Sunday, January 30, 2011


Last year I made a mistake that I don't intend to repeat this year. I sought and received approvals (team lead, director and VP) to reduce from thirty-two hours per week to twenty-four. The team lead who is my immediate supervisor approved the request but asked that I continue at thirty-two hours since one person was retiring in December and another was planning on leaving. We have a great relationship so I agreed to remain at my current work level.

During the course of the year the director left and another person was assigned to the position. Fortunately I've known this man for almost ten years. I approached him about reducing my hours and he was receptive. Last week I approached my supervisor and received a verbal OK.

My reasons for cutting back are mainly physical. Research indicates the more hours a person sits the greater the negative impact on health and longevity. I have far more energy and less stiffness in my knees on weekends when I'm more active.

So, hopefully, I'll begin working twenty-four hours on July 1. I've never enjoyed rigidity and am open to changes in my schedule if the work load dictates. If things evolve the way I hope then I'll work six hours per day Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters to match Julie's schedule and I'll work eight hours per day Tuesday through Thursday during the summers when Julie is off work.

How much longer will I continue to work? I'm not certain, maybe another eight years until I'm about 72. Basically I enjoy my job and the people with whom I work. Currently I'm working on a problem that's a little challenging and I'm actually looking forward to picking up the problem tomorrow morning. Often my job is like a game, like trying to solve a puzzle. It sometimes has a feeling of art as in "This works but is there a more elegant solution?". Being physically active is important but there are social and mental benefits from continued work even though there is no financial necessity.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sun Room

What began as a plan for a functional attached greenhouse and source of passive solar heat for the house became "additional living space" per Julie's request. I'm glad she made that request.

I don't enjoy being indoors and would rather live outside but, having to be inside during our winters, I spend most of my free time in the sun room. The room is a thirty feet window into the natural world. The sunlight, potted plants and Julie's decorations made the room relaxing and soothing.

Bowl, spoon, coffee cup and napkin.
Bowl, spoon, coffee cup and napkin in moring sunight.

In warm weather we eat our meals on the deck but in the winter we eat in the sun room. We' on our way to work Mondays through Thursdays and miss the first direct sunlight that hits the western wall. On the weekends, however, it's a spectacular show as light moves, reflects, creates shadows and brightens colors.

Breakfast is a delight in the sun room.

Sunlight on stove handle.
Sunlight on stove handle.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today's Walk

Today's walk was a little over two hours in length. We climbed the north side of Francis Crater, descended the curling and less steep west side and turned toward home.

Along the way we searched for and found an old wooden picnic table that we first saw a few years ago. It's isolated, about a mile from the nearest house, in a area that offers no hint of who moved it to that location or why. When we found it we discovered it had collapsed and was lying in a neat stack as if someone had folded it up. Parts of the top have rotted away and nails have backed out.

The temperature was in the mid-fifties, the sky was cloudless and the wind was calm with an occasional gentle breeze. Occasionally we spooked a jack rabbit and though we saw no antelope we saw many tracks. While on top of Francis we removed all the stones from the cairn that contained a jar with a small log book. The container and log were missing. Someone has removed them.

It was another pleasant day in paradise.

Julie pointing.
Julie pointing out something in the distance.

Blue Gramma Grass Inflorescence.
Blue gramma grass inflorescence in a full circle.

Tumble weed against fence.
Tumble weed against a fence.

Picnic table.
An old picnic table.

The peaks.
The peaks were sharp against the blue sky.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Kentucky

I am in Kentucky visiting my daughter, son and grand children.

Recently my daughter was forced to call 911 twice and spent one night in the hospital due to severe asthma episodes. She has worked at the hospital for the last 20 years and made the mistake of attempting to wait until Monday morning when she would have gone to work to check with a doctor. The delay necessitated the emergency call. It was her worst attack ever.

When she was young we installed carpet in all of the house except her bedroom. Her room had hardwood flooring which is easier to keep free of substances that aggravate asthma.

By phone we discussed options and decided to replace the carpet in her house. Over the last three days we (my son, grandsons, my daughter and a friend) replaced almost 800 square feet of carpet with laminate. The job is done and furniture is back in place.

