Thursday, September 21, 2006

7-W

What do the number 7 and the letter W have in common?

 

Go ahead, leave a comment and take a guess.

 

I'll post an answer in about a week.

 

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Conflicting Emotions


A couple of weekends ago, I experienced conflicting emotions that I had not endured since puberty.


On the Thursday of this week, I noticed that some of our cutting knives just weren't (well) cutting it. As I tried to pop one of the old Kroger balloons and really had to dig into the rubber to make it pop, I sturdied my stand that to be safer: "Knives should be sharp."


I spent about ten minutes sharpening each of our black-handled, wooden sheathed knives.


Cut to Saturday evening. Romantic. The kids are at a friend's house (yes all four of them, but that is another story in miracles). We are away from Cincinnati for the weekend in a rustic, but posh cabin. The kind of place where a couple cannot go on a first date as the bedroom is the living room, is the shower, and is the fireplace area. All rooms are intimate. All places are romantic.


I have done some homework here and have packed some crackers, three varieties of cheese, some wine . . . and have even obtained some taste-contrasting apples.


The fire is warm. The evening is still. The iPod plays some background music.


It is good.


I am using the knives. I am cutting the apples. I am slicing the cheese. . .


The knife slips.


Kim's sits up quickly, eyes open wide, looking at me and my thumb.


"Right now, I am in a conflicted emotion . . . I don't know whether to be happy about the time wasted sharpening the knives or to be happy that I did such a poor job sharpening them."


10-digit Dave's evening continued . . .


Thursday, September 14, 2006

I-75 Necessary Stops


Written while driving north from Knoxville TN to Cincinnati OH.


Currently, I am nearing exit 41 on northbound Interstate 75 in Kentucky.

Currently, I also need to find a facility -- not for my car if you get my meaning.

As I am driving, I find it kind of amazing that McDonald's -- one of the premier cookie-cutter restaurants is always able to duplicate everything in its restaurant. I would guess that at least 90% of the time, its hamburgers, soda, french fries, morning breakfast sandwiches, uniforms, paint schemes, drive-throughs are remarkably the same.

Unfortunately, their men's restrooms are also almost (without exception) remarkably the same. Not really clean -- more like kind of smelly, do-I-really-want-to-touch-the-door-handle, stinky dirty. Maybe I am not being absolutely fair in this judgment, and maybe it is just the McDonald's and other fast food restaurants near the interstate system, but why are they all so repulsive that one has to almost physically restrain one's son or daughter from touching (well) anything?

So, while I am driving, I am making my list of best places for a personal pitstop:

1. Any rest area just inside the border of a state. It seems that the state does not want to make a negative impression to its newly welcomed visitors just after they have crossed the border.

2. Cracker Barrel -- I don't know how, but they usually keep their bathrooms Disney-clean.

3. The most recently constructed rest areas -- something about the relatively recent architecture lends itself to people hitting the toilet.

4. Fast food restaurants that are to the right of exit ramps -- even if it is not clean smelling, at least it is efficient to get back on the interstate.

5. Truckstops -- these are moderately clean and the persistent cigarette smoke masks the years and filth.

6. Gas stations -- these people consistently understand that getting the vehicle's driver to stop for fuel is their number one priority. Their step number two involves getting the same drivers to purchase the "sundry" items inside (to maximize, Hell to create) actual profit. Their step number three is to get them back out of the store and away from their pumps to lure more drivers.
Having clean bathrooms, therefore, is not a part of their business plan as it causes vehicles to park in front of the pumps for profit-crushing durations.

7. An underpass or any shoulder just past the end of any guardrail. Maybe this should be #5 or #6.

8. The Bigfoot "Convenience Station" on Interstate 74 at the Greenwood, Indiana exit -- never, never, never again.
Do you have any additions or modifications to this list?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

iPod's Connection (and Beauty)


September 13, 2006: This morning, I left the hotel relatively early so that I could stop by the Atlanta Bread Company to get a "real" cup of coffee and to spend some down time before the day's meeting.

