Sunday, October 28, 2007

Familiarity and Contempt

I have not been posting the last few weeks. It largely has to do with time spent hanging out on customer lines, airports and watching the odometer in my car pass 100,000 miles. One thing I have decided, the TSA is a JOKE. Since its inception, I do not think I have seen anything less than an orange alert. Are we always at high risk of terrorist attacks? Has the TSA been bagging the boys right and left trying to sneak on planes with matches hanging out of their tennis shoes?

I do not mean to sound complacent. I just wonder how much the TSA has really done for us? As I recall, if security procedures that were in place on 9/11 had been followed, then it is unlikely there would have been the disaster there was. I also think the 84 of Flight 93 put a bigger stop in flight terrorism than TSA ever will.

I just worry when we begin counting on bureaucrats for our safety.

Name wise, "Homeland Security" sounds reminiscent of of a "Committe for State Security"

Color my paranoia "Orange"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I do not talk much about what I do for income these days and I will not get into specifics here. However, there are days when I wonder if I am !@$#@# nuts. The last few weeks I have felt a bit like the character in the Strange Brew cartoon.

I then try to remind myself that Alice from Dilbert should become the role model for all females working in technical jobs. I respect her outlook *L*

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Good Question

As a result of my last post, Sage asked the following question;

"Did you work in the nuclear industry? Do you think nuclear really cost effective, if it is done both safely and all cost are accounted for?"

Sage is one of those bloggers that seems very straight forward but whether he intends it so or not, I often find additional layers to his posts. I originally answered his question but in hind sight I feel it needs more elaboration, especially as regards my background and motivations.

Did I work in the Nuclear industry?

No, I worked in the petroleum industry for a number of years. I know that industry all too well and fully understand the disaster we are heading towards with depleting reserves. It is insane for us to be using such an amazing raw material for fuel. Adding to foolishness is the potential impact on our environment now that we have reopened the carbon loop. The environmental problems from the Exxon Valdez grounding and the Union Alpha blow out are minor in comparison.

I personally became acquainted with the power industry through my involvement with the Omar Hill project for the Kern River Cogeneration company.

I also know a number of engineers who worked on power plant design in the 70's and 80's for SCE, PG&E, Fluor and Babcock. All of them were concerned with the long term safety issues related to the then current breed of light water reactors. Failure mode in those plants was "ON" which was what created the problems at Chernobyl and TMI. During one of the energy crises of the 70's, the DOE initiated a project to perfect Breeder reactor technology. Scale up tests of breeder technology has proven the technology to be more efficient, safer and generate less waste than current designs in service. The safest designs are a "fail off" mode and will shut down if there is an incident. I view the main stumbling block to breeders being political, not engineering.

"Do you think Nuclear really cost effective if done both safely and all costs are accounted for?"


The question though has several facets. As currently accounted for, if Nuclear has a cost of $1.00, the same amount of energy from coal is about $1.33. Oil and Gas are significantly higher still. Green sources such as Solar and Wind are even higher still. Hydroelectric is limited in its availability so I have excluded it from discussion.

Costs though are never completely accounted for. Nuclear still has the waste disposal issue. Coal and other fossil fuels have a HUGE pollution cost that will not become completely clear for several decades yet. Recent accidents in the coal industry prove that it is still not as safe as one would hope.

Finally, on the topic of radioactive release I think it is worth while to consider how much radiation the typical coal plant releases in the environment every year. It is much more than is generally recognized and is ignored because of its dilution among the rest of the exhaust.

Sage, thanks for the great question.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That "N" word again

I last wrote on this topic in July of last year.

NRG today applied for the first US nuclear reactors to be built in several decades. It is expected that 6 more will be applied for in the coming months.

It appears that for the first time in decades, we may be seeing the first glimmer of sense in US energy and environmental policy. Considering the total lack of discussion on the topic in political forums, I doubt it though.

Now if they will just get away from those !@#$ Light water reactors.....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chris, Part III

As promised, this is the last chapter in Chris' tale and my part of it. It is also the hardest for me.

