Friday, December 18, 2009

Year in review

Well, it's the time we all, or some anyway, sit down and look back on the year. For me it was actually two years, starting in mid-March of 2008, when I photographed the St. Patrick's Day parade. All was fine for a few days, since any bug or virus takes 2-3 days to incubate in you, until I began to feel sick, with reverse flu-like symptoms, meaning the opposite reaction with the digestive system but otherwise all the rest.

Except this lasted for months, and over the course of that year and into 2009, food is my enemy, became more so. It was in December 2008 the dentist and then the endodontist in March 2009 discovered I had an infection in my jawbone which likely effected the rest of my body. The tooth is fixed but the body will take 2-3 years to recover without drugs.

That said, this year has been the rollercoaster for my body and food. Needless to say, it had the emotional and mental effects too, and not for the good. In short I lost interest and energy last year and this year frustrated with the problem and why doctors couldn't do much beyond keeping trying tests.

I can't and don't blame them, it's hard to diagnose something so vague as your digestive system doesn't work right and swings between the extremes for no obvious reasons or as a result of specific foods, except some produce consistent results and effects but not always, or reaction to something or some event. In short, my life and work was scheduled around food and eating, the what, when, where, etc. so problems didn't happen when I wasn't ready.

I think you can get the picture. It simply brought my life, my work, and my photography to a minimum, and over the last few months it's getting better. Not normal, just better. And better enough to do more, except it's winter and cold (Reynaud's Syndrome). but I'll take it. Like I have a choice?

I did mange to get a lot done with the Website and Mt. Rainier NP photo guide and history projects. Which leads to 2010 plans, which is, hopefully, get better, resume my fitness regime, which took a hiatus, to resume hiking again, and finish a personal goal among other things which are as follows.

First, finish the first complete draft of the Mt. Rainier photo guide. I have three sections to research and write and all to update and expand. Then, convert the mess into a book of some type and format, initially a PDF with embedded links to the Website. The second is into a publication format complete with maps to find a publisher, and as they say, "Yeah, right."

Second, finish the Mt. Rainier history projects, or at least the major ones, like the 1896 expedition and the 1915 topographic map. But these need more research (a couple of archives) and writing some type and format of a report for publication somewhere. That's the unknown except folks at the NPS and USGS have expressed interest, but what and into print they can't say.

The other history project, the early photographers (1890-1900) will need more time, research and conversations with archivists to see the original negatives or get scanned images of them. Of those found, many are too fragile to work with and all are in controlled environments with restricted access. And some still haven't been found.

Third, get the photography back on track, both the Mt. Rainier work photographing trails and places and the large format work. I know and learned the basic, and produced good transparencies to date (paid having a few decades of film experience and some common sense), but I need to just to more, but at $5-8 per sheet, it's not a cheap hobby. And I need my new camera, still "in production" (since December 2006) for the other lenses.

Fourth, get a new computer. I was unfortunate to buy one of the last Power PC Mac G5's. And sometime next year, there won't be any new software for it as Apple and Adobe, among others, drop support for the PPC's. That's a big cost item next year, but at least all the peripheral hardware and sofware and some applications I have on this PPC is transferable to any new Intel G5.

So, that's the review and forecast. And as they say, it will happen as it happens.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Writing for myself

As folks may notice I write a lot here and the other five blogs and the many Web pages on my Website. Sometimes it's the old adage about verbal diarrhea, just a lot of stuff with no substance. Ok, I know that and live with it, because you can always just skip it or ignore it. You have the choice of reading it.

But it's why I write that's important to me. It's less to inform, but often is, and more to release. To release what I want to say. I had a father who rarely said more than a few words to his three children and even less to me, his third. He was a very private man who took a lot of experience to his deathbed and grave.

To his friends, however, his never stopped talking. But they were almost always his friends from the service. You see, he loved the 23 years he spent in the service. He loved the friends he made. And he loved meeting other veterans his age. In retirement, he spend every morning at a coffee shop with them.

You've seen those groups of older men. I see them around where I life. Commonality. They live in that and nothing else besides their families and other friends. It's also sad to me. They miss so much of the world and people, and complain so wrongly about generations. It's the world they're comfortable in, and my Dad was no exception.

It was also after he passed away Mom found a drawer full of iou's people had written Dad for money. Not a small drawer either. And not one of those did they repay my Dad. He simply gave the money to friends, all servicemen who worked with or for him. And not one marked paid.

The truth is he never expected to be repaid, and it's likely Dad told them, "Don't worry, pay when you can." And the never did. She didn't bother to add it up, because she feared how much he had given away during their marriage, which all be a few were from, the rest the 3 years between his enlistment and their marriage.

She also found stocks he had bought, none of which were worth much anymore, and papers about money she wasn't told, let alone knew about. Dad never said anything to her. At best he never told her the truth and at worst lied to her all those years. He kept his checkboork and account locked in the desk with all the papers and iou's.

I'm not him. Nor do I want to be. But, I'm also so much like him. it's what my Mom saw and told me once, "Whatever you do in life, don't be your Dad." She knew him better than anyone. And she knew what he did to us children, but she had little power to change it, only advise us to get away and change.

Sadly, my brother tried didn't succeed, and didn't have a happy life., And my sister didn't but was eventually rewarded for her loyalty with the estate. I left and tried never to look back, but family is family. I wasn't understood and barely rewarded, something I accepted, but not without some regret. But I was and am better and happier for it.

When I retired I worked toward building my photography business and projects and buidling my Website. The latter included blogs I had planned to finally release what I knew, thought, felt or whatever. As noted on one blog, often just opnions and ramblings. In short, I didn't want to leave here without at least being vocal.

It's not that my life, work, experience, ideas, etc. are out of the ordinary. Far from it, quite ordinary. But it is my life and it's what I am and what is. It's why I decided to talk about my Dysthymia. Why I decided to talk about my long study, albeit infrequent and mostly superficial, of Taoism. Why I decided to write about my life.

