May 30, 2010

Quote of the day

For a scientist must indeed be freely imaginative and yet skeptical, creative and yet a critic. There is a sense in which he must be free, but another in which his thought must be very precisely regimented; there is poetry in science, but also a lot of bookkeeping. 
~ Sir Peter B. Medawar, courtesy of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast

May 28, 2010


I used to build decks for a living. To obtain a permit, we would prepare site plans and construction drawings to show that the deck complied with all applicable building codes. During the building process, a city inspector would come out twice, once to inspect the footing holes before we poured concrete, and again at the end of the project to be sure that we built according to the drawing. The more proactive cities also met with us on site before the first shovel-full of dirt was removed.

All these inspections naturally slowed down the process. Just pouring concrete footings took three days - one to dig, one for the inspector to come by and say 'yep those are deep enough', and one to pour. As a deck builder, we were fortunate to have at least one less inspection than other projects since all of our framing was still visible in the final project. But it still cost us time and money.

One year, a few overloaded decks made headlines when they pulled away from their houses and collapsed. At least one of them was at a fraternity party, and there were 50+ people on the deck. It turns out that neither of the decks were permited, they were not built to code, and they did not have the necessary lag screws tying the deck to the house.

In a typical knee-jerk reaction, building requirements were changed. Now we had to have a lag screw every 6 inches instead of every 16, even though every 16 inches was more than sufficient. The problem with the deck that fell down wasn't that it didn't have enough lag screws, the problem was it didn't have any. Instead of enforcing the current (sufficient) code, they upped the requirements to an overkill level to demonstrate "they were making sure this wouldn't happen again". Of course requiring permited jobs to do more than is necessary does nothing to solve the problem of unpermitted jobs not built to code.

We only need to scan the current headlines to find examples of lax enforcement. The latest coal mine explosion was at a mine with multiple violations, yet was still allowed to continue to operate. The Deepwater Horizon oil platform was allowed to drill without obtaining all the required permits, and there were far fewer inspections than as required by law.

Further regulation is sometimes required to prevent new abuses (as in the unregulated credit-default-swap markets), but a much more effective use of our time and money is to enforce the laws, rules and regulations already on the books. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction that promises sweeping changes, I would love to hear that they are focusing on enforcement instead. Plus we would get to skip much of the gridlock, filibustering and cries of socialism involved in writing new legislation.

Of course promising sweeping changes makes for great speeches on the campaign trail, but maybe the slogan "We're going to do what we promised" would play pretty well too.

May 23, 2010

Doing it yourself

I've decided I like being a fixer.

When things are not working, I like to figure out why, and if at all possible, to repair it. There are a few reasons I am this way. One is that I hate to throw something away if it can still work, both for financial and environmental reasons. I am also fascinated by how things work. When something breaks, it is an excuse to dig into the nuts and bolts of it (not that there are many nuts and bolts these days). I also have this vision of myself as being self-reliant, like Thoreau at Walden or Tom Hanks stranded on his desert island.

A story clicked into place when I read it a number of years ago. It was in one of books by Robert Fulghum. He is the author of "All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten", but I'm not sure if the story was from this, or one of his other books. He is out on a walk near his house and comes upon one of his neighbors repairing a lawn mower. Mr. Fulghum comments "I wish I was like you and knew how to do those sort of repairs." The neighbor curtly says something like "I am so tired of people saying that. I'm not anything special. I have just taken the time to learn how to do it, and you have chosen not to."

The author was initially taken aback, but as he continued his walk he realized that the neighbor was right. In the past, he simply threw up his hands when something broke, figuring it was too complicated for him to figure out. That he was missing some special gene that allowed mechanics to understand how things worked. Granted, people have some natural abilities that help them grasp certain concepts more easily than others, but to say that you "can't figure it out" is both inaccurate and limiting.

The author took the lesson to heart. Now when something breaks, he knows it is possible to take the time to learn how to fix it. He repairs some things, but takes others in to the mechanic, but now he understands it is a choice and not a necessity. I have tried to hold on to that lesson as well.