Roll forward 5 years to 1980. I am living in one of the Southern California beach communities. Single, somewhat carefree and enjoying my work. Life was very good and beyond mortgages, motorcycles, surfing and dating, very uncomplicated.

One Sunday I was returning from a great ride on the Ortega Hwy and decided to stop at the Baskin Robbins around the corner from where I lived. In line behind me was Chris. She had seen me walk in the store and followed me in (I am not hard to spot). I had not seen her since I graduated and the news I had of her was a bit sparse since of the 3 room mates, Liz was the only one that semi regularly communicated with Chris.

We chatted over a couple of scoops of ice cream and caught up. She had squeaked out with her degree in Communications and was working minimum wage jobs looking for something "in her line". She had been living with her boyfriend for about a year in the same community I did and had become completely estranged from her Mother. She seemed in good spirits and appeared to be moving forward. We swapped information and then I went on my way.

2 weeks later she called. She had a fight with BF. It got physical etc and she asked if she could stay with me that night. I agreed. 3 days later she had reconciled with her BF and was back with him. During that time I came to understand that Chris had not resolved any of her problems. She was still a "downer" to be around.

For me, this was a very good time in my life. I was enjoying work and play. The OH and I were becoming an item. I was happy.

Over the course of the next 6 months I continued to hear from Chris. I started blowing her off or avoiding her entirely. At various points I told her "I am not your Mother", "Just deal with it" and some other witty advice. I had helped fix her problems once before. I had no desire, interest or energy to share her problems again. There was silence for about a month. I was actually starting to worry, but did not want to call. Then her loser BF called.

Chris had killed herself.

The BF held me responsible. His position was that Chris had been looking to me for help and I had refused it. Liz and I attended the funeral. It was not much of one and I would be surprised if 20 people were in attendance. Notable in their absence was her Mother and her two youngest siblings that still lived with her.

I hope the reasons this has been difficult to write are becoming apparent. I do not accept the loser BF's condemnation, but I do have to look at my part in this. Am I to any degree responsible for Chris' death? If I had tried, could I have saved her from herself? How responsible am I or anyone for problems that wash up on our door steps? Is responsibility universal? Could I have made a difference?

Would she have been a boat anchor and dragged me down with her?

26 years laters these questions still haunt me and I am no closer to being able to answer them.

Thank you for your patience in reading this. It is a story I needed to tell for a long time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chris, part II

During the intersession before spring semester I began to appreciate some of the Demons that were driving Chris. "Promiscuous" did not begin to describe her behavior. Perhaps I was jealous since I wasn't getting "any"? Chris was certainly getting no emotional reward from her trysts. She was running with lots of losers and failed to recognize that 1 of her paramours was actually a pretty decent guy. She treated him worse than the mutts.

In hind sight, I think it was Chris modeling her mothers behavior. Monkey see, Monkey do, rather than doing what her mother told her. Chris certainly was not a happy individual. Being on the edge of flunking out made it worse. Add in she had no strong peers or role models and I expect you can see where this is going.

The other two roomies, Cathy, Liz and I ended up with a project for spring semester, salvaging Chris.

I resented the responsibility. I was in my final semester, I should have been cruising towards graduation and looking for work. Instead I ended up tutoring Chris in Math and Astronomy while Cathy and Liz took on Psych, English, and History. We figured she could handle Volleyball on her own. Between the 3 of us, we were able to keep her on a short leash with her focused on school and work. I will confess to enjoying telling the mutts to "get lost" and "do I have to throw you over the balcony to get you to leave?" I did say a few cruder things too. That was one of the times when being an amazon was FUN.

She finished the semester with an OK average of 2.9 and was off academic probation. When I moved at semesters end I did not expect or desire to see or hear from her again.

I was wrong

Next; the end of the story

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chris, Part 1

For reasons I do not completely understand, I have been struggling to write this particular story for a few weeks. I am still not sure it clearly states the story and my feelings about it.

Chris was a roommate I inherited my Senior year in College. She was a "friend" of one of our roomies from the previous year. Our roomie had decided to live with her BF that year instead of us. He was really cute and good to her, so it was hard to take exception with her ditching us. Our ex-roomie had committed to the lease and so arranged her replacement in the form of "Chris".

