Author Robert Fulghum (Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) stated that one of the things we learn in kindergarten is "sharing". I am all for sharing except for during the cold and flu season--which it seems we entered into several months ago here in Big Sky Country. As I wrote, I am all for sharing and it seems that my luck only allows people to share their colds and flu with me. For over a week my wife has been fighting a cold--it comes and goes--and she finally decided that it would be much more fun if she shared it . . . so she shared it with me. "Merry Christmas!" she said.
Unassumingly the first symptoms of the cold arrived a couple of nights ago--draining sinuses. My sinuses draining is not uncommon for me and it happens every so often--usually for a night, they stop, and life goes on. Not this time! Nope, they decided to drain for two straight nights--drip, drip, drip. I never knew one small cavity could create so much snot! And, then it stopped yesterday morning leaving an inflamed throat as its only tell-tale sign. Life seemed good and I thought I was going to get luck and escape the nasty ol' rhinopharyngitis . . . but, no! No, by late afternoon it returned not only with the post nasal drip, but the frontal nasal drip--more commonly known as the "runny nose".
This morning I woke up--after a fitful night of sleep--with a full-blown cold! There was the sore throat from the drainage--which created a cough to remove all that drainage from the back of my throat. A runny nose that created a tendency to sneeze. No longer was it the simple "drip, drip, drip", but a new rhythm of "drip, cough, sneeze"! There was light headedness. The right hemisphere sinuses throbbing because they were stuffed up, while the left hemisphere sinuses were flowing freely. Which would be okay except that my sinuses have taken to heart Fulghum's idea of sharing, so the right and left hemispheres are playing tag as they alternate back and forth between being stuffed and free flowing.
The worse thing about having a cold is the runny nose. I am thankful that we have plenty of tissues around to take care of that escaping fluid, but I am more thankful for long sleeves! Long sleeves are perfect for those times when there are no tissues around and one has to wipe his or her nose. Where in the world do you think they came up with that phrase "green sleeves"? It is not a musical term, it is a part of the common cold. But a constantly running nose is no fun but I did find some innovative ideas that I think would make contenting with a runny nose easier:
Friday, December 30, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Thirty minutes after opening the snowshoes the youngest son was asking if we could go snowshoeing on the day before New Years Day. He raring to test out the new shoes! He wants to drive down the road, about thirty minutes, to the mountains around Red Lodge, go into the national forest, and do a little winter hiking. A group of us did this last year around this time and we had a blast. So, the child has laid down the gauntlet--thrown out the challenge! Because of this we will probably be heading out early on December 31st over to Silver Run to do a little snowshoeing--we might even get lucky and see a moose!
The youngest son got a pair of snowshoes from the Yukon Company. The idea is that the webbing of the shoe distributes the individual's weight so that he or she can walk on top of the snow. Thus snowshoes are designed with a weight limit and the individual has to make sure that he or she has the right size shoe--if too much weigh is on the shoe they sink into the snow. The pair above is similar to the pair that the youngest son got for Christmas. Under the front ball of the feet is the claw or teeth of the snowshoe which allows the individual to get a grip in the snow. This grip flexes with the foot and is a natural rhythm while walking. On the top is the binding and this can add to the cost--the faster the binding the more expensive the snowshoes.
I enjoy snowshoeing because it gives me a different perspective on the areas that I often hike in the summer. Though it is the same terrain, it is a whole new world. The world looks softer covered in snow--gentler and more peaceful. It is also quieter. It is a wonderful time to take pictures--enjoy the silence--and get in some exercise. Snowshoeing is definitely exercise and your body will let you know once you are done. But it is well worth it.
Here are a few of the scenes from my snowshoeing adventures last winter--first, from Silver Run:
And then from near Bozeman:
Yes, the challenge has been given, the gauntlet has been laid, and I am ready for the adventure. I am looking forward to the first snowshoe expedition of the winter with my youngest son. It is the great escape from the busyness and noise of life. I look forward to the silence as Guy de la Valdene writes in his book, The Fragrance of the Grass: "Of all the sounds that touch my soul these days, the most beautiful one of all is silence." I like that about snowshoeing and the fact that we have a tradition that finishes the hike--a beer at the local brewery. Nothing beats a wintry hike with family and friends!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Now I always thought that if there was any snow--ANY SNOW--on the ground on Christmas Day that it was considered a "white Christmas"--WRONG! There are actually rules and regulations about what constitutes a "white Christmas" . . . and they vary from place to place. For example, in some countries they take the idea that I was working with about any snow on the ground constitutes a "white Christmas". This standard takes the work out of the idea and keeps it simple. Over in the United Kingdom (Britain) it is a little more complicated. There it does not matter how much snow is on the ground--there could be three feet of snow on the ground, but if it is not snowing on Christmas Day it does not constitute a "white Christmas". It does not matter if the snow sticks to the ground and accumulates--it just has to be snowing! Doesn't make much sense to me, but hey, we Americans don't make much sense to the rest of the world either.