Most of all, I like being a fixer for friends. If there is something I already know how to do, I don't hesitate to lend a hand when I can (I am more likely to work on your kitchen than my own). And even if I don't know how to do something, I often take it as an excuse to learn how to do it. I love the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades, and like to add to my list of skills whenever possible. Doing the kitchen remodel recently, though frustrating at times, has been good in that respect.

Recently, the washing machine at the house stopped filling with cold water. It would work for brief periods, but then shut down before the tub was full. It would start up again after an hour or so for no apparent reason, but each load would take a few hours to complete. I initially thought that it was simply the inlet hose. It was one of those flood prevention ones that will shut itself off if there is a leak - a blowout preventer, if you will. It just made sense in my head that it had become defective and was shutting itself off. Then once the pressure balanced out again, it would open up again. It was also the easiest, cheapest fix, so it had that appeal going for it as well.

Of course it wasn't that simple. With my work schedule, I didn't have (make) the time to figure out what was really wrong for another week or two. In the meantime, to bypass the problem and cut laundry time back down to something reasonable, I figured out that we could get the washer to work by filling the tub with cold water from the sink. It took about six large bucket fulls to fill it up, once for the wash and once more for the rinse. It was a very visual reminder of how much water it takes to do a load of laundry. It also made Holly feel like she was working on a farm, bringing in water from the well.

Some time later, I sat down at the computer to see if I could find some troubleshooting advice on the web. After a half hour of research I had narrowed down the likely cause, found the part number, and step by step instructions on how to replace it. I even found a video on how to take the washer apart. The hardest part ended up getting to the parts store while they were open. The repair took another half hour or so and cost all of $28. And laundry in under four hours is worth far more than the effort I put in, which is the most satisfying part.

With multiple 'do-it-yourself' websites at our disposal, it is even easier to learn how to do your own installations and repairs. And of course with money being tighter than ever, it is all the more tempting to save the cost of a repairman. Naturally, there is always the hazard of making things worse and needing to call a professional to "fix your fix". Some instructions I read recently said something like "If you are not comfortable using all the required tools listed, it might be best to call a professional". That seemed like a pretty good place to start.

And of course, I don't repair everything. I learned all about auto repair as a teen and twenty-something working on my '67 Ford. I spent a summer building an engine, I've replaced brakes and clutches on several cars, and have done lots of other odds and ends under the hood. But these days I pay someone to change the oil in my truck. But I know it is something I could do myself. It is just worth the $19 not to do it myself.

As a side note, I came across a book recommendation on another blog recently for Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. The author talks about the satisfaction of making and fixing things with our hands, and that the manual trades "require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure." Crawford draws on his own experience - he quit a miserable think tank job and has found joy and meaning working as a motorcycle mechanic. Publishers Weekly said, "it's hard not to be interested in a philosopher who, in a nation that privileges intellectual attainment, can also successfully replace a carburetor." It sounds like an interesting read.


click to enlarge

Hopefully the finale lives up to the hype. In order to prevent illegal downloads, and to prevent the secrets from making their way to the web, the finale will be simulcast at 5am in United Kingdom and other odd times around the world.

I've yet to see an episode, but I will miss Sean's Lost recaps on Wednesday mornings.

May 22, 2010

Dog sled

One of the pooch's nicknames is "Harbor Seal", mostly for her color and body type. If she could master this skill, the nickname would be even more appropriate.

Thanks Mom for the video.

Quote of the day

“You make it sound easy.”
“It’s not easy.” He tossed away the stick he was whittling. “Only simple.”
~ From "Top Dog" by Jerry Jay Carroll

May 20, 2010

This I Believe

Another good one from This I Believe.