Chris (not Chrissie or Christy) was an incoming freshman and this was apparently her first foray from home. As the only senior and the only person over 21 in the apartment with 2 juniors and a freshman, I was automatically promoted to "Grandma" and beer runner. What a joy that all turned out to be.

At first Chris seemed pleasant enough. She was fairly reserved, picked up after herself and seemed to stay out of everyone elses stuff....or at least mine anyway which was mostly jeans and would have have fit her like socks on a rooster.

Then she started bringing home strays.

I am not talking about stray dogs and cats. I am talking about stray guys. This was 1975 and most of the dogs and cats I knew had better grooming habits than some of these guys. Most were college students. All of them would sooner or later (mostly sooner) spend the night. Apartment walls are cheap and when you work and study at late hours while attending morning classes, the 3 AM frolics get old real fast. By mid October I was homicidal. My other 2 roomies were merely peeved and kept telling me to "chill". Easy for them to say, they did not keep the hours I had to. Being regularly asked to make "Booze Runs" did not help. By November, all of us were looking up the definition of "justifiable homicide".

She survived Thanksgiving and we made it to the 6 week intersession at Christmas without committing any crimes of violence. During the intersession, it was just Chris and me since our roomies went home for the break. Thankfully, so did most of the strays. I finally began to learn some things about her. She is the eldest of 5 children. Her father suicided when she was 5. One of her sisters shares the same father, the other 3 siblings all have different fathers. Her mother never finished High School. Their extended family was all in Missouri. To her knowledge, she was the only member of her family to ever attend College.

As I learned these things, my annoyance at her behavior remained unabated. I did however, find myself experiencing some of her angst and it was not pleasant. I felt small.

At the end of intersession all the grades were posted and Chris found herself on academic probation and life got harder,,,,,,,,and easier.

next post....the rest of the story

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stepping Up

I am still struggling with the same post I have been working on for the past few weeks. In the interim the following story has achieved some local note and I thought it worth telling.

For the last week or so our neighborhood has been agog as Ty Pennington and the crew of "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" has descended on it. As usual, they have created a lot of local press for the show with Senators, Congressman and a Governor all showing up to put their face to the process. Although the show picks worthy recipients and its likely done with great intentions, Ty and the shows producers receive a reward in money and adulation. They do not need mine.

This story is about people who stepped up to a problem with no mind to the personal cost.

Vicki and Erik Swenson are teachers at Hopkins High School. Both are doing worth while work but will never get rich doing it. Last year the justice system failed Vicki's sister Teri Lee and she was brutally slain by a stalker. The Swenson's stepped up and took in her 4 children. Add that to the child they already had and the twins they were expecting at the time and you can see where things might be a bit strained around the Swenson household. Vicki has also become something of a local spokesperson for Victims Rights

"Extreme Makeover" stepping in is a great story. To me the great story is the Swenson's. People who step up to a problem knowing it will be hard make me humble.

BTW, they put up the new house in 99 hours. WOW

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Justice Served

The post I have been working on for the last few days is coming hard so I am going to shift a bit and point up something I saw in the Star Tribune today.

In 1966, Burglar William Barnes shot Rookie Policeman Walter Barclay. Barclay was severely injured and spent the rest of his life as a paraplegic. Barnes was arrested, convicted and served a prison sentence for the crime.

Barclay recently died and the Bucks County, Pennsylvania coroner ruled his death "resulted from injuries incurred in the shooting". The District Attorney is considering filing murder charges against Barnes.

Is this right? There is no question that Barnes actions were reprehensible. Barnes was also tried, convicted and served a sentence for the original crime. Is 40 years too long to be considered proximate to Barclays death? Is it right for the state to have 2 shots at Barnes for the same crime? How will justice be served here?

This one bothers me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Made In China

We did it to ourselves.

We have adopted the Wal-Mart mentality and chased low prices to its ultimate end. We are now enjoying the results with random bouts of poisonous toys, dangerous food additives, fake drugs and faulty tires.

