Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trashy Love Letters

I know, my Blackberry takes really crappy photos, but I didn't think this deserved me dragging out the SLR digital and besides, I have a transcription below...

For some reason recently, trash has been ending up in my front yard. It seems that every day for the past two weeks or so, I’ve picked up five or six pieces: faded receipts, cigarette packages, tissues, grocery lists, drink cups, and all kinds of things that don’t belong on the lawn. As I perform this task, I’m mumbling under my breath about the low-down litterer that either threw it out the window or has let their trash fly with the wind. But yesterday, I finally found a real treasure, a Valentine Card from a cheapskate. Not only that, a cheapskate that’s dating a litter bug, which is a good thing for with a cheapskate in the house, there will at least be less stuff to throw away. Since I have no idea who wrote this, I’m going to post it on the internet for all to see. Feel free to bookmark this site just in case you may need the right words in the future to keep a significant other from killing you. If you do that, you might want to spruce up the grammar. It was difficult to copy this word by word with my computer attempting to make corrections for me. Or, if you’re having writers block, you might use this letter as a prompt to write a reply. What would you tell the cheapskate? Whatever, I hope this trashy love letter brings a smile…

Honey i hope you don’t mind a homemade card, here’s something’s i promise…
I promise to only think about our happy future together.
I promise to never mention the negative things in our past again.
I promise to think about how you feel more often.
I promise to try to make the best out of thing’s, so we can have alot of happy years ahead.
I want to be a part of your safe place, because i love you so much!
Happy Valentine’s day!

As a shout out, The Walking Man had a poem recently that speaks to this author (whoever she may be, and I’m assuming it’s a she for guys don’t have that good of handwriting, nor do we write with green pens; however, the grammar is “guy-like.”)

Speaking of trash, I really liked how Steven Colbert handled Glenn Beck's trash talk. Great satire! Check out this clip.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Early Spring Canoe Trip

Saturday morning looked to be a good day for an early spring canoe trip. The skies were clear and the air brisk. It was still below freezing as I loaded up a canoe and a kayak on my truck. My brother and his daughter met me and we headed a bit north of here to a section of the Thornapple River I’d never run. Actually, I was surprised that this section isn’t featured in my guide book to canoe trips in the state.

We put in at the Irving Dam, one of several small hydroelectric dams along the river. The snow is all gone and the river has dropped from his height of a week or two ago. Following along the river is the former railroad bed of the Michigan Central, which was taken up in 1984 and is now the Paul Henry Trail, a part of the North Country Trail. In the morning, we had some tricky maneuvers around log jams, especially at one of the two old trestles we passed. The trestle log jam required getting out of the boat and lifting it over logs, being very careful not to slip into the chilly water.

As we approached the town of Middleville, there were a number of other log jams as we entered the backwaters of the Middleville Dam. These we were able to snake through. The water slowed and, waterfowl was abundant: swans, geese, cranes and various ducks. We also spotted a number of muskrats.

As we got into the village, we headed to the portage. Here we had to take the boats out of the water, cross the only bridge in town and then take it down below the dam to another launch. Here, I’d brought a cable and lock, and we secured the boats to a tree and walked Main Street where we enjoyed a nice lunch. The town has several good places to eat: a deli, Champs Bar and Grill (a little smoky, but a great place for a burger and beer), two pizza places and Cracked Pepper. We chose the latter, the most upscale establishment for some dirty boaters.

I wonder how much power this dam is using. At least they're still producing power with it, but if it wasn't for these dams, we may had tried our luck steelhead fishing!