Simply put, I'm not my father. Or trying not to be.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Our life is full of choices. Always choices. If not just do or don't, but always choices, more often multiple choices, some never going away, patiently persisting on the sidelines of your mind and memory, "Oh, I forgot about..." And then, there in the foreground of your mind. We make the moment we wake up (to rise or stay under the covers a little more) to the time we put our head on the pillow and close our eyes from the day.

And when we retire, choices don't disappear. They don't even dwindle to fewer or lesser ones. It's the nature of life today. We face the same choices just to get through life. It's age independent. But when we retire we are faced with the ultimate one, what to do with time. Our time.

When I chose to retire, I also chose to start a new career, to further develop my photography into something better and a personal business. Little, and naively, did I know how much that entails for time and effort. I also added I wanted to get back into shape from sitting in the office for too many years. And then I wanted to develop my own Website and work on a photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP.

And now almost four years later, I'm still working at all of it, but I'm also noticing the choices aren't disappearing or dwindling but adding as I get older. More to do and more to learn. And the world keeps getting larger with even more choices every day. Nothing is constant, especially the choices, and not even me.

I didn't realize how the photography work would go. I bought a digital camera system to help and a 4x5 system to enjoy and learn. I expected to get the personal business started in 3-5 years, but to o what I didn't know. I now produce photo cards and prints for family, friends and others wanting them for gifts, announcements, thank-you's, etc. I haven't yet decided how much to become commerical.

The problem I've learned is that every time I do photography I feel guilty I'm not working on something else or just taking care of all the stuff of life I've put aside all these years thinking retirement would be good for it, but I haven't done it. And I've discovered that approaching 60, my health and fitness aren't what I had planned, so doing photography is more work than before or thought.

So, there are weeks the camera bags sit ready to go. They pick up their ears when they hear me coming into the office, and they stretch their feet to wander toward the door to get in the way and remind me what camera gear is for, taking photos. And all too often this last year or so I've simply stepped around them or moved them aside for other things, saying, "Sorry, guys, maybe another day."

I also didn't realize where the photography guide would go. I only knew I wanted to produce the first book version in 5-7 years. I knew I wanted to develop the book to market to a publisher, and if not, then self-publishing through the Website. But to do that I needed to learn the production side. And alas, I learned what it takes to get, run and use a computer for photography, Website work, and a book.

In short, more time than I had, after you subtract life and everything else that knocks on the door wanting your attention and time, and expending energy chasing problems or something you didn't cause, didn't want, but found you anyway. It's the rule of entropy of life, more energy lost in the friction of situations and events, not contributing to anything except being spent.

The fact is that sitting still or doing nothing anymore will only find yourself going backward relative to everything else. And the reality is that not only is the body just not what it was, it's slower and less able, meaning just geting old. And it seems true to form, problems wait until you're retired to find you.

In short, the harder I try, the more tired I get and the longer the body takes to recover. It's not new, just new to me. And it's the limitations my body has, as we're given. The reality of being and being older. There's no choice there except keep trying and keep going. Otherwise, the alternative isn't all that fun.

And I'm always living on the edge of my Dysthymia. Again, no choice there, it's what I'm given. Only the choices are how to live with it and get on with life. Sometimes like the evening winter rain here, darkness outside, rain falling all around, and only the light I make inside to see. The weight of the world, life and all the choices, many not made or lying around waiting.

And that's it. Simply choices. And those we make, whether we make them or not.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

January 2, 1973

I was listening to a story on NPR about 1973 and they asked people what they remember about that year. After a moment, which wasn't a long moment, it was easy to remember that year. On January 2, 1973, I was discharged from the US Air Force after my 4-year elistment was up. I've written about some of my experiences during my service, but not about that day.

When I was discharged, due to previous circumstances with my bosses, I was given my full and complete discharge. Normally you're given a discharge from active duty and put on 2-year inactive reserve (the 6 year service). They decided that them and I should part company, so I was excused from inactive reserve duty and given a full and honorable discharge.

I can't remember much about January 1st, only I was married, we lived in an apartment in a suburb of Sacramento, California. I had already registered for classes at American River College, and was already working the graveyard shift at a local gas station. This meant, working nights, school during the day and sleeping evenings. While it worked for me, it didn't work for Linda (wife).

She worked days and didn't like coming home to find me sleeping, getting up at 11 pm to work midnight to 8 am. I also grew to dislike the graveyard shift. It was the only shift where one person manned the station. We were just off an interstate and one of the few stations open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And graveyyard was when you locked the station except for two doors (the front service entrance and the lobby to the bathrooms.

Since the station was just outside McClellan Air Force base, we got the civilian shift workers going home. Midnight to about 2:30 am (when the bars closed at 2 pm) was always busy. But then from 3 am to 6 am was pretty much quiet. My job was to clean the outside of the station, the gas service area (one on each of two sides), the windows, they lobby and bathrooms, and whatever else the boss left a note to clean.

All had to be done by 6 am for the morning commuters. Most nights I was done between 4 and 5 am so I had about an hour to find something to do. Fortunately next door was a 24/7 restaurant, so I would lock the doors, turn off the pumps and sit in the window booth getting warm. Remember it was winter when I started and worked this shft. The waitresses knew to leave my coffee cup and table alone when I left to service a car.

We were a full service station then, no self-service, and we checked the engine, cleaned the windows and anything else on the car the customer wanted. At that hour, most people just want gas to go home or back on the Interstate. The only other work was the service contract we had for the cars with a package delivery service. All 6 cylinder white Plymouth Valiants.