The press is at least 6 years late getting to this story, but now that they are many retailers are being more proactive with product testing and third party certifications. The Chinese have responded by shooting certain officials. All are guilty of the greatest sin in Chinese business, they were caught.

Shame on the Chinese, more importantly SHAME ON US. In the channel from manufacturer to retailer, the majority of the profit generated on any given product is at the retailers. All of their purchase contracts express the requirements for products that are in compliance with US law. Until now though, they were seldom checked. The retailers have avoided looking for many reasons. The end result though has been the carryover of flakey Chinese business practices to our shores. The retailers have all pointed to the Chinese for making substandard product. If the retailers had actually LOOKED at what they were selling maybe we would not be at this point. Chinese manufacturers of course can not be held responsible in this country. So who is?

I think it is time that retailers were held primarily responsible for the dangerous imports they put on their shelves when the manufacturers are out of reach.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hind Sight

I guess I should not be surprised at how much the national and local news has been dominated by the 35W bridge collapse last week.

Having lived in Minnesota for 20 years I am certainly not surprised at how people jumped to the aid of others without prompting or thought.

So I probably should not be surprised that the media is already publishing stories trying to put blame for this incident on some one or some group. I am curious, why does the media assume that there is always incompetence or neglect behind these disasters? To assume that some one is always responsible also assumes that we are always perfect in our knowledge. That seems like unreasonably high standards to me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Soulless Beast

No I am not talking about Karl Rowe...

Leesa did a post last week that reminded me of my disillusionment with American Business culture. I look at what many corporations are doing to their retirees, employees, customers and vendors and I get angry at the short sightedness and the lack of humanity demonstrated by folks like Wal-Mart, LTV, Wells Fargo and NorthWorst Airlines among others.

Business is supposed to be "people trading goods and services" The theory is that by the most efficient (and least inefficient) producers trading, then all will have more. A real win/win Fine and dandy and it usually works OK. Some where though many companies forgot the lesson and they are determined to squeeze everything they can from those they trade with. Not just a win/lose scenario but a "I want it all/I do not care about you" scenario.

Management say they are responsible to "the owners". Do I believe them? NO! The owners are you and me and millions of others like us who have funds tied up in IRA's, 401K's and other devices. Management does not answer to us. Management answers to themselves. How else would you explain an airline in bankruptcy paying bonuses to the management that put them there?

Are there good corporate citizens out there? You bet! Folks like TARGET, Rohm Haas et al are decent corporate citizens but the ones who have forgotten their humanity are frightening in their existence and depressing in their number.

Was Tom Peters totally off base?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Empty Nest?

We have been official Empty Nesters "1" for a few years now. We have become accustomed to the quiet and privacy.

Last week our youngest moved home. "Da Kid" just graduated in May and landed a good job here in the Twin Cities. She will be staying with us for a few months as she works out her housing plans. All great and good reasons to move home of course but it is taking some adjusting. Do not get me wrong, it is great having her home but you do get used to having it "your way". Also, lets admit it, the grocery bill just took a BIG jump and the "debris factor" has risen

On the humorous side? I think it bugs her even more *L*

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Was it Ever About Character?

Minnesota Collegiate athletics was hit with another scandal yesterday when Dominic Jones was arrested for rape. Police have DNA and video evidence linking him to the crime.

We seem to see way too much of this in college and professional athletes. Is there something about being in the lime light that makes these people lose their perspective? Did they ever have perspective? Are teams so desperate for talent that they do not want to see the flaws?

Interestingly, one of the people who helped police put the pieces together was a former Gopher recruit that is currently incarcerated for a crime he committed before he was recruited. Of course the Gophers suspended him...DOH!

Monday, July 09, 2007

NASCAR Mentality?

I do quite a bit of work related driving. I am not sure if it is my advancing age or a true perception but it seems drivers are much more aggressive than they used to be.

Stupidly so at times.

Is it the effect of NASCAR on the collective psyche? Could it be that no one bothers to understand Newtons Laws?