As I was there, I was listening to my iPod (Frank Deford and KCRW's The Score). As I was watching these people socializing (it sure seems that there are a lot of men in Bible groups in the Atlantic Bread Company early on Wednesday mornings) I was struck by the irony of these people socializing while I was lurking in their midst and behind iPod's earbuds.

The volume was not turned up, but the earbuds themselves were enough of a social deterrent that nobody stopped by or interrupted my study.

During these 20 minutes alone in public, I drank some coffee, ate my morning sandwich and listened to podcasts which were on two different (not opposite) emotional spectrums.

The first podcast was from a commercial pilot who collects stories in the air from other commercial pilots, flight attendants, and passengers regarding things that happen 30,000 feet up. This particular podcast however was not a combination of several stories, it was one story by Joe d'Eon created on September 11, 2006 giving his view on the Twin Towers and the pilots of the ill-fated flights.

The second podcast included Frank Deford of NPR. Mr. Deford's column usually has something to do with sports and their meaning in our daily life (it is not a package of scores or daily results). During this podcast, Mr. Deford draws a parallel between Pluto and some of the lesser-regarded or lesser-attended sports teams. Listen to the whole thing as you will undoubtedly laugh at the well done sixth grade humor.

IPod -- the poor man's satellite radio . . . but rich with emotions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Education Begins Everywhere


Last week, a friend and I met to discuss education and how we might make education better for the teachers, the students, the families, and (although we didn't formally discuss it) society.

This evening, I just finished writing of the minutes of that initial meeting to both capture the record of the meeting and to create a to do list to get that all-important inertia overcoming static friction and dealing with the less-energy-to-overcome kinetic friction.

Meeting with my friend last week was quite good as it was another push to get the wheel moving. Finalizing the minutes this evening are self-validation that this seemingly pie-in-the-sky, big hairy audacious goal, it's-just-to-right-thing-to-do Project (with a capital P) is coming to life.

Mary Shelley would be proud.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fly -- No Matter What

This post rambles -- I've re-read it twice, changed it around a little bit. It still rambles, but right now, I still can't fix it.

In time, I'll be able to. . .


-----

Everyone remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 -- I was in a Construction Meeting at the Greater Cincinnati Airport. My wife called twice and I picked up the cell-phone on her second attempt -- our code for "it's important".

She told me that a plane had just struck the World Trade Center. She said, "Dave. It's important. Tell everyone in the meeting what just happened." From the first minute, she understood better than anyone I know what was going on. No, she did not know if it was a terrorist plot or an accident, but she knew that today was a day that we'd remember. She knew that it was important for me to tell everyone in the meeting that something big and terrible was happening.

When she called the second time about twenty minutes later -- we ended the meeting.

That afternoon, I returned from our field office at the Airport to our Main Office. That day I did not want anyone to take anything from me -- I continued to work for several hours as I did not want to give into anyone trying to terrorize me -- I was not going to be bullied.

The Unger Report posted a piece today on comedy and how 9/11 has impacted laughing. If you have a couple of minutes, listen to it -- especially the last 40 seconds. It is the voice of someone that gets it -- and ironically he gets it, because he admits that he just doesn't understand it. David Letterman went back to work six days after the 11th. I recall him stating that he was going back to work because Mayor Giuliani asked that people try to return to their normal ways.

In 2001, our family was only four in number -- now it is six. As I was driving today, I realized that none of our kids will really remember September 11 -- just as I don't remember November 22, 1963 (I wasn't alive yet) or July 20, 1969. They'll learn of it and remember it, but they won't know right where they were when it happened. Is that a good thing -- I don't know -- part of me thinks yes and part no.

A couple of years ago, my daughter started learning about 9/11 while listening to the words of Alan Jackson's song. She listened to enough of the words to wonder why "the world stopped turning."