They were a Sacramento based company and serviced the entire middle San Jaquin-Sacramento Valley, going about 60 miles north and south and to San Francisco (downtown). They worked mostly overnight so their cars were coming in at all hours for gas and service. They were the only customers I was allowed to unlock the service bay door to work on cars. After that I could only do that for travel emergencies, for the mechanic in the morning.

In some ways I liked the job, the free time after the cleanup. I could read, study and do homework for the day. What's ironic is that I never got robbed. Only the occasional person who drove off without paying. The boss allowed some loss to that (if I reported the crime), but not too much as it may appear I'm selling gas on the side.

Anyway, after about a year at graveyard I moved to swing shift, 4 pm to midnight. It was always busy until about 9-10 pm when there was little to do, but there was always two people there. Once they learned what we could do as mechanics, we were often working on cars in the bays for the next day, usually just routine or minor service and maintenance. And we could sell and service tires.

After that, beside the job and school (went year around, even summers - GI Bill), there wasn't much time for the marriage, but we managed, which was mostly pack the 1971 VW Bug and travel around the area and visit San Francisco. At least one weekend and often two weekends a month just travelling and visiting.

In retrospect, it was probably one of the best years I've had. Nothing spectular, just ordinary, but free of the service and exploring life. In hindsight, Linda was and still is a great person and woman (divorced in 1984), but our marriage was almost always tenuous at best, a compromise between to disparate personalities and characters. I cherish the time, but I also realize how naive I was not to have done more and better.

But that's all history, a year in a life. And thanks to NPR, a jog to remind myself of a time when.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


You said something about interpersonal communications?

I kept this next to my workstation at work visible to everyone who came in my office to sit and talk. It was aimed at those people who always came it to say, "I want to talk with you.", really meaning, "I want to talk to you.", which translates to, "I talk and you listen." This applied to almost every manager and supervisor and senior scientists. Arrogance knows no job position when the person is closed-minded and condescending.

Everyone know the tune and tone there.

I'm not sure if they got it, since those people don't, but it doesn't mean I can't try, which I did. My policy was simply. I treat you as you treat me. Not the Bible, just common sense about human decency. I respected everyone who was open, honest, respectful and fair, not matter their job title or position. My job was to help them do their job better and if I can help them or give them new or more information, great.

And I also treated people with humor. I may take my job and work seriously, even passiontately as many knew me or heard me at meetings, but I never took myself seriously. And I found often people came in to chat. I didn't mind. Sometimes productivity is improved when people can just chat or think out loud. And always see things anew.

And to those who got too serious, which I sometimes was a sounding board, I would listen, offer advice and then say, "Ok, remember it's just what it is, and sometimes just not that important." And I'd ask them to talk a walk around the downtown area where our office was to see that life goes on, regardless of their problems or issues. In short, get a perspective.

And I also found myself telling myself the same thing. It's why 3-4 days a week I took a lunch hour walk. Since I couldn't eat lunch beyond a snack (long different story), I'd pick a direction and just walk for 30 minutes and then turn around and walk back. it sure did help the perspective.

Anyway, there's not much here. I just wanted to note the picture and saying. And yes, there were some folks, I would love to be Ralph (the Sheep Dog).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Outside looking in

I've always been a non-group person, also known as an alone person. That means I've always shied from group things, support group, focus grups, meetings, events, etc., and I only go to photograph them now. But that also means I always looked at groups and their issues from the outside, like someone who peers over the edge of a box looking inside where everything happens.

While it's not afforded me the opportunity to be part of anything or a group, and obviously missed a lot of the inside stuff and work, it's afforded me a different perspective on those same groups and their issues and stuff. But this being outside wasn't all my doing or choice as I've found many groups are often very elistist and heirarchal, meaning new members aren't heard or seen, just there, and for the grunt work.

Well, I don't take to that attitude. I had this the time I joined the Sierra Club. I had been a member for years but decided to become an active member when they announced a weekend workshop for interested new members. Except it wasn't so much a workshop as a weekend camp of work while the team leaders and senior club members and leaders behaved like dictators.

Since I paid for the workshop I expected more than what happened. For one when I arrived I was told where I'd sleep, some old bunkhouse without rooms let alone bathrooms and what I'd be doing in the kitchen, meaning cleanup for which meals - aka, busboy, dishwasher, and dining room cleanup.

Then I was told what workshops I was eligible for as a new member, which were lead by people who told you the Club's views on issues and what you'd be doing to help the Club on those issues. And when I raised question or questioned their views on the issues, I was less than politiely told there was the Sierra Club's view (straight from SF office) expected from all members. No other view or opinion is tolerated.

Here I was with a MS degree and many years in the USGS ready to help on water resources issues and problems, and I'm told I have to start by writing letters, stuffing envelopes, and making phone calls for ballot initiatives. They simply didn't care what education, experience, skills or talents you had, you're just a body for their bidding and work. Not what I do.

Suffice it to say, I left early telling them where to stick their workshop and where to put the Sierra Club. I also left the Club at the end of the next year's membership - I didn't renew it. While they have achieved a lot for the environment in this country, I still think the Club sucks. I don't and would never recommend being a member of it.

But that's what I could do being outside looking in, to see them at face value and in the light, and then walk away shaking my head. And, as I said, I didn't get there wholly by myself. Only it started by being naive and becoming a believer in that old button, "Question Authority".

Unfortunately I learned this in the Air Force with my court martial, but that was after a previous incident. Once a year the squadron had to assemble for a full inspection, meaning the General walked through and looked at, and sometimes stopped and talked with, every member of the squadron.

After the inspection four lower grade Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) were called to the commander's office for a talk for presentation and uniform violations. We met the commander as a group and he proceeded to exclaim what we did wrong and what reprimand would occur when I asked, "Why were there only four of us picked and not any senior NCO's who were obviously and some more so in violation?"

I was taken aside and asked about it and I explained since the senior NCO's were the one to called the troops for violations, they didn't note any of them when I saw several worse than me - sideburns, pants too short, unshined shoes, etc., within eyesight. The general wanted names which I refused to give until he promised anonimity after which I told him.