The Hardest Work You Will Ever Do
The day my fiancé fell to his death, it started to snow, just like any November day, just like the bottom hadn’t fallen out of my world when he freefell off the roof. His body, when I found it, was lightly covered with snow. It snowed almost every day for the next four months, while I sat on the couch and watched it pile up.
One morning, I shuffled downstairs and was startled to see a snowplow clearing my driveway and the bent back of a woman shoveling my walk. I dropped to my knees and crawled through the living room and back upstairs so those good Samaritans would not see me. I was mortified. My first thought was, How will I ever repay them? I didn’t have the strength to brush my hair let alone shovel someone’s walk.
Before Jon’s death, I took pride in the fact that I rarely asked for help or favors; I could always do it myself. My identity was defined by my competence and independence. Two hours after Jon died I canceled every obligation in my life. The identity crisis that followed was devastating. Who was I if I was no longer capable and busy? How could I respect myself if all I did was sit on the couch every day and watch the snow fall?
Learning how to receive the love and support that came my way wasn’t easy. Friends cooked for me and I cried because I couldn’t even help them set the table. “I’m not usually this lazy,” I wailed. Finally my friend Kathy sat down with me and said, “Mary, cooking for you is not a big deal. I love you and I want to do it. It makes me feel good to be able to do something for you.”
Over and over, I heard similar sentiments from the people who were supporting me during those dark days. One very wise person told me, “Watching your willingness to be vulnerable and to fully embrace your grief is a gift. The line between giving and receiving is constantly blurred.”
I began to think about how good it made me feel to help people, how the joy was always in the giving rather than the getting, and that maybe that was true for my friends and neighbors, as well. I also came to realize that I didn’t have to repay anyone in kind, but that I could pass on their love and compassion to others who needed it. Most importantly, I could accept their help in the spirit in which it was given – with grace and humility.
Surrendering to my neediness helped light the path to a new identity. I came to understand that we are much more than what we do, that our value lies in who we are.
~ Mary Cook works on the ground crew for an air taxi company in Gustavus, Alaska, a community of 450 surrounded by Glacier Bay National Park. In addition to loading and unloading planes, Cook handles the mail and tends the town’s only coffee house. She also serves as a hospice volunteer.

Though it was only divorce, and not a death I went through, this story hit home. I understand the author's journey through helplessness, struggling with her identity, but then learning to receive love and support of friends and family. Setting aside the need to be independent, and understanding the joy of giving (even when you are on the receiving end).

And of course, the power of a casserole.

May 18, 2010

Quote of the day

CONVERSATION - The pith of conversation does not consist in exhibiting your own superior knowledge on matters of small consequence, but in enlarging, improving and correcting the information you possess by the authority of others.


May 15, 2010

Weeks in review

So, how's that running going anyway...

After the disastrous 16 miler three weeks ago, I have been trying to give myself a fresh start with my running, without taking too many steps backward. I've been able to get a run or two during the week, and have been sticking to the scheduled weekend long runs. Trying to avoid another melt down, on the longer runs I have been including walk breaks every mile, as well as getting out earlier in the morning before the temperatures start to rise. And it has actually been going reasonably well.

I managed a 12 miler the first week, and I was back to just feeling somewhat unprepared, instead of feeling like I was just starting out. The following week I ran a 17.5 miler, and the last couple of miles were pretty tough, but again there was no melt-down. It was Mother's Day and there were lots of runners out on the roads, most likely getting ready for the marathon just like I was. There were more runners with water belts, as well as a few with someone riding a bike alongside for support. It was an overcast day which was great for running, but kind of a bummer for all the picnics the families had planned for Mom. There were a bunch of tables set up in the parks with balloons, but no people. Hopefully the weather improved later in the afternoon.

Today, I went out for another 12 miler, even though I have probably traded the San Diego Marathon for a long weekend with friends. I know, it seems like a no-brainer - run 26 miles or sit on a boat in the sun for a weekend - but it was actually a tough decision. I hate to back out of a commitment, but in the end it seems silly to pass up on time with friends. For now I'm going to pretend I'm going to run the marathon so I keep getting my butt out the door and putting shoe to pavement. And for whatever reason, today's run went surprisingly well.

I ended up running in the afternoon because I was feeling like an old man this morning. Everything hurt, everything creaked. It was warm this afternoon, but there was a bit of wind which helped when I was running into it. It felt about 20 degrees hotter when I was going with the wind, so I was actually looking forward to a headwind. I ended up running at a much faster pace than what I've been averaging the past couple of months. I was feeling  pretty good about halfway through, and I decided to push the pace. I was pretty tapped out by the end, but it felt really good to be running like my old self, and not like the old man I felt like this morning.