Here in America we have set the standards at one inch. There must be a snow covering of exactly one inch or more on the ground on Christmas Day for it to be declared a "white Christmas". Luckily for us here in Joliet with the previous snow our ground was covered with at least an inch of snow prior to the big fizzled out storm of this past Wednesday. With the inch that we got on Wednesday, and if the snow doesn't do a major melt down in the next two days, we should have a "white Christmas". Now at our house, since the sun never shines in the backyard, I am sure at least have of the Keener homestead is going to have a "white Christmas"--the front yard might not make it! The big city, down the road to the east, where I work, will not have a "white Christmas" this year. There just isn't the snow cover that is necessary for the declaration of a "white Christmas". All those city slickers will have to head towards the mountains if they want a snowy Christmas. I'm willing to sell pictures for those that want to buy them--"white Christmas" for five bucks!
The odds for the state of Montana having a "white Christmas" is 67 percent--not bad odds if a person is a gambler. With the weather forecast for the next few days it looks like those who live closest to the mountains in Montana will experience a "white Christmas"--the rest will have to migrate west to the mountains. From the map above it looks as if the majority of the "white Christmases" to be experienced are pretty much going to up and down the Rocky Mountains this year. So the odds are pretty good for us for having the joy of a snowy Christmas!
The nice thing about "white Christmases" is that no one has to shovel them--it can wait until the next day. In the meantime, whatever your standards, I hope that whether your Christmas is white or not that it is a day filled with family and friends, joy and laughter, and no snow shovels. God's blessings to all and may whatever weather Christmas brings may it be a wonderful day!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
November 14, 2011--eight years, seven months, twenty-five days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq the last American casualty of the war died. Army Specialist David Emanuel Hickman from Greensboro, North Carolina was killed by improvised explosive device while doing a routine "presence patrol" in Baghdad. He was the 4,474th U.S. military casualty of the war--he was 23 years old. Will his be a name any of us remember within the scope of our nation's history, or will his name be forgotten forever?
Some say that his death was an unnecessary death in a war that never should have been fought. Others say that his was an honorable death in which he did his duty for our nation. All agree that his death and the death of many others who fought in this war exacted a great price from our nation. And, it did. Too often we forget that there are more casualties than just those who served in our military in the war. There are the deaths of those who war was waged, and then there are all the other deaths associated with the war. War is hell and takes a major toll upon all those involved. Consider these figures:
- 4,474 U.S. military deaths
- 1,487 contractor deaths
- 448 academics deaths
- 348 journalist deaths
- 319 Coalition military deaths
- 7,076 total deaths
- 23,984 Iraqi insurgent deaths
- 104,000 to 114,000 Iraqi civilian deaths
- 127,984 to 137,984 total deaths
But in the end, David Emanuel Hickman will be the last footnote in the war that all of us need to remember. He becomes the exclamation mark. Logan Trainum, one of Hickman's closest friends, stated: "Thank God if David is the last one to die, because that means nobody else will have to go through this. But it's crazy that he died. No matter your position on this war--if you're for it or against it--I think everybody thinks we shouldn't have been over there anymore." It is finished.
In his 1971 congressional testimony on the then Viet Nam War, Senator John F. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran (Silver star, Bronze star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts), raised the question in hopes to end that war: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
I am sure that will be a question that is wrestled for generations to come because I do not think that wars will ever end--there will always be wars. Yet, with David Emanuel Hickman I have had a fascination with this last man of the war. He was a good citizen, a health and exercise buff, good-humored, married, and wanted to be the best soldier he could possibly be. He wanted to serve his country with honor and he did. He was a good person doing the job he had agreed to do. Whether we agreed with the war or not, we all have to admit that his was a sad death--mere weeks before he was to go home.