Well, that didn't sit well with the senior NCO's, because half a dozen were reprimanded and we (four) were exonerated. But the squadron first sargent was cool with it and told me thanks. But this started me on the life of that button, always question and always ask why.

And it continued through graduate school, being one of two "representatives" of the graduate students to present the Chairman and faculty of the Department with grievances (I didn't volunteer but was "elected") and into the USGS, but there I learned when I got promoted to middle management and a supervisor to pick my fights, but still, when the chips are down, always be willing to bet your career against management.

I say this because I learned if you did your homework and had support from some regional or headquarters senior staffers you could challenge local management on almost any issue and win, or at worse get a draw. I helped others' careers and work, and earned respect for being a manager who did represent and speak for the staff. But I lost recommendations for promotion for it - you need their approval and recommendation.

They didn't want me one of them at that level, being a data chief, and it pretty much sowed the seeds with my bosses (two layers up) to retire earlier than planned. But while they thought they won, they lost. They lost a great employee, dedicated believer in the USGS and its work, and passionate manager for the staff.

But I won my freedom. And even now on forums or in groups I'm still the outsider looking in and getting in trouble with others who disagree with me. They don't understand or don't want to understand opinions are just that, opinions. Everyone has one and everyone's is equal. Just don't tell them that.

Which is something I haven't learned yet and likely won't now. People hold onto their opinions so hard and tightly they can't see the truth and reality of them. They don't know to put an opinion, idea, decision, whatever, on the table for everyone to see, review and question. You never know where a better idea, more information, or something to change your mind will come from and from whom.

But if you live in a box, you'll only get the views and opinions from others in the box. Outside I can see more and see the broader life and world. While it's often lonely standing out there, outside of any box, But then I've always try to follow the advice I keep on my quotes Web page.

"Be good, be kind, be truthful, and be free."
"I know what it takes to be lonely; I know what it takes to be free."
"Knowledge is free, but you must bring your own container."

And especially the lines from the song "That's what living is to me" by Jimmy Buffett

Be good and you will be lonesome.
Be lonesome and you will be free.
Live a lie and you will live to regret it.
That's what living is to me.

Not much more to say except I'll keep on wandering outside the box.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Being a Data Chief

At one point in my career, mid-1990's I considered to try and be a Data Chief. This is a job where you are responsible for the operations and management of the basic data work of the Water Resources Program (WRP) for an individual state - each state being an automonous district within the WRP. It's a separate section within a district along with the respective investigations section for the scientific work of the USGS WRP in the state. And to me it was always a cool and really neat job.

Ok, you don't go into a senior district management job thinking it's cool and neat, but I loved basic data. Everything about it is interesting and all the people in the field office terrific. After 13+ years of field work in three districts (states) and then the section chief for the data management work, I knew I could be a Data Chief, which involves managing 20-40 people and a few million dollar program with two to three dozen cooperators.

It's a job where you oversee and lead the whole basic data operation for the state working with everyone from the field people to the managers with the various cooperators (government agencies, organizations, companies, etc.). You are the one that makes it all work, keeps it focused on the future, and provides the leadership to the staff. What's not to think isn't cool or neat about that?

And add the importance of the public and you get something really cool and neat. You see, the USGS WRP collects most of the water resources data in the United States, and produces and disseminates it to anyone interested. The work is paid through the contracts with the cooperators, mostly through tax dollars or water/power rates. In short, it's all paid by the citizens of this country to share with everyone.

So, I began applying for Data Chief jobs around the West or elsewhere, eight in all over a span of about three years. I got a few interviews and some recommendations from senior regional and agency folks, but wasn't the one offered the job. It turned out, not understanding politics at that level, five were predetermined for someone in the district. Of the remaining three, I was second in two.

And so after awhile and passing 50 I kinda' knew the chances of another opportunity were slim to none. In the USGS WRP you get a window of opportunity in your career and rarely once it closes it doesn't reopen. Many people had their potential careers shortened when it closed, so it wasn't new. And in pursuing my career goal I did manage to anger some folks.

You see I have a view of the job which conflicts with what most senior managers like and want in their executive staff. You see I have some basic views about being a boss/supervisor, which are:

One, it's who work for you that matters, not who you work for.

Two, you represent the (section) staff to management and not management to the staff.

Three, be a Data Chief, meaning believe in and promote data and the section to everyone, and don't be a senior district manager.

Four, be a human being, meaning be understanding and honest with people, and respect people for themselves.

Five, be yourself with management, don't play politics for the sake of management games.

I put my priorities as first, the staff (who does the work), second, the cooperators (who writes the checks), third, the public (who funds the programs) and lastly, management (who does something else).

So you can see I don't sit well with senior managers. I was passionate about basic data, from the field work and people to the production for the cooperators, the public and the reports. Everything else fits inside that, and isn't a priority over the work and the staff.

It's why I didn't get the chance to be a Data Chief. I'm not sure I would have been all that good, but it sure would have been fun to try.

The sound of rain

I've always like the sound of rain against something. It's why I live in the top floor apartment of the building, the rain against the roof. And during the summer I forget the sound until the first serious rain storms sweep through the Pacific Northwest and just rain for hours on end, only changing intensity and occasionally clearing overhead to remind us the sun is still there above all those clouds.

This last week I had to drop the van off for its annual service. Their shuttle service doesn't cross the Tacoma Narrows bridge so they drop me off at the last on/off ramp and I walk home, just about 2 miles one way, most of which is across the new bridge. The day I went to pick it up, it had rained most of the night and had lessened only slightly in the morning during the walk. But when I got to the pickup place the driver called to say he was running late, about 30-40 minutes.