After lunch, we continued on for another four or so miles on the river. The air had warmed quite a bit since morning and only a light jacket was required. I wore no gloves, just made sure to keep my hands out of the water. The flow was steady and there were no major obstacles. We continued to see ducks along with evidence of some beaver activity. The last trestle, where the old Michigan Central line turned northwest toward Grand Rapids, was surprisingly clear of debris. We took out at the next bridge. My brother waited with the boats as I niece drove me back to pick up my truck. We drove back, loaded up the boats and was home before five.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Goodbye Kernel

The Honor Guard, in front of a grieving crowd, folded the flag,
slowly and deliberately, sharply sealing each crease,
as the last notes of Taps echoed through the trees
and the smoke from the three volleys cleared.
Just then, I heard the wail of a freight train
running on the old Grand Trunk line down by the river,
blowing at each crossing, as it came closer.
Next, one of the soldiers knelt before his oldest,
presenting him the flag on behalf of a grateful nation
and the wails began to fade as the train headed on eastward.
He never expected to see ’69, after that bloody New Year in Vietnam;
Tet, they called it, and he was in the Iron Triangle.
Miraculously, he came home, in one piece, decorated and recognized for valor,
but he’d been changed and now embraced each new day as a gift.
One marriage ended and a few years later another began
and he now had three new boys to help raise,
one who nicknamed him Kernel, spelled for pop corn and not his rank.
Eventually, after an honorable retirement,
he headed back to high school where he influenced a new generation
to the ideals of duty and honor and hard work.
Empty-nesters, Kernel and his wife Joyce finally retired to the lake
where they enjoyed many sunsets and a few good years,
before he engaged a new battle, this one with his heart.
Struggling to recover from a major attack and stroke
in which he spent a month in a coma,
he was able beat it, just for a while, allowing him to care for Joyce,
who was now on dialysis and dying from pancreatic cancer.
He was there at the end, and thereafter tried to keep busy,
volunteering at the library and enjoying his men’s Bible study group
till one evening when his heart finally gave out.
His ashes, along with his wife’s, were buried in the National Cemetery
where, as the crowd walked back from the grave,
six Blackhawks, flying in formation, came over at treetop level,
heading west, a final flight for an airborne officer…

It was an honor to be among the mourners last Friday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My health care rant...

This photo taken on a recent hike on an abandoned railroad bed... all the snow and ice is now gone.

I was going to refrain saying anything about our current health care debate. Most springs, I’m caught up in Carolina basketball. The won their first NCAA tournament the year I was born and since then there have been very few times they’ve not been in the tournament (truthfully, there’s been few times they’ve not been in the sweet 16). But this year, it’s another story. So, without basketball to divert my attention, there’s politics. I’ve been sick of the health care debate and wasn’t going to say anything more about it, but then late Sunday night, our kid (I know he’s in his 30s, but he looks to be 16) representative in the State House posted this comment on Facebook:

Watch the news tomorrow for a petition drive to preserve your right to control your healthcare.

I was furious. Who controls their own health care now? If you’re over 65, the government already controls it via Medicare. And if you’re under 65, the insurance companies control it (or your employer who chooses the insurance company). And if you don’t have any insurance, you’re screwed and at the mercy of waiting till your sick enough that they have to treat you and by then it may be too late. Tough luck! What is it with this illusion that we’re in control? Maybe, if your net worth is in the 10s of millions, you can control your own health care (provided you have no more than one or two catastrophic illness). Even then, there are some diseases that you can’t beat with all the money in the world. We’re mortal, after all.

On Monday morning, our sophomoric representative followed up with this tweet on Facebook:

Under this bill, the IRS will hire 16,500 new employees to enforce it. Be very afraid.