I had a long drive home Friday night. It was made longer as a result of the Interstate being shut down in two places due to fatal car wrecks.


Monday, July 02, 2007


Welllllllll, I am not sure. I have hit a temporary lull again. I am not sure if it will be a month or 6 months. We will just have to wait and see.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost 6 months since I last posted! Lots has been going on for us.

Our youngest graduated in May and is now gainfully employed at a very reasonable salary. I am gratified she chose to take an engineering degree. I expect she will be extremely competent at what ever she tackles in her career.

Our oldest has announced her wedding plans. The OH approves of her intended. As he put it "he works on old cars, rides motorcycles and drinks beer. What else can you ask for?". In all seriousness, he treats her very well. He has met my brothers and has their approval. From experience, I can attest that they can be VERY HARD on suitors for sisters, nieces, cousins etc..
One cousin quit bringing her boyfriends around since my sibs kept discovering things about them she did not want to know *L*. I will have to be very careful that I do not become "Momzilla" during the next 12 months...UGH!

As for me? I have been working odd hours. I have also taken on an internal project that is making me stretch and do things I never have. It is a wonderful experience and I think will be very rewarding for my employers. I also took on some fun volunteer work for an industry trade organization.

The OH is well and as usual I will say little there except that our marriage continues to be fun.

I am blessed. Life is VERY GOOD.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


When I started Blogging 2 years ago I was at a slow point in my life. Blogging was great! It allowed me to work on my free writing skills and to express myself on topics I would never have before. Additionally, in reading others blogs, I came to change my views on many things. All in all, it has been a wonderful experience for me.

The slow point is passing and I have not been doing my blog justice for several months now. Even though the OH and I are officially "Empty Nesters II" now (we wrote the final tuition check last week!!!). My work has accelerated, we took on some volunteer work and our social life has become a bit more involved. Add on the training I am doing for a half marathon and with cycling season just around the corner, you can see where this is going. Something will give and Blogging is one of them.

I still expect to continue following my favorite blogs. I would also like to thank all those who took the time to leave such meaningful comments on my posts.

Vaya con Dios mi Amigos.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

!@#$ the C.I.A.!

The importance of the C.I.A. having the Minnesota Air National Guard Museum's A-12 Blackbird is such that they and the Air Force have decided its worth annoying the entire Minnesota Congressional delegation. Over the strong objections of the delegation, last week the Air Force sent a contractor to Minnesota to disassemble the plane for shipment to Langley so it can be properly planted among the petunias at the new CIA headquarters. Both Senators have co-sponsored legislation to have the plane returned to Minnesota and reassembled. It is unlikely to happen.

Pity the Air Force or the C.I.A. the next time they need something from any of the Minnesota delegation.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ken Dolls?

Asa suggested this post based on a response I made to one of her posts. I flippantly suggested that she could fix a potential mates sartorial shortcomings after they were involved. That is based on my O.H's belief that husbands are merely self propelled Ken Dolls for womens amusement.

I will readily admit that I am not a clothes horse. You will most likely find me in jeans and shorts as anything else. I like Ann Taylor, Macys, Needless Markup, et al. but do not spend a lot of time shopping in those places. (Part of it is my size). Wearing a skirt is very much the exception for me. I have never been a "girly" girl and although a native, would be laughed off the "Real Wives of Orange County" if they were so foolish to have me on the show.

All that said, most of the straight men I have known have TERRIBLE taste in clothing. This especially includes my O.H.. I have one brother who is the exception to the rule (No, he is not gay!). Look around you, I will bet if you question every well dressed man, you will find that he is likely either gay or dressed by the women in his life. This will include wives and daughters but seldom mothers. There is a lot of truth to the shameful admission "my Mom dresses me". For some reason, women who become mothers have terrible taste when it comes to their sons.

Where is all this going? I am not sure. I just want to get the word out to the sartorially challenged males out there that there is hope for them! Take your S.O. shopping with you. Fair warning, she will likely want to shop when whatever game you want to watch is on.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Its Been All Downhill

I realized the other day that the last 42 years of my life has been all downhill.