Honestly, I didn't look forward this trip. I don't enjoy flying but the main issue was Julie. It's the start of the semester and she is working diligently to get caught up after visiting her father when he was hospitalized. She was unable to come with me.

However, I have enjoyed my visit immensely. It's pure pleasure to work together on a common task. I always enjoyed being a father and teaching my son and daughter skills. This week I had the opportunity to teach my grandsons a few new skills. Equally enjoyable was standing back and watching my son teach his sons and compliment them on their abilities. He braved the task of permitting them to use the table saw. I always found that trying when he was their age.

My daughter is doing fine. I feel good about what we accomplished.

Yesterday, for the first time, I met my great granddaughter.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Songs of the Sespe and Other Rhymes

Friends came over last weekend for supper and brought a small book. It's a small ragged warped book missing it's back cover. I had heard of it a year ago and it sounded interesting.

The book is titled Songs of the Sespe and Other Rhymes. It was published by Frank D. Felt who homesteaded 160 acres along the Sespe River in Ventura County, California. Most of the poems relate his homesteading experiences, his views on life and friendship and his values. One came from his experiences in World War I. Interspersed among the poems are short proverbs.

It's a jewel of 99 pages that conveys emotion and paints brilliant scenes. I've read it and want a copy to reread periodically but it's no longer available. I'm going to photograph each page and transcribe it.

Here are some samples.

"You can lead your horse to water,
But you can't make him drink."
You can send some folks to college,
But that don't make 'em think.

Don't cuss your old mule 'cause he's dumb. If he wa'nt right stupid -- you'd have to walk.

Time To Go To Bed

When the books grow dull and heavy,
Lines begin to weave and blur;
And the kitten at the hearth-side
Drones her slumber drowsy purr;
When the kettle's softly singing
To the crumpled glowing coals --
Then the day is nearly over,
For a pair of sleepy souls,
But we've held a cherished custom
Since the day that we were wed,
And we needs must pop a pan of corn
Before it's time for bed.
So the hearth is soon a-quiver
As our corn barrage resounds--
Whil'st the kitten chases kernels
That go popping out of bounds.
Then, our toes before the embers,
Fading--flushing--blushing red,
We crunch a fill of pop-corn --
Then it's time to go to bed.

Trees of Life

This life of ours is indeed a very strange and brief condition -- all of us seem to trudge along striving to create something, to leave something that might win admiration from our fellow men of today and more from those who chance to pass after we are gone. Many men accomplish this by their good deed, while a few are long remembered, only for the blots they leave upon the pages of memory.

Roving idly thru the wildwood,
Two lads frolicked, glad and gay;
One, rejoicing, gathered acorns,
Cast them wide along the way.
'Neath an oak, the other tarried,
Carved his name, in youthful glee;
Told the legend of his journey,
By the branding of a tree.
Ages wrought a verdant forest
Where, but acorns -- once were cast;
Yet--one withered oak bore witness,
Of the selfish soul that passed.
Thus, the bent of vain ambition;
Thus, poor blinded mortal's goal;
But to live -- and write his legend
Ere the flesh gives back the soul.
But to leave on earth, some token
That each passerby shall see;
Some rejoice -- to cast an acorn,
Others, rudely mar the tree.

Songs of the Sespe.
Songs of the Sespe


For the last few weeks a large male cat has intimidated our two females. He found the cat door that gave him access to the utility room and, if the door was open, to the house. Julie, being the official labeler-of-cats, decided "the big red cat" wasn't appropriate and chose "Opie" as his name.

On Sunday evening we set a live trap and baited it with food. Early Monday morning I heard the cat door close and looked into the utility room. Opie was considering the food. We had been feeding him in a white cup for a while to lull him into a mistaken sense of security. A few minutes later I heard the trap close.

Opie in live trap.
Opie shortly after being trapped.

I suspected he was tame but afraid of us. We could get close to him and he never showed strong signs of stress. After trapping him I gave him a few minutes then put a finger through the trap. He didn't react. Next I offered him mayonaise on an outstretched finger and he immediately accepted it. We took him out of the trap and he never showed signs of terror or aggression. He's tame!