So I stood there, in the rain, waiting, when the rain decided to pour down in earnest and not let up. But I wore my Northface Expedition rainsuit which I bought about 20 years ago. I had wore out my original Gore-Tex rainsuit from work which I bought in 1978 (now in the extra clothes bag in the van for emergencies). I remember paying about $750 for the Northface then because it could withstand any storm and had a lifetime guarantee.

Well, it does and I've never had to test the warranty yet. But just standing there, all dry and warm, was interesting just listening to the rain against the hood and coat. It reminded me what my boss said when I started with the USGS and came back from the first winter field trip.

I had bought myself one of those clear plastic raincoats. And on the 2nd day of the week field trip it leaked and then tore. I spent the rest of the trip in the Oregon Cascade Mountains cold and wet. When I got back and talked to the lead technician about the weather, the boss, an old crusty guy about my age now, said, "There's no excuse for being cold or wet."

Well, that day I spent $100 for a new technology Gore-Tex rainsuit. It last the five years I spent in Oregon and the five years in Arizona. It didn't survive the Washington winters so in 1988 after resealing the seams and repairing leaks every few trips, I replaced it with the Northface suit, and never got wet again.

Cold, however, is what you wear underneath it, and there are times when the cold doesn't honor clothes and just goes right through you to chill your bones. When that happens there is nothing you can do to in the field except work fast. But mostly the Northface was a champ holding in heat too.

What I also learned years later about my boss is that he could say that because he rarely did his field trip in the rain, and never in the cold. He had the easiest field trip and always tried to go when the weather was warm and clear. He always found excuses for worst weather, and only went we had to measure floods, but even then he often sent us as he had to "man the office" during the events.

Yeah, right. Anyway, I remember doing many field trips for the week in the rain. I grew to hate it sometimes because you were always in it and you had to write which meant my hands were always cold and wet even with fingerless gloves. It eventually lead to the onset of Raynaud's Syndrome and getting out of field work in 1991 when another job opened in the office.

I still continued to hike and bike in the rain, but then slowly faded out those trips to Mt. Rainier NP when I spent a hiking trip in the rain and got tired of everything being wet all the time. I eventually just hiked out and went home. Rain now is something I like to pick when I go out in it and how long I stay.

I also continue to run in the rain, and in fact love it more than when it's not raining. Rain forces you to focus on the run and mostly the road and trail. Since the runs are shorter these years (30-40 minutes tops), I don't really get very wet with a good rain/wind shell and pants, and know home is always at the end of the run.

But sometimes, though, it's just nice to stand there letting it fall on and all around you, just to listen and feel it. And remember.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being 60

Yes, this month I turned 60. I don't feel 60, or at least it's a feeling somedays but not others which more often feels like 60. It's the thoughts and feelings from my youth and the thoughts and feelings of being older. It's about growing old than getting old. And it's about fighting an aging body and increasing depression.

In other words, it's the normal stuff of approaching age. I'm no different. I hate growing old and I have to keep fighting getting old. It's just so easy to quit and let time do what it does to everyone, and we become curmudgeon in our own body and mind, whether we know it or not or whether others see it and tell us or not. It's the entopy of being human, we get smaller and narrower of mind and body.

And often it seems and feels like fighting entropy is the biggest problem than anything else. Not working on the photo guide or the history projects, or getting my ass out the door to do some photography, or worse getting my ass out the door to run or jog/walk. It's often easier on days like today to take a nap and let everything else go and go by.

After all it's a wonderful fall (ok, technically late summer) day. Nice blue sky with high cirrus clouds (but aren't cirrus clouds high by definition?) and cool temperatures with a slight breeze, just enough to tickle the bamboo chimes to produce gentle notes and silence. Open all the doors and windows. Let the breeze and cool air fill the rooms. Just plant the butt and close the eyes.

Put the todo list aside. Let the list of places to go, things to buy, errands to runs sit. Just lie down and relax. The rest of the world will still be there later. The day won't feel any different, just later and older. The entropy will continue to expand with the universe. Everyone else will still be busy with their life. Nothing will have been accomplished but sometimes it's the only thing that matters.

Just the passage of time feeling good.

I live along the Narrows Strait across the now twin Narrows Bridge(s) and opposite Tacoma. I overlook the strait with the trains running by on the other side of the strait, the boats and ships going through the Narrows, and the planes flying in and out of SeaTac airport and McChord AFB. And in the far distance Mt. Rainier stand majestic as every, at least when it's not shrounded in clouds or we're all shrouded in rain and/or snow.

This means throughout the day, besides the sound of the weather and the trees, there are the sounds of the trains, ships and planes. The sounds of the world and like Paul Simon said, "Everyone loves the sound of the train in the distance." And close by the sounds of the neighborhood, kids, cars, dogs and whatever else goes through or by. And every now and then, silence. Nothing.

I've always liked living here. For that alone. And for the place I live, a lot like me, old and worn but surviving enough to get by. And turning 60, it's all the more sweet and important. If I want the noise of the city, I've several a few miles to an hour drive away across the bridge or on the ferry. If I want the peace of the wilderness, an hour-plus drive I'm in Mt. Rainier NP, or the Olympic NP, or the Cascade Mountains.

I've always been struck with the saying, "Stand in your own space and know you are there." And sometimes it's become more important every day. For in the end, it's all you have, what you are then and there. Everything else is what you leave, the stuff of your life and career and the love you leave in the heart's of others.

I'm not really sure what that's means in an ordinary life. I remember when working with the USGS I used to look back at the history of some of the gages, which go back to the late 1890's in Washington State. The USGS keeps all the papers for a gage in one place in file cabinets. It's all there, and it was a great way to waste an afternoon walking through the history from the original letters and permits to every discharge measurement ever taken.

And then knowing what I had done in my 28 years is now there with all the others. One among the many. And all the work filed with the rest, archived in a warehouse somewhere, lost again until someone opens the box, picks up the file and reads the history. All the past hydrologists who left their work. Thanks USGS, it was fun, well most of the time, and rewarding beyond what I imagined when I started.