But my fascination with this man was in the fact that he was the last casualty--the last death--in war . . . and with his given name. David, in Hebrew means "beloved"--is the greatest casualty of any war? Losing the "beloved"? Nearly an estimated 150,000 "beloved" gave their lives in this war--countless others will never be the same because of this war or any war. And then there was his middle name--Emanuel. Emanuel, a Hebrew word meaning "God is with us." Even in the horrors of war, God is with us.
It has been this season of Advent that those of us who call ourselves the followers of Jesus are reminded how convoluted the journey of faith can be. Reminded how far we can stray from the love and the grace of God. Reminded how dark our world can become when we step out of the light and into the darkness. And, yet, the Advent journey--a familiar journey--points us down the path to the greatest reminder of all . . . we are not alone . . . God is with us. Amazingly, God is with us no matter how poorly we choose to live our lives. God desires us and calls for us.
No matter how the war in Iraq gets played out in history--ours or theirs--we are reminded through the person of David Emanuel Hickman that we are the "beloved" and that "God is with us". May we never forget the last fallen warrior and may we make war no more. May we beat our swords into plowshares and know peace.
Monday, December 12, 2011
It seems that banks like charge for these services. Remember when people wrote checks? Now most of our business is done through bank cards--actually debit/credit cards--that the bank issues to reduce paperwork. It is suppose to save money and lighten the work load--which should, if one does it right, increase the profit for the bank because there are less expenses. But apparently the profit margin wasn't what the banks wanted--they wanted more. To increase the profit they started to add fees for services that once were the bedrock of banking--there is no longer such a thing as "free checking", the return of written checks, or even a free toaster for opening an account. No, there are now fees for checking accounts--unless you keep a minimum of half-a-million dollars in your account; there is a monthly charge if you want a paper record sent to you; and the toaster--what's a toaster? Then there were rumors that they were going to start charging a monthly fee for using the required debit/credit card necessary to do any sort of purchasing. We have to pay the bank to use our money? Something is not adding up and it sure isn't adding up in my account!
Want to pay a bill by the phone? That is going to cost you because they are going to charge you for that privilege. Check out the various service charges tacked on to your cell phone bill. One guy in the AARP article said he got charged two dollars for a piece of tape in one of those package shipping stores. Another guy got charged two bucks at one of those high-end department stores for a spritz of cologne. Now, tell me, is that not ridiculous?
The solution offered by the author in the article is to take business elsewhere. She also suggested complaining to the manager or the company president if possible. She stated that after consumers railed against Bank of America's attempt to charge five dollars a month for using a debit card, the bank abandoned its plans. Isn't that sweet until they can find somewhere else to tack on a fee?
So, what's a frustrated old fart like me suppose to do? I might take my business elsewhere, I might complain to the manager, and I might even write a letter to the company president. Maybe things will changed, but I doubt it. Instead I think I will fight fire with fire--or fees with fees. From now on, whenever I am asked to do something by someone who works in business or financial institution--I'm going to charge them a fee for my time and services. If I have a company come to my house to fix a broken appliance--of which they are going to charge me a service fee even before they begin the work (work which will be paid by the hour)--I'm going to charge them a fee to park in my driveway. Shoot at this rate I think I see my profit for the next year rising quite nicely. Maybe, with this new fee system instituted in my life I just might be able to rise up out of the 99% and join the one percent. You never know . . . by the way, if you read this blog you should send your payment to me at my Swiss bank--I'M KIDDING!
Whatever the case, it feels good to rant and rave whether it ever makes a difference. But it can make a difference if we could ever unite long enough so the financial world hears us--"We're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore!" It is a place to start. I don't want to think of my homeland as the "Land of the Fee".
Friday, December 9, 2011
Typically the afternoon commute home from the big city is uneventful—depending upon how many Wyoming drivers happen to be on the highways and byways. The more Wyoming drivers on the road the more exponentially the thrills rise . . . but that is another story for another day. The commute home this past Wednesday was fairly boring as I drove down the road—a semi-cloudy, cold day—nothing special. As least it was nothing special until I look up towards the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains towards home. There it was . . . sitting in the sky . . . what I thought was a Sun Dog!