It was sometime in 2003 and even though it wasn't September or an 11th or 2001 -- just some random day -- I remember where I was -- driving up Hunley explaining to her what had happened a couple of years before . . . and having to stop talking a few times from being choked-up.

I wonder if that is what she'll remember?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

TED


If you are interested in hearing some very good speakers talk about some work they are doing that can change the world one thing at a time, check out TED -- People using technology to make things better (or Geeks Providing Love) -- seems like a good thing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

365 x 2 plus time

Each year, I (literally) take thousands of photos.

I took the attached photo two years ago tomorrow. The quality stinks, the cropping is poor, the reason I took it is not quite known (even to me), but its importance is paramount.

8 seconds before this photo was taken, my wife had walked from the garage down to near where I was and advised me that my Dad had died.

She bore the news and before she got to me, our then-four-year-old son got it and got to her. He went to her with all available hugs and comprehension.

I still don't know exactly why I took this picture - my camera was close and something told me that I would want this years later -- and painfully sweet, I know that I was right. Picturing (literally, again) the hurt on my wife's face, the comfort to her from my son, and knowing the situation reminds me again and again what a phase life is.

I don't like interrupting a story-line, but two years ago as I was driving back to Indianapolis, I was listening to a CD that I had compiled just a few days before. Being in the state that I was, I was imagining that each song really meant something that my Dad wanted to say to either me or to someone else. In each song, I was able to apply meaning -- except one.

The one song that I could not give any justification was a Jimmy Buffett song -- "Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling". The whole drive up, I could not figure out any of the lyrics that made sense. Each and every other song had a least one line that I was able to fit into something that he would want to say to either me or to Mom -- but not this one. Nothing would fit.

Years ago, knowing my affection and admiration for my Dad, I asked that should he die before me, would he mind giving me his wedding ring. I admired his love and givingness to my Mom and thought that I'd like a little of that passed on to me.

Driving back to Cincinnati the next day while wearing my now-given-to-me-from-my-Mom Dad's wedding band, I was again listening to the same CD in the truck when Track 6 came on. I got it when I heard Mr. Buffett sing, "What's this ring on my finger, what is its meaning?"

Contact from my dear old Dad. Dad 1, Dave 0.

Tomorrow, it will be two years later, time will have moved on. My mom still aches, I still miss my biggest fan, and this picture reminds it all to me.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Difference

Earlier today, my family found a squirrel's nest fallen from a tree above. My family also found two squirrels in the nest that previously were 30 feet above the ground.

Our initial thoughts were to leave them alone (and keep our scents off of them) in hopes that their parents would get them hoisted back up to their (new) nest.

As the morning rolled into the afternoon, the kids reported that apparently one of the squirrels was rescued by its parents. But the other was not.

Here is where the difference kicks in: My wife and my daughter then begin to think of ways to help the baby squirrel (and they end of getting info from a local wildlife person. "Put the baby squirrel in a clean butter tub and nail it high off of the ground. Put some paper towel over it so it doesn't get burned by the sun."

Here is where the difference continues: As the hours faded into evening, my wife went to the store to buy kitten formula. And now she and our daughter are feeding the squirrel.

Here is the other side of the difference: When it was first found and throughout the day, I have said (once) and thought frequently, "It is nature. It is what happens. It is the circle of (ironically) life." Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Glad I'm Here 4th

The other day, the Senate just missed passing a bill (or perhaps it was a resolution -- I can't remember School House Rock too well) which would have banned the burning of the American Flag. If I recall correctly, they missed by one vote.

In 1979, I remember my father being a disappointed that the Equal Rights Amendment was dieing as two-thirds of the states did not ratify it within the required time. (I am sure that my mother was disappointed as well, but it apparently struck a cord as my father's disappointment was a sting to the proverbially extendend helping hand and doing a just-do-the-right-thing-because-it-is-the-right-thing)

So, anyway, the flag amendment did not pass the US Sentate's floor.