After that, all my life has been pretty ordinary, like the billions who have already been here and the billions who are already here. My thankful I made it this far, my brother didn't. My Dad did but most of his life after 60 wasn't much of one with all his phsical problems. He mostly just puttered his life away for 15 more years.

After he passed away, Mom told me, "Whatever you do with the rest of your life, don't be like your father." She then told me when he retired he simply faded into nothingness, leaving nothing for the time and only taking up time and space. She said, "Go do something you love and don't stop until you die."

Advice we've all heard, but how many of us actually heed it? And by the time you're 60, did you follow it? Do you plan to follow it? Do you realize it sneaks up on you? Being 60 that is. One day you're young, then birthdays seem to go by and then you're looking at 60 on the calendar. And you sit down and wonder about your life and wander back through your life.

Do the good outweigh the bad? Does the did something outweigh the I had plans? Did the right choices outweigh the regrets? And the most obvious one to many, do you still like yourself? Are you comfortable being yourself at 60?

I ask these because being here I can. I can't answer for me yet, I'm still wondering and wandering. I probably won't know even in the future. Hindsight isn't my speciality and more often than not, not my interest. Just waking up some days is important enough, and doing what I would like, planned or have to is often what happens.

And so, it's the ramblings of an old(er) person, and like our minds, often fuzzy and ambiguous. A lot like life, ill defined and uncertain, to which I'll ponder and write more of the next year, like cresting the hill and standing on the divide between then and there. Youth and old age. Gone and ahead. Been and going. Done and will. And so on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Sympathy here

Sunday (August 30, 2009) I read the story in the New York Times, "A Life Story in Need of a Rewrite", found here. I'm not sorry to say this person gets no empathy and no sympathy from me. Harsh, maybe. Cruel, not. Because it's the old adage, he made his bed (life) and now he has to lie it (live with it).

As I'm learning now having to write a six in front of digits for my age, while I harbor regrets and other emotions about my life and past, I fully realize it's done and can't be changed. It is what was and what happened, and like it or not, it's there, whether in my memory or that of others. I can apologize about my mistakes and forgive others for theirs, it still doesn't change the original and lingering emotions and feelings, mine or theirs.

But to imply some sense of empathy or sympathy for a man who anyone would consider modestly weathly with a good paying job, sorry not here. When he made 3-4 times the median family income in the US, there isn't much to think about. And now he's been out of a job for 18 months. Like the rest of the unemployed should shoulder his anger or whatever he's feeling?

I won't argue, he and his life needs a rewrite, and he has to reinvent himself. But who hasn't? I'm still doing that nearly 4 years after I retired early (long story about bosses and staff reductions). I saw my new life long before I retired, the ideas of what I wanted to do and I planned the finances, or as best I could, a few years before walking away (not long enough, but good enough).

It's been hard work and more than I had envisioned. It's had it's ups and downs and will have more ups and downs, partly do to my own genetic and lifelong Dysthymia. That's more the battle than the things and events in life, but then they go hand in hand too. What I have learned though, is that there is always more to do and even more than I can imagine doing.

A rewrite? I don't know what that is except to keep rolling on with what I love to do, and find ways to keep it going. And you can bet above all, I can stand on my deck knowing fully what I've done and have, and knowing I'm grateful for my reality and being. I'm not broke or poor. Money is an issue but not the day to day stuff of life. In short, I'm modestly independent to be free enough to enjoy where and what I am.

So, no, I have no sympathy for someone who has had a better life than me and faces similar hardships as I've felt. As I don't expect it from others of me. Quite the opposite, I respect those working harder with less, circumstances in life wasn't necessarily as kind to them as me. But the guy in the article? Sorry, not much to say except keep going and you never know.

And at the end of the piece, he seems to have some clues and insight. What else is there?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. And while that is good for many sons, it's just another day for me. Not that I had a bad father, I had an absent one. Not that he left, he and Mom were married from March 1943 until his death in November 1994. But he had a career that was more important than his children, and especially me.

I was the last of three children and the second son. My brother, six years older than me, was the favored son and my sister was their treasure. And me? Well, Dad explained it decades later when I asked him why I felt like the after thought. He said, "Well, we planned two children, a boy and a girl, and when you came along, I didn't know what to do, so I figured if I ignored you, you'd find your way."

That was over twenty years after my first year of college when we sat down on Christmas Day 1968 and I handed him the letter the College of Engineering had "released" me to the general university student population and I couldn't enroll in any more engineering courses. While my brother had five years of college paid by Mom and Dad and my sister had two years of community college paid by Mom and Day, I had to work to pay one third of my tuition and all of my books. My brother paid one third and my parent the last third.

Dad quietly read the letter, then said, "Son, I want you to have a life. Just don't have it here." I asked how long can I stay until I can sort out leaving and living on my own. He said, "Three months." Just over two months later I entered the US Air Force. My Dad and I rarely spoke after that and those conversations weren't all that pleasant. Kinda' like an after thought to his life with the other two kids who stayed within driving distance of home.

During the service I was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base north of Sacramento. I loved it, married and never left the West, always within driving distance of the ocean except for my years in Phoenix, Arizona. I only went home for reunions and family gatherings. I decided Linda, my friends and living away was my life and world. And since I wasn't welcome home beyond a courtesy, I didn't miss the family.

Over the years after his death, I learned more about Dad than I did before. He was a quiet man, never was a father in the sense of one, his career was more important. And with his friends I learned he was the opposite, open, friendly, conversant, and as we learned, generous. Mom found a locked drawer in his desk full of IOU's from friends he loaned money to over the decades before and during their marriage. It broke her heart to read all them and not one person paid him back. All gone, friends over family.