As soon as I became a quitter, it suddenly got easier. I should put that on a T-shirt and sell it.

Paying for mistakes

T-shirt courtesy of

We won't know the extent of the damage the spill will cause at this point, but it is anticipated to eclipse the damage done by the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. 

As a part of the fallout from the '89 spill, Exxon pulled nearly all of their gas stations out of western Washington. I hadn't bought gas from Exxon in 20 years until I stopped at a station here in California. It will be interesting to see what the fallout is for BP. It appears they are still trying to figure out what went wrong and who all is to blame. Fingers are pointing to the rig operators, rig owners, government regulators and manufacturers of the failed safety equipment. The Exxon spill was more clearly blamed on the inattention of a drunken captain.

Exxon also avoided and delayed any financial responsibility to the commercial fishermen for the damage the spill caused. Through multiple appeals and twenty years of court cases, Exxon reduced their payout to a fraction of the original award ($383 million vs $5.3 billion). And of course some of the claimants had died off by that time. 

BP has promised to pay for all the damages at this point. Will they spend their money on those hurt by the spill, or on litigation? We will see what they do after they are out of the headlines.

May 14, 2010

Run like a...runner

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The above is the latest of the Pearl Izumi ads in the "We Are Not Joggers/Run Like an Animal" campaign. Since the market was already pretty full of established running shoe competitors, Pearl decided to pursue a nitch of "serious" runners. To separate themselves (and to get a little free press) they created some ads that pissed some folks off and stirred up a little controversy.

The text of their first ad said that though participation in running events is up, "Unfortunately, few if any of them are running. They're jogging, a half-hearted fore-aft movement of the legs that has about as much in common with running as bowling." More of the ads can be found here.

There have also been a couple of articles about how slower runners are ruining the marathon. Running With Slowpokes laments the increase of people "just trying to finish" and those running a marathon to cross it off their bucket list. Though he has finished six marathons himself, the author oddly says, "the human body is just not designed for such high-mileage running." Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon? complains that the people finishing in six or seven hours are ruining the mystique of the marathon. That John Bingham and his penguin followers are gumming up the works.

It is an interesting (if unimportant) debate. Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a particularly fast runner. These days my marathon finish times are a bit above average, but nothing that would impress a "serious" runner. But I can understand some of the points of the article. Start lines are getting pretty crowded, and it can be kinda frustrating dodging around the walkers that decide to line up in the front. With the whole bucket list thing, some events sell out every year and have gone to a lottery to determine who gets in. And if those urban legends of runners that stop for lunch during a marathon are true, I would say they aren't taking the marathon seriously either.

But is the fact that more people are out training and running such a bad thing? I think it is great to see folks of all shapes, sizes and ages at the start line of every event. It is a mistake to try to size up someone's ability by looking at their appearance. I've been beaten repeatedly by people who at first glance look out of shape. And even to judge whether someone is a "real" runner by their pace is foolish. You have no idea what their story is on that particular day. They could be coming off an injury, running for a loved one or charity, or running with a friend as support.  I run with friends that finish a marathon in under three and a half hours, and some that finish in over six hours. And seeing them at the finish line, I can vouch that they are giving it all they have that day.

Fortunately, I don't see any of this self-righteous behavior at running events themselves. The start line is one of the most supportive atmospheres I have been a part of.  Running events are this weird combination of people competing as individuals, yet supporting each other as if they were on a team. I'm sure there are a few pissed off "serious" runners there, but maybe they are off on their own doing wind sprints to warm up. I'd rather hang out with the pack.

I'd have to say that anyone who's sense of accomplishment is affected by who else is on the course, isn't much of a purist anyway. And to those that complain that running a marathon no longer sets them apart (sufficiently), there is always Boston. I hope to get there someday.

Were I to toe the line at the San Diego Marathon in June, I would not be running my best time. But I would be giving it all I had that day, and I think I would be respecting the marathon like the above ad asks us to do.