What is this? Several folks asked him where he got this information, but he never responded with a citation, only with more red-herring rhetoric. Again, my blood pressure rose. I hate scare tactics, especially when employed by politicians.
I know this bill is less than ideal. But something has to be done. We pay so much more than other developed countries for health care and we have nothing to show for it. (Remember the We’re #37 song?) We’re not getting what we are paying for. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will magically changed with this bill, but I do hope it is a start. Yet, I’m not holding my breath.
Yes, I’m glad it passed. But I’m not so excited that I’m waving flags and setting off bottle rockets or spitting on Republican congressmen and shouting racial or hateful slurs at them.
Personally, I am disappointed with the Democrats. If the Republicans didn’t want to play ball and they had to go on it alone, why didn’t they go for a major overhaul including the single-payer option. Yeah, it might kill competition, but that’s assuming there is competition to be killed. I’ve yet to be convinced there is competition in our health care delivery system. Maybe there is a little competition on the family Doctor level (provided you don’t have restrictive insurance), but the more serious the need, the less competition you’ll find.
From what I’ve heard about this bill, it sounds like they’re trying to put enough Band-Aids on it to continue to allow us to pay through our noses for health care. Yeah, more people will be insured, but the cost will continue to escalate. I’ve recently heard too much rhetoric about how government has never run anything well, and that may be so, but lately we’ve seen a lot of examples of the private sector not running things well. This is especially true for big private sector firms. And health care is at the top of the list.
One final thing… As I am making everyone mad, I might as well go for broke. I’m glad they have taken abortions off the table and are not going to provide federal funds from them. That’s a compromise! But in doing so, why didn’t the pro-lifers get behind the bill? After all, what is more pro-life than having more people insured? Shouldn’t pro-lifers want pregnant women to have health care and the ability to get medical care earlier, making sure that her child is healthy? Just as most so-called pro-lifers are also mostly pro-death penalty, from what it sounds like to me, most are also against health care reform. This dichotomy is one of the great ironies of life and the answer is probably found in their political philosophy driving their theology and not the other way around.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review: Lost on Planet China

J. Maarten Troost, Lost on Planet China: One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation (New York: Broadway Books, 2008), 382 pages