We have debated what to do with him. One thing wasn't debated. Feral cats should be broken, unable to reproduce. A few phone calls and Opie had a 7:30 AM appointment with a local vet. We picked him up yesterday evening and returned him to a large cage for the night. This morning we turned him loose. He has his freedom after 48 hours in our B&B.

We're still debating what to do to prevent him coming into the house without spending too much money. (Hmmm? Cats don't spend money. Maybe that should be: We're still debating the most economical way to prevent him coming into the house.)

I like him. I hope he stays around.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Filtered Sunlight

Crown of Thorns Bracts.
Early morning winter sunlight filtered by bracts on Crown of Thorns.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Last fall I wanted to build an addition to the southeast end of our house, an attached greenhouse. Time was short, the weather was changing and the materials weren't to be found in the state. I checked Albuquerque, NM, and southern California but couldn't find a source.

It appears all polycarbonate originates in Wisconsin. Minimum order amounts, crating fees and shipping charges caused me to want more time to plan an attached greenhouse, a garden shed and, perhaps, passive solar heat for a work building that I will build next year. Buying a larger quantity would offset some of the costs.

I watch Craigslist and occasionally find items that are free or a good buy. Recently I saw an add for 6 feet by 12 feet sheets of twin wall polycarbonate. I contacted the seller and discovered he was trying to sell excess materials from a job. The cost was the same as if ordered from the supplier while paying crating and shipping. It wasn't a savings but it was convenience.

Today Julie and I picked up seven sheets, about 500 square feet. I have enough to build the attached greenhouse, a garden shed with a sloped south facing polycarbonate wall and ample cold frames. The greenhouse will include a batch solar hot water heater for the house.

This winter Julie and I are growing tomatoes in the utility room. Next winter I'll be able to grow a wider variety of vegetables.

Life is good and keeps getting better.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paid Work

Tuesday I return to my office. For the last four months I have been working in another building on a special project. A group of analysts and users were pulled together to form a team to complete a software project that probably cost well over one-half million dollars. Two consultants, one from Utah and one from Virginia, commuted weekly and led the development process.

It was a good experience for many reasons.

I was the only University developer assigned to the project and the only male except for one of the consultants. The young man from Utah with whom I worked is sharp, knowledgeable, competent, fast, courteous and pleasant. I have never been fast and am at the age that my mental speed is declining further. It was enjoyable working with him and following his lead to learn the system. The two of us did all the development. Next week I'll add further enhancements, fix problems as they are found and begin another related project. I'll miss being able to turn to him and get his opinion.

The other consultant was a young woman. The same description applies. She is sharp, knowledgeable, competent, fast, courteous and pleasant. Her laugh and mannerisms are fixed in my memory. I'll miss the opportunity to work with her.

Many years ago the first job I found after getting out of the army was as receiving manager at a local business. I supervised a staff that was predominately female. It wasn't a good experience. I stayed with the job only a few months before moving to another position. At that time I vowed I would never work with women again.

In my current job I work mainly with females. Over half the developers on my team are female. My immediate supervisor is female. The team that worked together for the last four months was eight young women, one young man and me. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time sitting back, watching and listening to the group. I'm glad I failed to keep that vow from 40 years ago.

It was a good four months.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Compassion and Empathy

Julie is home from Amarillo. She drove from Amarillo to Albuquerque, stopped at a grocery deli to pick up some items for lunch for the next day and spent the night in Albuquerque. The next day she was in Flagstaff and back to work by 1 PM.

During her trip home she stopped at a place to get something to drink. As she walked into the business she passed a man who was dirty, ragged and looking tired. He had a bicycle and a few items and may have been traveling across the country. She anticipated him stopping her but he said nothing.

As she watched him through a window she thought about how much she has and felt compassion for him. When she left the said hello and asked "Do you need some help today?" He replied he could use some help so she gave him $5 that she had ready.

This isn't the first time. A couple years ago I drove her to Albuquerque and she took a bus the rest of the way to Amarillo. On the bus she sat next to a Vietnam vet who was down on luck. She listened to his story before he dosed off to sleep. When she got off the bus he was sleeping so she slipped $20 in his shirt pocket.