The last I saw my Dad was the year before when he and my Uncle was returning from an Alaska fishing trip. He stayed overnight, which I wrote a poem about, see Dad, poem I. A year later after fulfilling his goals in life, which were pay of his 30-year mortage, celebrate his 50th anniversary, and life to 75, and two days after his birthday, he passed away. And left a wife and a family wondering what and why.

He simply decided give up and die. He went to bed after his birthday party and never woke up. Mom called to say it wasn't necessary to come because he wasn't recognizing anyone and was talking to people long dead, his mother and his oldest son who died 3 years earlier. Mom has was hurt and angry. She got more hurt and angry settling the estate and going through his papers to find a man she never knew.

Not only had he loaned a lot of money to friends over the years, he invested other money in really bad companies, and even decades later the stocks weren't any more valuable than when he bought them. Nothing earned all those years. And then she found a deeper truth.

When my Dad told me to leave, he didn't tell Mom, only that I had decided to leave and then enlist. He lied to his one love in life. She finally understood all these years, but by then it was too late, the damage was done and the emotional wounds permanent scars. All done by her husband and my father.

So Father's Day isn't much for me. He was a good man to many, just not his family. He was decent to us kids and good to Mom, but always was distant and focused on life outside us. Before my departure I can count the times we were together just doing something on one hand, and that's a stretch along with all of it during the four years we lived in Germany.

I summarized him another post, see My Father, like this. "In the end, Dad lived with his own demons, from his time at home in the late 1930's before he joined the Army during WW II, and he took them with him. I'm sorry he never learned to express himself. It was his personality but he missed the opportunity to be a father and a dad."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Note About the Rules

I updated the rules, see the side bar for the rules for this blog. I added a few more and a comment about commenters. If I don't know you or have a way to check who you are, don't be surprised if or when your comments are deleted, and forever (you have a choice with delete option). It's what I get to do as owner and administrator. And while your comments may seem innocuous or not, I don't care. If you can't be visible when posting, then don't expect respect for your post.

That's not hard to understand. I don't tolerate or accept anonymous commenters. It's my choice. Unless it's an obvious spam or advertisement, both of which are immediately deleted, I keep them for a few days. I'm not quick to trash some comments even if I disagree with them. Sometimes I like them because they challenge me. But there are some issues I don't and won't tolerate. We all have these issues, the passion drives our view and expression.

Why the reminder about the rules. Well, I wrote the essay about guns from my personal perspective. It's what I'm entitled to believe and say. I've had enough experience with guns to know they're useful for some activities and they're a part of our world and life. But I don't like the right to own them crammed down our collective throat. It's not our Constitutional right because it's our right to be free, safe and secure, and guns threaten those rights that I'm against guns.

Guns aren't necessary in the everyday life of almost every American. I'm not denying the truth or reality, but I will argue if we didn't have so many guns, our lives would be freer, safer and more secure. And a lot less violent. To say guns are ok because those who don't misuse guns denies the reality of the many who do misuse it. That's the view the NRA takes, forgetting the sheer number of crimes committed with guns over the rights of legal gun owners.

Somewhere we need to look at what guns are doing to our country, our nation and the people, and make a decision about our future. Do we really want to live in fear and suggest we all have guns because the other person has one and just might decide to use it? Wouldn't it be safer if we knew others didn't have guns? Maybe it's time to draw the line when and where guns are legal and acceptable in everyday life and who really needs to own them.

Anyway, that's the new rule. And guns? Well, I have my view. If you want to express yours, use your own soapbox.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Raynaud's Syndrome

I have Raynaud's Syndrome. It struck the winter of 1990 when I was doing field work in the Olympic Mountains. I was on a December field trip where it had snowed for the previous days. I went drove up the Wynoochee Valley Road to the gages on the Wynoochee River and smaller streams. I had finished some of the lower gages and went to the gages below Wynoochee Dam and Big Creek, a creek entering the Wynoochee River below the dam.

I arrived in the morning to Big Creek where having driven most of the road through a few inches of snow to about at foot at the gage. I parked and did the usual routine of servicing the instruments in the gage (takes about an hour) and then prepared to do a wading measurement. The water was much above freezing and the snow had dimished to just a gentle snowfall. I put on the chestwader (warmer than hip boots and helps avoiding getting wet if you slip), grabbed the measuring gear and walked to the measuring section.

Measuring streamflow is done by a variety of methods and instruments, but the traditional methods are either by wading or from cableways or bridges. Wading measurements are made with a tagline for measuring the width and determining location in the cross-section for individual vertical measurements of depth and velocity, with a wading road and attached velocity meter, and a stopwatch and station-measurement notes.

Once you set the tagline across the stream, you determine a 20-28 representatives sections for individual measurements. This takes 1-2 mintes per section, taking 40-60 minutes for the whole measurement. You're constantly holding your wading rod and adjusting the depth of the velocity meter with one hand and holding your field notes and pencil with the other. When you're done you release the tagline, wade back across and reel in the tagline.

To do the last thing you put down your wading rod and field notes (aluminum note holder). I laid the wading rod down and realized my left hand wouldn't move to release holding the wading rod. My hand and fingers was literally locked around the wading rod. My right hand was also locked in a postion from holding the pencil. There I was with two curled hand and fingers which wouldn't move.

I finally slid the rod out of my left hand, and with the curled hands reeled the tagline in, bundled up all the gear and went back to the truck. It took several minutes to grasp the truck keys in my pocket and open the door to start the enginer and heater. After the heater begin blowing warm air I put my hands over the vents for 15-20 minutes and they uncurled enough to finish the work (another 30 minutes).

I went ahead and finished servicing and measuring the second gage for the day. It was a cableway measurement which is just a little easier because you're using and changing your hands continually throughout the measurement so they don't get locked in one position. And later that afternoon the hands got better, but the problem persisted throughout of the rest of the field trip.