From his previous life on remote islands in the South Pacific, Maarten Troost observed there are two kinds of folks you can count on seeing at the ends of the earth: Mormon Missionaries and Chinese Businessmen. I’m not sure what Troost has against Mormons, but he decided to explore the land of the latter who were, from his perspective, quickly converting the South Pacific into a Chinese Lake. Thinking China is the next happening place (and possibility a location to raise his family), Troost heads off to investigate. He was not amused, but his readers will be highly amused by his observations.
Troost finds China crowded, polluted, stuffed-up and perverted. The first should be of little surprise as it is well-known that China population is the largest of any country in the world. The second is also of little surprise as Chinas has recently taken the lead in the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere. The air is so bad that Troost suggests it would even cause a Republican to be in favor of a clean air act. To prove this point, Troots later has one of his school friends, an out-of-work due-to-the-elections Republican operative travel around with him for part of his trip in China. One of the nastier things Troost observed throughout the country was how everyone seemed to cough and hack and openly spit out phlegm, as if the whole nation was suffering from a respiratory problem. As far as the last characteristic, Troost doesn’t actually call China perverted, per se, but he does remind us of the puritan attitudes of the Chinese government and then goes on to show us the real China through encounters with prostitutes, a mistaken foray into a gay bar and ancient pornography.
Food is another area of discomfort for Troost. At first, he’s repulsed at the thought of eating live squid, but eventually cleans his bowl. (185) He feasts on barbeque frog as if it was something no one else had ever eaten. (150) He heads into a market where all kinds of animals are offered for sale for the purpose of consumption. Troost concludes that this was apparently where Noah unloaded his cargo. (215) Throughout the book, he tells of eating all kinds of things that he would have never eaten would back home in California and I’m left to wonder if he ever at a hot dog. As for frogs, I ate them as a kid. I don’t remember them being barbecued, but being that was in North Carolina, they may have been.
Troost is big on statistics and liberally sprinkles such tidbits of information throughout the book. Fifty percent of all bottled water in Chinas is contaminated. (84) China burns more coal in a year than the United States, Japan and Europe combined. (85) China has only 3% of the world’s drivers but 25% of automobile fatalities. (179) China is home to three-quarters of the world big cranes. (211) The average age of death of a traffic cop in Guangzhou is forty-three, and the cause of death isn’t bad drivers but respiratory problems. (217) The hodge-podge of facts Troost drops throughout the book are interesting, but there were so many of them that I began to wonder if he made them up. After all, he’s the same author who started off his second book with a disclaimer. He is not Dan Rather (or was it Tom Brokaw) and isn’t interested in facts.
While traveling through the country, Troost was amused at China’s media complaints about the about inferior of Western products. He’s reading this while drinking bottled water and thinking that instead of being Nestles, it’s just as likely water from a spigot in Beijing. (84) He often makes comments about Chinese dog food sold in the West and their baby formula sold in their own country. Throughout China, he finds it hard to ascertain if what you’re buying is what it says it is. (146-148) Troost also explores the way the Chinese government doesn’t allow criticism and how, after Mattel had to do a massive recall of toys painted in China with lead paint, the Chinese force the company to apologize for its engineering of magnetic toys that were found to be fatal if consumed. (116) In an entertaining way, he tells of the American-Chinese standoff following one of our spy planes, a lumbering turbo-prop, that according to the Chinese rammed one of their own limber fighter planes. The international incident was the only time the George W. Bush apologized, something he vowed never to do again. (119) Troost also finds the Chinese government control of religion a little overbearing. Ignoring the Vatican, the country decided they had the right to appoint their own Cardinal and overlooking centuries of tradition, have appointed their own successor to the Dalai Lama while the official child chosen as successor has mysteriously disappeared. (291)
Although he does have a Republican friend, Troost doesn’t seem to care much for conservatives and especially the politics of George W. Bush (after all, he’s Dutch and Canadian). He notes that at most there may be a dozen Americans willing to risk nuclear war with China over Taiwan, but unfortunately those twelve are all working in Bush’s White House [this book was published in 2008, the last year of Bush’s presidency]. (253) While not being a fan of Bush, he inadvertently illustrates a point that Bush and death penalty advocates have always maintained. Capital punishment deters crime. When offered a bag of weed, Troost declines saying there is no way he’ll even consider smoking pot (remember, this is the guy who wrote Getting Stoned with Savages) in a nation that has mobile execution labs. He went on to note that another area that China leads the world in is executions and how, since 2004, they’ve moved away from the messy shot in the back of the head to mobile labs that “humanely” administer lethal injections, sparing the mess and saving the corpse for a thriving government business in organ transplants. (237-9) -
After reading this book, I still want to visit China. I was especially impressed with his hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. (263) Besides, in a world that’s so different, I might actually enjoy listening to Michael Jackson, as Troost did when taking the train from Tibet, or to Country Christian music which serenaded him on an in-country airplane flight.
Of the three books that I’ve read in the past year on China (the other two are Rob Grifford, China Road and Colin Thubron, Shadow of the Silk Road), I would recommend China Road if you want to learn about the country, but Troost is, hands down, the funniest book of the three and for that reason, I recommend him. By the way, I never got around to review Shadow of the Silk Road, which is more than just about China as Thubron travels from China back to the Mediterranean Sea. Only the first part of the book is about China.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing army

Grown men reenacting the Civil War has always seemed kind of weird to me. That was something I did that as a kid. Three years we spent in Petersburg, Virginia, we got to play war over the same ground that our forefathers had fought over a century early. But as I grew up, I found that I could run around in the woods without acting like I was Johnny Reb. The same goes for those who occupy the parks in many towns during the summer, acting like they’re knights, squires and wrenches in the seemingly ubiquitous Renaissance Fairs. Although wearing chainmail and having the ladies call me “MyLord” could be exciting, a reenactment of that period without the threat of the Black Death seems a little wimpish. The same goes for those groups that reenact being Mountain Men. Sitting around a campfire gnawing on a roasted beaver and sleeping on pine needs doesn’t do anything for me. Give me my thermo-rest pad at night and something other than an oversized rodent for dinner.