These aren't the first times and won't be the last. I'm glad she's home and I'm glad she feels empathy and compassion.

Empathy: the intellectual identification of the thoughts, feelings, or state of another person

Compassion: deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Walk Alone

I'm alone for a few days. Julie is in Amarillo visiting her father and mother. The unplanned trip was prompted by her father's illness and admission to a hospital. She should be back in a couple days. Her father is home and doing OK.

After she left on Saturday I planned a walk for Sunday morning. Here are some photos.

Frances Crater.
My destination was the top of Frances Crater. It's been two or three years since I last climbed to the top.

New Trekking Poles.
Part of the reason I chose the climb up Frances was to try out new trekking poles. Last March during a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon I bent a pole which prompted me to purchase new poles.

Slope of Frances Crater.
I started climbing straight up the slope. About half way up my lungs told me it was time to begin switch backing. The rest of the climb was easy compared to the first half.

View toward home.
Looking northeast toward home which is located in the edge of the trees in the top left corner of the photo (underlined in red).

I spent only a few minutes on the top. The temperature was below freezing when I left the house. As soon as I crested the top of the hill I was in the wind from the southwest. I wore knit gloves but the windchill had my fingers stinging within three minutes. I moved down the northeast side out of the wind and phoned Julie. We don't have cell signal at home without an antenna but I knew at this height I would have a strong signal.

It was a good beginning to the day and, hopefully, many miles with the poles.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Bloggers

Over the last few month four new blogs have been created by family members. (I'm biased so I'm saving the best for last.)

My older sister (who is younger than me) created this blog: Meditations of My Heart.

My younger sister (who is also younger than me) agreed to write for my blog about her experiences in South Africa. It appears the holidays, a cantankerous-husband-after-minor-surgery (her opinion, not mine) and a new grand child have delayed the journal. Soon hopefully.

My older brother-in-law (who is younger than me and is married to my older sister who is younger than me) created this blog: As I Gaze Through the Window

A few weeks ago my older sister (who is younger than me) phoned and introduced me to Eric a cousin once or twice removed (however it's to be labeled). Eric is the son of a first cousin whom I haven't seen forty years. Eric graduated from college and moved to Taiwan for seven years. He returned to this country and took two months to travel from New York to Oregon by way of North and South Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Nevada,Utah, Arizona and California. He spent Thanksgiving with us. We had a wonderful visit. Hopefully, not his last visit. His blog, aptly named Eric's Oregon Trail, is a journal of his trip. He's a rock climber who has posted some great photos.

Julie (the love of my life, the one who nags me about going to a doctor, the one who pretends to listen to my rantings) has a blog! She named it Part of something bigger.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Two Weeks

Tomorrow I return to work. My two weeks off are over.

It's been a good break. Originally Julie and I discussed taking a week-long trip or a short trip and some day trips. Finally we settled on a short trip to Palm Springs, California, Christmas at home and another short trip to St. George, Utah. On an impulse we changed our plans and chose to remodel our bedroom rather than a second trip.

For eight days we worked at least eight hours daily. I thoroughly enjoyed the week. Most mornings I worked and when I thought it was about ten o'clock I would stop for a break. When I checked the time I discovered it was noon or one o'clock. The work caused time to become meaningless.

Julie is off another week so tomorrow morning I'll adjust my work schedule, go in early and get home early.

It's been an enjoyable two weeks. I don't know what could have made it better.

Before photo of the closet wall and doors.
Before photo of the closet wall and doors after flooring and trim have been removed.

After photo of the closet wall and door.
After photo of the closet wall and doors. The bi-fold doors need adjusting and knobs installed.

Furniture returned.
Furniture returned. Note the missing crown molding that must be installed.

New flooring.
New flooring.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hot and Cold

San Francisco Peaks. San Francisco Peaks on new year's eve. I took this photo while waiting my turn to get propane cylinders filled.

Macy in the morning sun. Macy enjoying the morning sun on new year's day. The temperature outside is minus twelve but the wood stove is 800 degrees.