I went to the doctor the next week who diagnosed I had Raynaud's Syndrome, and likely the secondary type and a genetic hand-me-down. Once it triggers it doesn't go away the rest of your life. Since it prevented continuing in the field the following summer I moved into an office position, a technical manager where I spent the rest of my career.

And over those years while doing photography I found the condition got worse for two activities with photography during the winter. The first is simply the exposure of my hands in the cold with my cameras where I use fingerless gloves to ensure I can hold the camer and use the controls. I'm down to about 15 minutes where I have to warm my hands for another 10-15 minutes before resuming using the cameras.

The second is photographing events or situations where I have to hold the camera. It's the same issue. I can't hold the camera for more than 15 minutes before I have to relax and move the hands for a few minutes. But over the time in the cold, the hands become stiffer to where after 1-2 hours, I have to quit and seek shelter for 30+ minutes to warm the hands and get the fingers moving again.

I thought all this was just in my hands, which is the most common experience, and mine so far because I've always been able to walk around barefoot even in the winter, even walking home barefoot 3 miles in the rain this last fall because my shoes blistered my feet so bad I couldn't wear them. Or so I thought even through this last winter.

Well this spring when the first real warm weather began I noticed my toes, which had been cold and nearly white all winter, started to swell and turn bright red, and for a week literally hurt. Over the next month the red turned to deep reddening and then blistered. Not big obvious blisters, more like thin scabs, but enough to realize it's a mild-like case of stage two frost bite.

This last winter the temperatures didn't get below freezing, but the sustained cold with Raynaud's Syndrome created the same situation when significant circulation returned to the toes, they reacted like frostbite. And now I have 3-4 toes on each foot with the damage. I still go barefoot most days around the place, but until the weather gets better I'll have to wait for the toes to fully recover and return to their normal size and color.

So that's my life now and my work in photography. And I won't touch on the issue it's also a problem with my nose. No one likes a cold nose.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

30 Years Later

I wrote an essay about my Christmas Day in 1969, when a friend I went through technical school and I missed dinner at the chow hall, and finding all the local restaurants outside McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California closed, we walked to the last place to eat, the flight line cafe, only to find the kitchen had closed for the day and all that was available was pre-made sandwiches, chips and coffee. That was my Christmas dinner.

Well, that friend, one of ten of us who graduated from special electronic technican school (AF job id 99125) at Lowry AF in Denver, Colorado, and I went our ways, him to the Squadron's airborne outfit and me to the ground based system I was trained on. All my career was spent in depot research, development and repairs, and outside of some temporary duties at Edwards AFB, California, Denver, Colorado, Fairbanks, Alaska, Washington DC, and Hanover, Germany, I spent the entire time there, being discharged January 2, 1973.

My friend, Richard Dickison, was later stationed in Japan, and stayed there after being discharged before coming back to the State in the mid-1970's with a Japanese wife. As I noted in the essay (above), I lost track of him along with all of the other 8 in our group. Well, that friend somehow found me and sent me an update, see his biography and sent along the link and an update to his life since we last met.

Well, life seems a quirky thing, especially these days with the Internet. And sure enough, the organization I was in has a Website, the AF Technical Applications Command. The command had several squadrons, one being the 1155th Technical Operations Squadron at McClellan AFB. I was there from September 1969 to January 1973 after basic training and technical school, March to September 1969.

What we did then was to be the US Government's monitor of the Nuclear Test Ban treaty. We had a number of systems to monitor nuclear tests and any denation similar to or related to nuclear tests anywhere on this earth, underground, underwater, surface and atmospheric, even on the moon. It's the nature the earth and nuclear explosions. I working with one of the system which monitored the earth's magnetic field, used mostly for the location, general timing and power of the test.

At the time our command was one of the highest priority organizations after the Strategic Air Commands Squadrons. During the 1970's many of the sytems were phased out or replaced with satellites and the organization was downgraded to Secret and dropped in priority. For awhile in the 1990s' the work was contracted out before being reassumed by the military about a decade or so ago (as far as I can find information, updates appreciated).

It was an interesting four years. We were the score keepers in the event of a nuclear war. There wasn't a place we couldn't detect a nuclear bomb explosion, even on the moon. Scary thought and nice to know we weren't really needed except to keep the other nuclear nations honest as they with us. The then Soviet Union has a complimentary organization as other countries had smaller ones or relied on either the Soviet Union or us for information.

And now the Christmas 1969 story has an ending.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Rules

I've written about Internet forums and those who create them are kings and dictators. I won't go into those issues here, because I want to explain what my rules are here for people interested in entering comments on the short essays. They're actually pretty simple and straight-forward as I'm fairly open-minded and flexible with comments and give the commentor a lot of latitude.

And with that said, here are the rules.

First, remember it's only life, meaning smile. I will take almost anything with a smile.

Second, be positive. Negatives will get your comment deleted. It's the old adage if you can't say anthing positive, don't say anything at all, and if you can't express a negative in a positive way, learn. It will save you all of anger at you later in life.

Third, be honest. Don't bullshit me.

Fourth, be on point. Off-point and your post is history. Want to say something else, get your own blog.

Fifth, teach. If I'm wrong, cool, teach me what you know or think is right.

Sixth, be open to discussion. A closed mind doesn't let any light in to refresh the spirit and soul, let alone learn.

Seventh, be real. Don't hide or disguise. I don't.

Eighth, don't advertise. That's the quickest way to be history.

Ninth, be understandable, meaning write correctly.

Tenth, be respectful. No personal attacks.

Eleventh, don't be indignant. Make your point but don't bludgeon the reader.

That's it for now. They're flexible and I'll update them as appropriate. And if you can't abide by them, I don't have a problem. I'm notified of comments and I'm the administrator. Your comments can easily be history. After all it's my blog. If you want to rant against my essay, use your own blog.