Whether you run like an animal or not, run for yourself. It shouldn't matter who else is on the road, or what they think. Just get out there and run.

May 12, 2010

You, must, chill!

We have been working at the distant job site again the last few days, and have been putting in an extra hour or two each day to try to wrap things up. The long days and seemingly-never-ending job has been wearing on the both of us. Long days, short nights, you know how it adds up.

I generally eat dinner on the second leg of the drive home, sometime between 7:30 and 8:30. I have been pretty good at staying off of the fast food lately, but dinner Tuesday night was provided by In-N-Out Burger. I was pretty hungry by the time the 8:45 dinner bell rang, so I ordered the Double-Double, Animal style. Ironically, being a fast-food restaurant with a name like In-N-Out, they are not very quick at getting the food to you.

While I was standing in the lobby trying to take a little standing cat-nap, a guy sitting at a nearby table knocked over his Coke, spilling it into his lap, onto his white athletic outfit. And his second reaction (after the initial cold shock) was to laugh. His wife/girlfriend joined in and laughed at it as well. And I have to tell you, my first reaction was admiration for the guy.

If I had knocked a Coke into my lap, I know there would be no laughter any time soon, if at all. I'm pretty sure I would have been pissed off and berated my own clumsiness. Especially that night when my energy and patience were low, my head might have popped off.

I was relaying this story to Sean on the drive home tonight. His thought is that we all walk around with a bag of stupid mistakes, and every few days or so we pluck one out and shine it up for the world to see. Sometimes we take big handfuls, several times a day, and it feels like our bag is bigger than anyone else's. We feel so incompetent that it is hard to imagine that we are able to feed and clothe ourselves each morning. In those moments it is hard to remember the string of days that we avoided reaching into our bag of stupid mistakes. Hard to remember that we're all human, all imperfect, and were not the dumbest/clumsiest fool on the planet.,

 I need to take a lesson from the guy from In-N-Out. I need to learn to laugh at myself when I make the (inevitable) stupid mistake. Lord knows I'm not perfect, and I shouldn't be surprised or irritated by my next boneheaded move.

 And of course I need to get more sleep and eat at healthier establishments, but at least my cholesterol burger came with a side of wisdom.

Quote of the day

"Kids need to think that you care,
before they care what you think."

Wes Moore, author of "The Other Wes Moore", relaying a lesson his mother often repeated.

May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day my friends

Thank you for all you do to bring up these wonderful children, and all the one's whose pictures I don't have with me.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

No Hallmark card for you this year. Ever the procrastinator, I did not plan ahead for the mailing time that now separates us. I am sorry I won't be there this year, but I look forward to seeing you in June. As much as we both hate talking on the phone, like any son, I should call more.

I am truly blessed. You can not chose your family, but I somehow hit the lottery anyway. I have never doubted for a second my great fortune, and I am reminded of it every time we see each other. There is an ease and joy when we gather around the table and discuss things great and small. The love and respect we have for each other lies between all the words.

As I pondered the possibility of my own children, I thought about how you raised our family. I don't recall much formal discipline, only an understanding of right and wrong that you somehow communicated. But there were unspoken lessons every day, mostly from following the example of how you lived your life, and how you treated those around you. If there was a manual, it may have simply said "do the right thing".

As I see my friends with their young children, I am still amazed at the amount of time, effort and sacrifice each parent must invest to raise a child. Every day. Lessons and love in the first few years that no child will remember are still so important. And for all that effort, you can only hope that your child will grow up healthy, happy and maybe successful. There is so much out in the world out of your control, but you don't let that discourage you into giving less than your best effort.

And of course you never are off the clock, your life is no longer entirely your own. There may have been dreams that were set aside in order to raise a family. And yet you and Dad signed up for more and raised four children. I know it wasn't, but you somehow made it look easy. I am reminded of the plaque at the house that says, "Behave like a duck - stay calm on the surface, but paddle like crazy underneath."