That said, I never thought they’d be a day that we’d have grown American men reenacting World War 2, with half of them dressed as Nazis and the other half as Soviets, fighting a battle on the Eastern Front. These are grown American men acting like two of our great enemies, and there are folks worried about the Democrats. Too bad Henry Gibson is no longer with us; he made such a perfect Nazi in “The Blues Brothers.” Of course, such a reenactment might be tolerable if Col. Klink and Sgt Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes were among the bunch. At least there would be laughs to compensate for wearing starched uniforms.

I came across the link to the Nazi-Soviet battle reenactment in Ultralighter's blog. Every week he highlights posts of hikes and hikers around the world. It’s quite common in the Georgia Mountains along the Appalachian Trail to find the United States Army out on maneuvers. The hiker who discovered these German soldiers setting up camp must have felt that he was in a time warp, one that also took him half way around the world, from Washington State to Western Russia.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Counterfeit Gods (A Book Review)

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (New York: Dutton, 2009), 210 pages

Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something beside God. (171)

Idolatry is prevalent in our world, our communities, our churches and our individual lives. As Keller points out over and over, idols are not necessarily bad things. In fact, they are seldom bad. They are generally good things (family, sex, money, success, and even religion), but when we look to them to “satisfy our deepest needs and hopes,” they fail us. They become a counterfeit god. (xvii, 103). I found this to be a powerful and challenging book. It was published following our recent financial melt-down, written by a pastor whose church on Manhattan draws many of the investment bankers that were at the forefront of the crisis.

Using Biblical stories as illustrations, Keller attempts to expose the idolatry of our lives. For idolatry of the family, he draws on the story of Abraham and how the old man pinned his hope for a legacy on Isaac, essentially making his son into an idol. For sex, he explores the story of Jacob’s courtship with Rachel and Leah. For money and greed, he looks at the call of Zacchaeus. For success, he looks at Naaman, the leper, who question Elijah’s method of healing. For success, he looks at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of clay feet. His examination of how “correct religion” can become an idol leads him into the story of Jonah. And finally, he looks at how we need to replace our idols with God by exploring Jacob’s wrestling.

There are two levels to our idolatry according to Keller. We all have surface idols that mask our deeper idols. These surface idols are mostly good things, but they become idols because we place our ultimate trust in them as we strive to satisfy our deeper longings for power, approval, comfort or control. (64) We can fight against the surface idols, but new ones will pop up unless we address our deeper needs, which can only be handled by replacing such idols with a total trust in God.

Keller confronts our worship of success. He even challenges how some place total trust in “the free market.” “The gods of moralistic religion,” he proposes,” favors the successful.” It could be argued that such folks are attempting to earn their salvation. But the God of the Bible comes down to earth to accomplish our salvation and give us grace. (44) Later in the book he writes that the “Biblical story of salvation assaults our worship of success at every point.” (94) He challenges Adam Smith’s theory of capitalism for “deifying” the invisible hand of the market which, “when given free reign, automatically drives behavior toward that which is most beneficial for society, apart from any God or moral code.” He ponders, in light of the financial crisis, if the same dissatisfaction that occurred with socialism a generation earlier might also occur with capitalism. (105-106)

Keller also challenges our political and philosophical ideals, especially those that we place above our faith in God. Straddling the political fence and refusing to place himself on the right or left, as a Republican or Democrat, he observes that a fallout of us making idols out of our philosophy/politics may be the reason why when on group loses and election there is often an extreme reaction.

