decided to send an email.  Duh.   Naturally, I received an almost instant reply, even though this Dear Friend is down with the seasonal flu.  Naturally, this individual's cell phone hasn't been working and isn't in use any more.  So, we made some unwarranted and foolish assumptions about the lack of a call back that were simply due to a dysfunctional cell phone, not a dysfunctional individual!

Some of you will remember when we lived out at the remote Bowery Guard Station.  We got our hands on old-fashioned typewriters and actually wrote letters with them--lots of letters.  People loved it--we rec'd more positive feedback from those old fashioned letters than we've ever received from ANY email in our history with email dating back to 1994.  Since we are going to have a lot more time on our hands in the future, I think that we need to put some old-fashioned communication back into our social networking mix.  Real letters on real paper using real (expensive) stamps sounds like a real good idea.

Friday, February 12, 2010

White Friday

Surprise!  It snowed over night.  It was a mild surprise to open the front door looking for the morning newspaper and see a fresh blanket of white stuff outside.  Our neighborhood snowpack had been looking pretty rag-tag lately.  This gives it a whole new paint job--at least until it melts off.  It's enough snow to have to shovel or snowblow.

The staff meeting yesterday lasted two full hours.  Luckily, I got to dodge out after only 50 minutes because of my meeting with the art bench person. I'm not capable of sitting through a two hour staff meeting--I know I would freak out and run screaming from the room about 90 minutes--maybe sooner.  An hour is excruciating.

I am getting out of there no a minute too soon.  The very day after I leave, I would have been pressed into service doing some local trade show for the agency.  I despise those things.  Yikes!  The new guy expressed some sympathy about everyone's budgetary messes.  He said there wasn't anything he could do about it until July.  Meanwhile, he's trying to tell our outfit that we're 8% overspent. That equates to about $5000. That's pretty amazing when we haven't even spent anything since the first week of September.  Will there be no end to that madness?  I will be so happy to have the howler monkey off my neck!

Susun and I spent a couple of hours running hither and yon on financial errands, tidying accounts and so forth.
Anytime you undergo a lifestyle change there's always copious amounts of paperwork involved.  A veritable blizzard, actually.

Here's some interesting stuff.  Some of you have probably clicked over to that other blog about Harriman State Park.  It's where we are currently describing the yurts.  Yesterday evening I became curious and went to Google's "Blogs" section and then began using various search terms to see how my blog would rank.  I was quite surprised to see that it ranks #1 with this two word term "harriman yurt."  It doesn't even rank at all with the search string "harriman state park."  Anyway, it's rare to even get on the first page of Google search results, let alone #1.  I don't think I've ever been #2.  Last summer, I got something bumped up to #2 for a short time before it fell back to #3.  I was quite proud of the #3 ranking.  This morning, I am basking in a little self-congratulations on being #1, even if it is an arcane topic and an even more arcane search term.

Some of you may know about Headwaters News.  Since this is a lazy snowy morning, I thought you might like to know a little more about that website.  Arguably one of the better schools of journalism in this neck of the woods is up in Missoula at the University of Montana.  They run a real good shop up there and it has a solid reputation for turning out yeoman journalists.

The internet opened a lot of possibilities for the academics in that school.  Quite awhile ago, somebody got the idea to use the journalism school students as "news aggregators."  When I went to journalism school in the mid-1960's, this meant that lowly grunts would be tasked to read stacks of "country papers" looking for an occasional gem that might merit wider coverage.  "Country papers" were those little tiny newspaper put out each week in some tiny little town.  Mostly, they are filled with obituaries and high school sports with a lot of gossip posing as news. 