Your support and encouragement have made me feel strong even in my weakest moments. As I stumble through this life, you have never made me feel like I wasn't an amazing success, even when it was clear I was just treading water. You made me understand what was most important, and those things are harder to measure. I don't say it enough, but I want to tell the world how much I love you, and how lucky I am to call you Mom. And to thank you for all the things great and small, remembered and forgotten. It is all a part of who I am.

And I will call...

May 7, 2010

Where everybody (or nobody) knows your name

Sean and I had a busy week last week, working at four different job sites and wrapping up three of them. On Friday we had two jobs to complete, and the first one was taking longer than expected. On the surface, the job looked small, but there were many little details that slowed our progress.

We were taking our lunch break, sitting on the tailgate of his truck chatting and enjoying the sun. A dog came running down the street, followed by a white Cadillac Escalade. The driver hopped out at various points and tried to corral her escaped Corgi, but the dog was not done enjoying his freedom. I wandered her way to try to help out. Sometimes a dog will respond to a stranger when it is defying his owner (it sometimes works with children too). I was able to coax the dog my way, but as I grabbed for his collar he eluded my grasp. 

Soon Sean joined in and we were chasing the dog around a few of the neighborhood lawns. I headed back toward my lunch to grab a treat to see if bribery would work. The dog's owner was getting increasingly agitated, and when the dog ran near her, the lady threw the leash and metal collar at the dog in frustration (fortunately she missed). Sean and I looked at each other with that "whoa!" expression because the reaction seemed so out of line with what was going on. The leash and collar narrowly missed going into the open sewer drain. If that had happened her head might have exploded.

I was able to entice the dog with a corn chip, and when he started munching I grabbed the scruff of his neck and lifted him into my arms. The dog owner's eyes were still seething, so rather than hand off the dog to her, I carried him back to her car. 

My friend Holly has been having a rough time the past week or two. We all have those streaks of days where nothing seems to go right, everything is broken, and we are unbelievably clumsy. I know I have felt like this, and often it is a relatively small frustration that will finally cause me to lose it. The anger is almost always directed at myself or some machine that isn't working, rarely if ever at a person or an animal. But the explosion always seems way out of proportion to the mishap.

I have no idea what the dog owner's day, or days were like leading up to the dog's escape. I know that she was running late for something when she lashed out, but for her dog's sake I hope it was more than that. But of course I will never know. We never know the stories of all those folks that cross our path. Hopefully the encounters are positive, but even when they aren't we need to keep in mind we have no idea what they are bringing to the moment. You can only try to treat them with kindness and help them back away from the edge.

After Sean and I finished up the two jobs on Friday, he treated me to a couple of beers at Oceanside Ale Works. It is a brewery with a bit of a speakeasy feel. The brewery is housed in an industrial park, and you almost have to stumble on it to find it. It is only open for four hours on Friday evenings and four hours on Saturday afternoons. And it was packed, standing room only. Well it is always standing room only since there are no chairs. You are just standing on the concrete floor between the makeshift bar and the mixing kegs for the beers, with the roll up garage door open to the parking lot. We were surrounded by people of varying ages, likely coming down off a busy week and looking forward to the weekend. It was great.

Be it a bar, running along a path, a coffee house, a park, or simply sitting on the deck at your house - we all need a safe place to unwind. Someplace to shed the daily frustrations and unwind our spring so we don't take it out on others, or even ourselves. Sometimes we just want to be left alone, but hopefully we find a kind ear when we need to talk our way back from the edge. Sometimes it is a random act of kindness that restores our faith that not everything is going wrong. And sometimes all it takes is a smile.

Or the promise of the weekend. Have a great one.

May 6, 2010

I wish you enough

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. 
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Goodbye."

~ author unknown, included in story told by Bob Perks.

May 5, 2010

I shouldn't operate heavy machinery before 9 am

I have never been a morning person. No matter how long I stick to a particular routine, it never seems to get any easier to get out of bed. As a consequence, I do not think very clearly first thing in the morning.