“When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their polices and people are not in power, everything will fall apart. They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created. (99)

The author closes with an Epilogue where he discusses the discerning and replacing our idols. To discern our idols, Keller suggests we contemplate where our imagination goes when we’re daydreaming, where we spend our money, or where we really place our hope and salvation instead of where we profess to place it, or where we find our uncontrolled emotions unleashed. (167-9) To handle our idols, we have to do more than repent, they have to be replaced with God. I found this last part of the book to be the weakest, with just a few pages of suggestions, drawing heavily from the opening of Colossians 3. He calls for us to rejoice and repent together and to practice the spiritual disciplines as a way to invite God to replace our idolatrous desires. His final comment is an admission that this is not a onetime program, but a lifelong quest for as soon as we think we’re got our idols removed, we’ll discover deeper places within our psyche to clean out.
This book has given me much to think about. We can all benefit from what he says about the difficult to discern our own greed (52) and on how we worship success and our political ideals. Only one did I get excited about a “theological error,” and I feel pretty certain it was more from carelessness in language than in what Keller actually believes. On page 162, Keller speaks of when our “Lord appeared as a man” on Calvary, which sounds to me a lot like the Docetism heresy. Docetism held that Jesus’ humanity was an illusion. However, Keller concludes the sentence saying that Jesus “because truly weak to save us,” which sounds as if Jesus’ humanity wasn’t just an illusion.
I recommend this book and am grateful to Mr. Keller and Dutton Publishing for providing extensive notes and a detailed bibliograhy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Report

The day started out foggy. It was kind of eerie last night, you could see the fog rise from the places were there was still snow on the ground. It was heavy enough this morning that the schools were on a two hour delay. As I was heading to school first thing this morning, the delay gave me time to do other stuff…

Spring is on its way. There are daffodils sprouting up around the house and should be blooming soon. As the snow retreats, I have one of my least favorite tasks--poop patrol. This morning, while waiting, I noticed the brown piles across the backyard. I was hoping it was where the snow plow guy missed the driveway or where moles had dug up the yard, but I wasn’t that lucky. I got busy with the scooper and a pocket filled with plastic grocery bags. There was a lot of poop to scoop, a good three months or so worth of it. By the time I was done, I had filled four grocery bags which I placed into a large garbage bag and will send out in the trash on Monday.

I made sure that I washed my hands before taking my daughter to school. March is reading month and someone thought it would be good to have guest readers in the school and that I’d be a good one, so this morning I headed to an elementary school and read stories to a bunch of second graders. It felt good to read Thomas the Tank Engine stories again, along with other favorites from my daughter’s earlier years. In the afternoon, I took a walk along the old railroad grade that runs beside the river. The ice was mostly melted in the backwaters behind one of the dams and the open water drew in several dozen swans. Out in the river, away from the swans, two sets of Canadian Geese were having a hooking contest. I wonder if those birds ever get strep throat?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Taking the bus...

Yep, that's me, sometime around 1963.