Today's "news aggregators" simply sit and stare at online newspapers.  OK, but I digress.  The students up in Missoula are tasks to look for relevant articles regarding Western States natural resources.  This is a MOST excellent idea and task.  Those college kids do a great job and their work always gets better in the second semester when they are firing on all cylinders.  When they find a relevant article, they then have to summarize the article in a short and (hopefully) objective paragraph.  It's a marvelous teaching tool and an awesome public service.  Do you know how many hours it would take for Joe Blow to roam the internet looking for such articles?  Well, get a life because it would take a life to do that kind of work--it would be a full time life job for a single individual.  Meanwhile, those college kids make quick work of it each day and deliver a custom-configured presentation of news about public lands and natural resources.  They hardly ever miss anything--they are that good.  I highly recommend this website.  Friend Bryan B introduced it to us maybe 3 years ago.  With each passing year my respect for the service grows.  Here it is:

The efforts to create a "Friends of Harriman State Park" have really reached critical mass lately.  I think that last night was a real historic milestone for them as some of the informal steering committee sold raffle tickets at the local Banff Film Festival.  969 tickets were sold to the festival so a LOT of hip, fit outdoors people showed up in the same place last night and here's betting they bought boatloads of tickets.  I am listed as one of 13 people on this steering committee and I really should have gone down and done my part.  However, last night I was at a really low energy ebb and it was a lot better to stay invisible than to show up only half-engaged.  One of these days, I plan to write a long piece on how the "friends" group got rolling.  For now, it's enough to know that it's doing well and there's no doubt that it will be a major future factor there.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday ramblings

  Thanks for your comments, Stasea Rae!  We appreciate comments on this blog.  In the past, I've put a "site meter" on some of my blogs to see how much traffic they are getting.  This time, I decided to forego the meter because I'm writing purely for the fun of it and couldn't care less how many people are reading.  That said, it IS very nice to receive comments and I appreciate them very much--they really brighten my day.  Maggie, Deano, Stasea, Mr. Freely and a few anonymous people are the most frequent commentators.  THANK YOU!

Yesterday turned out to be OK--Option A ruled the day--the bounced checks affected only two people and, get this, the Fiscal Dept. had to call them and apologize, not us!  Cool.  We had a nice long meeting with the new Director of the Downtown Development crowd.  We've known him for awhile--he's the one who taught us how to make videos back in the summer of 2008.  He's a good guy and we wish him well.

We took the Big Plunge yesterday during lunch hour and applied for our Social Security.  The online process was a breeze and took about 30 minutes. Some people say "Wait until you are 66 to get the benefits--you will get more."  Well, maybe that's technically true.  But maybe not.  It actually would take an additional 12 years to recoup the money lost by not taking it at 62.  Here's the math.  Take what you get at 62 and multiply by 48 (or the months between your application and the age of 66).  Then, take what they say you would get at 66 and subtract what you would get at 62.  Divide that figure into the sum of the x48 amount.  Generally speaking you will get a figure very close to 12 years.  This assumes that your benefit at 66 wouldn't be higher than today's estimate because you worked an extra four years.  So, that's a little fuzzy math but you get the idea.  In my case, if I got at 66 what they say today that I would get, I would have to live until the age of 78 just to break even on what I will be getting today.  Go figure.

Hopefully, today I will get Susun all lined up, too.  Once you press that final button it's totally set in stone--no changes, no turning back.  It's a huge, major step in life and there's no way to say, "Gee, can I change my mind now?"  With all such decisions such as that one, there's a sense of relief involved once you've pressed the final button.  Since the decision can't be changed, it's no longer something to worry about.  It's a done deal.

Today, we have our first staff meeting under the new guy.  The new guy has been on his best behavior so far.  If he keeps this trend up, he will easily qualify for the "Most Changed Personality" award.  No matter how his personality shakes out, we've already cast our lot and we're outta there on March 5.  That's a done deal, too.

I have a meeting with Carrie S. at 10 am so we can go walk the Greenbelt to attempt to reach some consensus on the placement of the art benches down there.  It ought to be REAL interesting.  It is my hope that she will agree to adopt a "landscape architecture" perspective about them and attempt to place this year's crop into a smaller sector of the overall Greenbelt, perhaps giving artists a more thematic opportunity in the process.  Doesn't that last sentence sound so very nicely bureaucratic?

Lots of hustle-bustle later today, too--it promises to be a very fast moving day.  Meanwhile--we wish you a  Great Day and Many Cheers, J&S

(Note added @ 6:55 am)  I see from the time stamp on this post that it was posted @ 6:33 am.  Gee, now it's 6:55 am and I have completed Susun's online application for Social Security.  Wow, that's fast, only a little more than 20 minutes.  Wouldn't it be great if ALL gubmint processes took so little time?