I say "Well done. "

One thing that I love about this country is that people can do things which I might not be able to stand and as long as they aren't hurting anyone else, they can do/say what they want. I am crazy-happy that a blog that I might write will not cause the internal police to visit my house, I am psyched that my opinion . . . no matter how different from my neighbor . . . will be considered by that neighbor without repructions to either me or that neighbor -- We can speak over the fence freely and openly.

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.

So as our country celebrates #230, I say "Speak your Voice, Speak It Well. Speak it from the heart and the brain and surely know that good and wise words will be gathered and they will grow." Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 30, 2006

Airport Psychology Class

A few years ago, I read of a collegiate study which I'll call "Pretend Prison".

In this study, half of the Psych class was deemed "guards" and the other half "prisioners" - they would act in these roles. All of the students knew each other and hand been in the same class for nearly a semester. The study was scheduled to last a week and was to record the interactions between the two sets of people.

The study had to be stopped after one day.

It seems that those that were given power (the guards) took advantage of their situation and were more-than-anticipated abusive to the prisioners. This was just role-playing, but the role-playing guards were "on it".

This morning, I participated in one of the traveler's tasks that I just can't stand -- I went through the security checkpoint. Each time I go through, I absolutely cannot stand having to take off my shoes. Remember the guy that was going to blow up the plane with something flammable that he had smuggled on the plane in his shoes? Well, I don't blame him for the shoeless security frakus. I blame the knee jerk reaction.

Perhaps those in the know saw this as an opportunity/excuse for checking/x-raying shoes . . . but what is going to happen if someone smuggles something in the bra? Or how about between one's hair and neck (me excluded).

This morning while going through security, a TSA agent said that she was going to check my shoes for explosives -- Fine. After she took them, she realized that she didn't have the sniffer (some other poor slob was being sniffed left and right). So she gave them back to me without doing the test.

One could say that she was just doing a random test and that she was filling her daily quota, but I think that she (and her co-workers) are becoming the Guards and the travelers are becoming the Prisioners.

I am looking forward to the end of the day when this psych-class/collegiate-study is stopped -- and the guards and prisioners return to normal again. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dante Keillor

"Dante says the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader." *

This morning I got down to the hotel lobby a little early and noted that this hotel had some old books (and they weren't in Sweedish as in a recent Indy hotel visit, but I digress).

As there were books, comfy arm-chairs, and time, I decided to take a look. I found a book titled Human Nature Politics by Graham Wallas.

I noted that this was the third edition and had a copyright of 1922 or 23. The preface indicated that the first edition was written in 1908.

This book's preface notes that some typos have been corrected and the third edition preface has been added. It goes on to note that the first edition statements were (again) substantiated by the initiation of the Great War -- most notably, the people with the means will do what they like at the potential cost of those without the means.

* From Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America by Garrison Keillor Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Divided Highway

Last week, the temperature was about 70°, the wind was whipping through the open windows and I was driving north in Michigan on US 31 (a divided highway with very pretty trees and natural-landscaping). This section of highway was the type that improved any car -- as long as it windows can open. In normal circumstances I would've been impressed and slightly elated at how pretty and emotionally-full the drive was.

But . . .

While I was driving, I was listening to a two-part story on NPR. The first part of the story was recorded in 1994. It involved two 13 year old boys who had overcome some obstacles and were placed in positive-habit-forming foster homes. Listening to the innocence and openness and world-is-my-oyster views, one got the feeling that these young kids were initially given a sour deal in life, but the next 15 years looked like they would be full of improvement.

Skip ahead 12 years to 2006. Adult male voices fill the speaker with background noises that do not bring to mind pictures of the pleasant life. The echoing other voices and the clink of the metal impart that this voice is confined. And this boy-now-man has the better story. For whatever reason, life continued to give this person bad blows. Or ultimately he found himself in this predicament. But, his life is still working and (presumably) can still be improved.

The other young boy's voice can no longer be heard. He died this February mostly from his environment.