Turns out that it was not a Sun Dog at all, but a Rainbow Cloud. I enjoy the winter because it brings with it new weather-related phenomena—especially Sun Dogs. Typically one needs cold winter weather to see the phenomena of Sun Dogs. What are Sun Dogs? A Sun Dog (Scientific name parhelion meaning "beside the sun, also called a mock sun or a phantom sun.) is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun. In the winter these are formed by the sun reflecting off of the ice crystals in the atmosphere. The lazy, unscientific me jumped to the conclusion that what I was seeing was, in fact, a Sun Dog. But it was not.
Instead what I was witnessing was a Rainbow Cloud. Now I had never heard of a Rainbow Cloud—I just assumed that they were Sun Dogs. Silly me! A Rainbow Cloud is a circumhorizontal arc that is an optical phenomenon--an ice-halo formed by plate-shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds. I’m sure most of you already knew that. Had I not done of web searching about Sun Dogs I would have never known the difference. I would have gone on the rest of my days assuming that I was seeing Sun Dogs and would have been none the wiser for doing so. But now I know . .
Sun Dogs sound a lot cooler than Rainbow Clouds—probably more masculine and assertive. When you see a good display of a Sun Dog in the winter sky it kind of looks like a dog chasing another dog through a big circle in the sky. Legend has it that this is a good sign for hunters—that the hunting will be good. Sounds masculine, doesn’t it? Rainbow Clouds, on the other hand, doesn’t sound to testosterone-filled. Though they can be dramatic—depending on the sun, cloud cover, and temperature—they are usually just a splash of color in the clouds. Myth has it that Rainbow Clouds are an indicator of approaching earthquakes—but that is completely a myth with no factual scientific evidence to support it. In that department I think Rainbow Clouds trump Sun Dogs as far as masculinity goes.
So, now I know the difference. Either way, what I witnessed was pretty cool and turned a routine commute home into something special. Like many of you I learned growing up that the rainbow was God’s sign that God would not bring any more destruction upon the earth—a part of God’s covenant with humanity. Whenever we look to the sky and see the rainbow we are assured that God is with us, taking care of us, and will never harm us again. I like that symbol of assurance—it makes me feel good. It reminds me that I am still in God’s hand and God will not abandon me.
I can handle that . . . especially living here in Montana where the winters are long (real long) and cold. Maybe the winter won’t kill me after all—that I will survive. Yeah, that’s it . . . I saw a Rainbow Cloud and everyone knows that God won’t forget us!
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Since they are going to be around for a while and it seems that we can't get rid of them, I have decided that I might as well enjoy them. With that in mind I want to share a bunch of "snow people" comics with you that a co-worker shared with me. Enjoy the arrival of winter and laugh with the snow people!
Now, I am not some sort of tree hugger or really that big into conservation, but I do think that we should do our parts. Saying that I want everyone to know that I draw the line at using shredded toilet paper to complete my paper work. So the nearly empty roll goes in the trash. At the same time, I am cheap and think that saving money here and there is a good thing. Most folks know that the costliest items bought in a grocery store are the paper items--paper napkins, paper cups, paper towels, and toilet paper. That is when it dawned on me as I was throwing the end of the line roll into the trash--I was throwing money away!
So, it got me to thinking and I did a little research. There are 264 sheets of paper on each toilet paper roll. A roll of toilet paper costs around a dollar a roll for semi-good stuff. With each roll there is typically an average of three sheets that stick to the tube resulting in it being thrown away. It would take 88 rolls of toilet paper being used before one would have thrown the equivalent of a whole roll away thanks to those three sheets that are stuck to the tube. Every 88 rolls one whole roll is thrown away and never used. Basically that is throwing a dollar down the toilet! I figure the family is throwing about five bucks down the toilet every year! And, I figure that we have probably been doing that for at least 30 years--that's $150 down the ol' can! Here in Montana that can buy a lot of micro brewed beer!
I think that Scots, Charmin, and all the other companies that make toilet paper know this and see it as straight profit for them. I think that it is a conspiracy to take the consumer to the outhouse! Think about it . . . you've seen those glue lines on the toilet paper. Coincidence? I think not. I think they are out to get us. But I'm not going to let them get the best of me . . . nope! I am going to figure a way to get those last three sheets off without tearing them up--so that they are useable. Hey, we are talking a dollar here! A dollar is a dollar!