Monday I got up a little extra early in order to drop Matt off at the airport. To give myself an extra 15 minutes of sleep, I figured I'd just get breakfast on the road. After dropping Matt off and getting on the freeway to head toward Oceanside, I realized I had left my wallet at home. If I backtracked to pick it up, I would have been late. I checked my other pockets and found I had also left my cash at home. I looked in the center console, and there wasn't even any coins in the coin holder. Then about a minute after getting on the freeway, the low fuel light blinked on.

So no cash, no credit or debit card, and no license. Sadly, it took me about 10 minutes to think "Hey, I could swing by the bank to get cash". Like many others I'm sure, I have become so used to using my debit card everywhere that rarely step foot in a bank. I'm not sure if I would have been able to get any money without ID, but I was prepared to list off my address, SSN, place of birth and supply a fingerprint if necessary. I found a bank near my destination, but they didn't open until 9:00, which again would have made me late.

So I went back to the car in hopes that I had stashed a $5 or even a $20 bill somewhere. I used to do this in case of emergencies, but like all good ideas it depends on follow through. I wasn't very good at replacing the stashed bill after using it, so I didn't hold out much hope. I didn't find my emergency stash, but I found something much better. In my glove box was a bank envelope from Washington Mutual (which doesn't even exist anymore). In it was a $100 bill! I went from not having a dime to fill either of my empty tanks, to being "Mister Money Bags". I am pretty sure the money was from my parents. I seem to remember them handing it to me as I left on the drive down here "in case of an emergency". What a great surprise, and it saved my bacon.

Of course the odd thing is now I had a $100 bill and I wasn't sure if I could use it. I didn't think that Starbucks would accept it for a $4 breakfast order of a coffee and scone. But of course I still had an empty gas tank, so after finding a station I put $50 in my tank and gave myself some more managible bills.

So thanks Mom & Dad! That was so much better than finding a $20 in the laundry, and it really turned around a rough start on Monday.

May 4, 2010

Quote of the day

"I run for the same reasons I learned to drive a car with a stick shift and drink my coffee black, imagining that a day might come when some amazing emergency would require such a test."
~ From ‘A’ is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Doing good, and keeping up appearances

Recycling has become much more mainstream in the last 10 years. We of course have much to improve on (like reducing the amount of stuff in the first place), but it is great to see how much stays out of the landfill. Instead of small plastic bins, we are now rolling 90 gallon cans to the curb each week.

And an added bonus of the large closed bins, there isn't the walk of shame with a display of wine bottles after a large party like the 40th birthday bash on Sunday.

May 1, 2010

A dog's life

Dear diary,

The weekend started off great. One of my humans fed me around 5:00 before she left to go to some place called 'Costco'. She fed me that new low carb/diabetic food, but I still get pretty excited about it. Then at 7:00, one of my other humans fed me dinner again! I feel a little bad about faking hunger pangs, but not too bad. Second dinner was followed up by a shot, but I was so content with my full belly that I hardly fought it.

Then today I went to someplace called Dog Beach. I've heard about this place for the last few months, but as far as I could tell it was just a myth. Some place where dogs can run free, play with each other, and romp around in the surf. Too good to be true, just a nice story I thought.

But it is real! I am not the most patient car passenger, so I was pretty pleased that we found a parking spot right away. As soon I was set free from the truck, I could hear and smell dog happiness everywhere. My human was worried about me walking on the sand with my two bad knees, but it really wasn't too bad. I did prefer the compact sand by the water, though.

I was a little tentative to plunge in the water (its not like there was a ball to chase or anything), but the cool water felt really good on a hot day. My legs aren't so strong anymore, so some of the waves pushed me around a bit, so I stuck close to shore and to my human. I don't really have the energy to play with the other dogs anymore, so I had to bark at a few that came charging toward me. They respected this old lady and backed off.

The fun at the beach wore me out kind of quickly, so we were only there for about 20 minutes. But I loved it! I did have to take a bath when I got home 'cause I guess there is some big party tomorrow. My humans said I was smelling a little doggy, but what do you expect? Then they complain that the house smells like 'wet dog'. Humans, none of them make any sense.

Dog Beach was great, but it was hard to beat the two dinners on Friday. That, was, awesome!