Where does it happen? How does it happen? Does the marching of time keep time with things going downhill, or are there specific and unique occurrences that provide turns for the worse or turns for the better? Listening to the innocent voices, then skipping 12 years to a man's voice and cell doors. . . Argh.

That stretch of US 31 which should have been a very enjoyable and very pretty drive through tree-lined roads will not be remembered by me as such. It will remind me of, well . . . Crap, life is not only unfair, it can be harsh, unrelenting, and hard to stomach. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gaining Velocity Back.


It is an ironic rule of flying that just when things are going really poorly and the wings have stopped producing lift (and are getting ready to stall), a person's natural reaction is to pull back on the stick to try to "get away" from the approaching ground.

Unfortunately, this action is the exact opposite of what the pilot needs to do -- pushing forward on the stick allows the plane to start flying again and even though the ground will get closer, the intent is to allow the plane to get enough velocity so that it can again climb away.

Similiarly, when the day and week are amazingly full, when nothing is being completed, and when the ground is approaching, the natural action is to pull all-nighters, stall deadlines, and try to get some distance between a person and the approaching deadline. This may work for a little while, but the ground is still approaching.

The trick is (once again) to push forward on the stick -- to push back from the desk, get the fly-rod, pick up a flat skipping stone, and enjoy the sights and sounds of a little bit of time picking up some speed (and yes even passing you by) so that you can gain enough speed to fly again. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Awakened by God

Or at least his minion, Mother Nature.

Is there any better way to be awakend by the sound of thunder in the distance? Or (now that I think about it) morning birds, frogs croaking, or basically anything other than the meandering monoto of the singled noted liquid crystal Timex? Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 19, 2006

Paul is 64.

At what point do we realize that we are still learning and doing, but to do more, we actually need to plan it.

Or to put it another way, when does one stop living by the mantra, "it is Friday, what are we doing tonight" and start living the [extreme] "it's 2006, we need to start planning for retirement."?

Or to put it an even different way, when (and how) do we cross the line of being immortal [and "damn straight we can cross the street anywhere we want to] and begin realizing that we are not only immortal, but chagrinned to find out that soccer post-40 might just actually require a discussion with one's doctor.

So, here is the point. . .

Apparently, I am crossing another one of these lines (not sure which one exactly) but here is the deal. The other day I began thinking that teaching kids was a pretty important (if not extremely important) job. As I was thinking this a bit, I thought that for me to teach, I'd have to take a not-so-insignificant pay cut. That didn't seem right.

Helping the construction of roads and bridges is (I think) a pretty good occupation -- it assists others in reaching destinations so that they might be able to do some good in society [really, this is how I view engineering - it is an assistance-type job - not for acquisition of any higher purpose actual goal, but a necessary stepping stone toward one of those higher goals].

So, isn't teaching the same thing? Except that the canvas (or concrete form) is a bit cleaner. Yes, it is. Teaching kids is one of the paramount goals of any society that can't or won't reach the Ultimate Goal within the next generation. It has to be -- otherwise we're moving backward -- and attaining goals moving backward doesn't really work.

So, I have a goal. I have taken the first (albeit tiny) step in getting teacher's pay equivalent to engineer's pay -- from just post-graduate to 30 years.

It is important to me and I am moving forward.

By the way. . .
Some information, yesterday, Paul McCartney was 64. Will you still need me, will you still feed me. . . Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 05, 2006

2 Parallel Bridges, End Dam, and Dollar-Bill Scale

The bridge on the left was supposed to be even with the one on the right -- it wasn't as their concrete was placed at different ambiant temperatures. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Big Mac Bridge - taken from the southern mid-river pier while I-471 was closed for steel-placement of overhead steel on Fort Washington Way. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006

'Pilars

The (child's) finger is provided for scale. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

South African Directions

Photo taken April 15, 2006 from a bus, eating lunch and (I think) an unwashed apple.

Scouts and Flag

At a recent bridge ceremony. . . Posted by Picasa