The snow is melting. It’s still getting cold at night, but is up in the low 40s in the day time. All around the county, folks have buckets (or tacky-looking blue plastic bags) attached to taps on Maple trees, collecting sap to boil down into maple syrup. They say it takes 40 gallons of sap for a gallon of syrup. Memoir writing is a lot like that, distilling all our experiences down to the good stuff… Here is another story from my childhood.
We had moved to Petersburg, Virginia. This was the beginning of my family’s three year exile from North Carolina. We lived in a rented house on Montebello Street, where we stayed for nine months before moving to Bishop Street. I started school this year at Walnut Hill’s Elementary. There were no regular school buses for those of us living in town. If you wanted to take a bus, you had to take the city bus, something I only did once, early in the school year, in the weeks before John Kennedy was shot. I know this because we were moving into a new house, one closer to school, on that fateful day. So this happened sometime that fall, before November 22nd.
On this day, I got to ride the city bus. I’m not sure why, maybe my father was out-of-town, and a younger brother or sister was sick so my mom couldn’t take me. On this day, I got to ride the bus with Ellen, a neighbor and the first older woman I took an interest in. She was in the fifth or sixth grade. Although the school was only a couple of miles away, riding the bus with Ellen was a grand experience for a six-year-old kid. Together, the two of us walked down to the end of the street and waited for the bus to arrive. I had a change in my hand, which my mom had given me for the fare. Ellen, who was a pro at this, had a monthly bus pass. The bus pulled up in a haze of diesel exhaust, and we got on. I dropped my quarter in the slot, as Ellen had told me to do, and then started to follow her back to a seat when the driver stopped me. To my horror, the bus company had raised the fare and I was a nickel short. I asked if I could run home and get another nickel, but the driver said he couldn’t wait. I pulled a nickel out of my lunch pail, the one my mom had tucked in there for milk, but Ellen wouldn’t let me give it. The driver told me to take a seat and to give him the nickel the next time I rode the bus. I took a seat, but felt like a criminal riding the bus without paying full fare. My grand adventure no longer seemed so grand. I rode in silence and shame.
This turned out to be my only trip on the bus when living in Petersburg. Our new home wasn’t that far from the school and as I got older, I found myself walking with friends. But I never forgot my debt to the bus company. Whenever I saw a bus I felt guilty. I’d look and see if it was the same driver and it always felt as if the driver was starting at me, as if he knew I’d stiffed the bus company out of a nickel. I was ashamed of my actions, but for some reason, I never told them to anyone. At least not for a good many years.
In time, we left Virginia and moved back to North Carolina and the guilt slowly faded. But occasionally, something would ting it and shame would again sweep over me. Finally, years later, I think I was in high school, I recalled the incident to my mother. I was surprised that she remembered. In fact, she was the one who reminded me of Ellen insisting that I not use my milk money and told me that not having the full fare was no big deal to the driver and that she’d sent a nickel with Ellen the next day to pay the driver. I couldn’t believe it. All this time I was carrying around this guilt for a debt that had already been paid.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Stuff running through my mind...

It’s always sad when the Olympic torch goes out… It was even sadder when NBC cut away to a new TV program saying that if we want to see the rest of the closing of the Olympics, along with Nickleback, we’d have to wait till 11:30 PM. In the meantime, we get to watch “Marriage Ref.” No thank you. If I wanted to see Nickleback that bad, I’d go to YouTube. That said, it was a pretty good Olympics. Sunday’s hockey game was intense and it’s a metal our neighbors to the north deserve. Our over-stuff boys in spandex (the four-men bobsled team) melted the track behind them as they raced to the gold. And then there is the skiing and skating. I love the downhill skiing almost as much as I love watching the women's figure skating--go figure.

Saturday, I headed up north to do a little skiing on my on, as well as to serve as a chaperon for our Middle School ski club. Crystal Mountain is rated the best place to ski in the Midwest and after having skied a number of other places, I’d agree. Although they don’t have a lot of terrain to work with (375 feet of vertical), they make the most of it and have several hills with steep pitches that were a joy to ski. Topping off the skiing was a week of snow, which made the trip even more enjoyable. My daughter was glad one of her friend’s Dad was going, so he and I could ski together and leave the two of them to ski on their own. This was a great arrangement until about 11:30, when both of our cell phones started buzzing. They were together in the cafeteria wanting us to come and buy them lunch. The other guy had told his daughter she couldn’t ski a black diamond until he went with her, so after lunch, the four of us skied together for a while. Even though it isn’t as long of a run as places out west or in the east, after seven hours of skiing, my legs were tired.

Crystal Mountain buys wind power to run one of their quad lifts. The photo was shot with my phone and is their advertising it being wind power… An interesting concept and the winds this close to Lake Michigan get up high enough to produce a decent amount of power.

I've come across a couple of interesting blogs that I thought I’d pass on. David Sailer, “The Ultralighter,” often posts about lightweight backpacking techniques such as making alcohol stoves from aluminum cans. About once he week, he has a great “out-takes,” which are links to hiking posts from bloggers around the world and I have enjoyed reading many of them. As I know a few of my regular readers enjoy desert hiking, another blog that I came to through The Ultralighter is Sirena’s blog. She is currently hiking the Grand Enhancement Trail, a 700 mile path across Arizona and New Mexico.

The photo at the top of the post was taken a few years ago on an Isle Royale National Park backpack trip.