The OH and I went to a local elementary school function last week. It was neat seeing all these little ones running around. As I was looking at them, I realized they really own the world, not us. They have all their needs catered. They do not sweat jobs, bills, politics, or even the future. They are very much in the moment, and the moment is usually "GOOD".

What were we thinking? Growing up was not very smart! *G*

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

25 years?

Today we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. It seems like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. It was brutally cold (-20F). Wearing a Dress and heels in that weather is insane. Thermal underwear and parkas were not in the program though.

Last night we were both puzzling how our marriage has survived to now. We have watched many of our peers go thru divorces. We had many things going against us. Our eldest was already on the way, money was not plentiful, I was the major bread winner and our religious backgrounds were very different. If our first had not been on the way, I doubt we would have married.

We had no answer beyond we have both kept working at it. Is that the answer? I don't know, for now its enough

Next stop, 2032!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"need a ride?"

The upper midwest has been a haven for refugees. In the 70's it was the Hmong. In the last decade, it has been the Somali's. The Somalis have been working hard and making a place for themselves here on the prairie. They currently comprise almost 80% of the Twin Cities cabbies and the vast majority of them are Muslim.

Citing their religious beliefs, many are refusing to carry people who have alcoholic products or worse, dogs, including seeing eye dogs. The Minnesota branch of the National Islamic Council has issued a Fatwa (religious edict) that any Muslim carrying people with alcohol or dogs is committing a sin. So, technically, folks who have mouth wash, seeing eye dogs, working dogs let alone a bottle of wine are making these drivers commit a sin.

Tolerance is a two way street (pun intended). Is there no tolerance for their hosts? Must our law and custom comply with the tenents of their faith to allow them freedom of religion? What does that do to our freedoms?

The Metropolitan Airports Commission has decided to end the debate by making universal pickup a requirement for an airport taxi license. I applaud their decision

I suspect this type of thing will continue to be a thorny problem as we try to come to grips with Fascist faiths and civil liberties.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Heavy Hand of the CIA

The institutional arrogance of the government has struck again.

The Air Force and the CIA retired the Black Bird surveillance planes from service in 1990. The Minnesota National Guard Museum rescued one of the A12 versions from the bone yard in Palmdale, California and moved it to Minnesota. Several hundred volunteers put in thousands of hours and significant dollars to restore the plane to museum quality. The museum show cases the revolutionary contributions of this plane in History, Engineering and Science. It is in its own way, a thing of beauty.

The Air Force has told the museum that they want it back.

So they can give it to the CIA.

Who will use it as a lawn ornament in front of their headquarters in Langley.

Can they get more arrogant?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

40,000 drunks

Last year the State of Minnesota had 40,000 DUI arrests. The record number was cited as a horrible mile stone and a sign of an increasing problem by such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The number was further cited as reason for even more severe controls on drunk driving with even harsher prison sentences and mandatory breathalyzers in ALL vehicles.

Two days later another statistic was published showing an almost 20% decline in traffic fatalities during the same period.

Is this a sign of an increasing problem? Is it the result of more rigorous enforcement of our current laws? The drunk driver who killed Timberwolves forward Malik Sealy 5 years ago was busted for drunk driving this year shortly after his release from prison. He did not kill anyone this time and is back in jail.

Are we making progress? I think so. I commonly hear people decline drinks citing a need to maintain sobriety. I object to passing more laws and adding more burden on the public when we still have work to be done with our current laws and public education.

Monday, January 01, 2007


We all flew out to the Left Coast for the Christmas Break on the 25th. We had a great time. The girls had a chance to catch up with Dad ("Papa" to them). See a number of the cousins and all in all, enjoy a rare visit with my side of the clan. Lots of memorable things about the trip like winds storms in Santa Barbara and hikes in the hills.

We also brought back 25 lbs of Satsumas. A native of Japan, I have never seen them sold anywhere in the US except in Southern California. They are arguably the tastiest of the citrus family. Similar in size, shape and appearance to a Clementine, they are juicier and less tart than their Spanish cousin. If you see some, try it. *S*