Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is it just me?

Is it just me or have even the most simple of tasks become incredibly complex and frustrating? For instance; I was at the Bass Pro Shop cashing in a gift certificate, actually it was a prize gift certificate that my fishing pardner Arnold and I had won while at a bass fishing tournament last spring. I know, hard to believe that Arnold and I could win anything while we were so busy just trying to stay alive on the lake, but that's another story.

Anyway, I'm checking out the aisles when I see a nifty rain suit with the label Frogg Toggs. Arnold has one and I had admired the quality: water proof, breathable, and light weight. I find my size, check out with my certificate, and drive 25 miles home where I discover that the jacket and pants are of different sizes. I may have put on a few pounds but XXL is way, way, TOO big.

Next day I grumpily drive 25 miles back for the exchange. I find the same color on the rack, a snazzy sky blue, and head for the returns counter, making absolutely sure I have matching sizes. I notice a scowl on the clerk's face. "These are different prices," she says. "This one is ten dollars cheaper than the original suit you bought."

I"m as puzzled as she is, then it hit's me. "Let me take a look." Aha, it's the same brand, same color jacket and pants, but the pants are not of the bib variety. To me, bibs on rain paints are essential. If you've ever been in a driving rain storm, on the lake, with Arnold, and you bend over to keep the rain from hitting you in the face, you will find that without the bib, the water runs off your back and down the crack of your... well, let's say pants.

Another trip down the aisle. See, what I mean? Complications. Nothing's easy anymore. And to top it all off, no sky blue in my size with a bib. But I did find a brown one and that's okay, maybe even better. This one matches my eyes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is a rant. This is not a drill.

Rant alert. This is a rant alert. This is not a drill.

The longer I watched the National Geographic program on Tue. night concerning oil exploration in America and the continued desire of the oil companies to drill on the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, the angrier I became. While it's true that I, nor many Americans, will ever have the opportunity to visit that refuge, I strongly believe in it's preservation.

Consider this: The native residents of that particular land took a poll, asking whether they should vote to allow exploration. Even though each and every one of them would become rich by allowing access, the poll showed they wanted to bar the oil companies and preserve the land of their ancestors and for their children.

Yes, we need oil. We always will. Wind farms and solar energy help and should be developed but we will always need oil to preserve our present way of life. Oil is used for billions, yes billions, of the products we use everyday. One set of tires for our cars needs 22 gallons of oil to produce.

The U.S. uses 20 million barrels of oil daily. We produce less than half that. Will ANWR fill the gap? No! ANWR comprises only 5% of Alaska's North Slope. The Prudhoe Bay pipeline is now pumping less than 1/3 of the original flow. Alaska's entire oil production is 1/2 what it was ten years ago. It has been estimated that ANWR would supply the petroleum needs of the U.S. for less than six months. Do we really want to damage this pristine wilderness for such a drop in the oil bucket? Remember, it's believed that offshore Alaska contains as much oil as half of the entire lower 48. So should we rape ANWR so that that some oil company CEO's can buy a new yacht? Because that's all we, the common people, will see from it. If you believe the price of a gallon of gas will drop due to wells drilled in the middle of the caribou migraton path, I got some beach area in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

It's not only caribou, the polar bear is slowly losing it's habitat as well due to ice melt. Twenty percent of the ground there is frozen tundra that is slowly melting and releasing CO2 into the air. One third of Earth's carbon is frozen in the ground. This carbon will, sooner or later, be released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem unless something unforeseen happens.

Oh no, Senator Inhofe, there is no climate change. It's all a hoax by the scientists just as you claim. As Forest Gump might say, I'm not a smart man Jenny, but when I see that in the 1850's, Glacier N.P. had over 150 glaciers and only 26 today and expected to disappear completely by 2030, I say hmm, something must be going on. When I take a tour of Glacier Bay and see photos taken by early explorers such as John Muir and see how the edges of those glaciers have drastically retreated by miles and miles, I say why? There has to be a reason. Granted, some of it may be cyclic but surely, some is due to the atmosphere where we dump tons and tons of contaminants every day. Whatever the cause, to deny that nothing is happening, to say that it's a hoax, to me, borders on dementia.

So go ahead, Sen. Inhofe, keep on airing those folksy campaign commercials where you walk through the fields of Oklahoma in your shiny new denim work shirt as America The Beautiful plays in the background, tell us once again how you are right and the best scientific minds of America are full of crap. The truly pathetic part is, you'll win the election in another landslide just as you always do.

Me? I'm voting for the bears.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I gotta get out of this place

Cool temps, sunshine. no gale force winds, can this be Oklahoma? One of the finest seasons of the year for us Okies has arrived! I gotta get out, somewhere, and take some photos, burn some pixels. I'm filled with guilt and ashamed, ashamed I tell you, to be sitting here in front of some damn computer screen at the absolute best season possible. Chilly mornings, almost jacket weather, with warm afternoons, and fluffy clouds. Some some call it call it bluebird weather, a perfect description.

But where do i go? Yes, there are parts of OK I've never seen, a very few. But I'm looking for majestic, sweeping vistas of color, mountains, clear streams flowing over lichen covered granite boulders, large animals, elk or bison, grazing on acres and acres of cinnamon colored grass. Where do I find that in Okie land? Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge? Comes close but been there, done that, many times.

Right now I'm thinking Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Done that too, but never with a digital camera. The Bosque has Sandhill Cranes by the thousands, ditto Snow Geese, always a few coyotes, and a wide variety of ducks. Nothing new mind you, but the wildlife is there. And where there are animals, there are photo opportunities. Thing is, prime time for the Bosque is Nov. through Jan.

Must be patient. Must force myself, in the meantime, to settle for Okie critters; pelicans maybe, at Salt Plains. Or migrant birds coming through the Tallgrass Praire. Or new backyard birds. No, that's out. The cats are out there...waiting. There's that. Not an option.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fotos and Football



After watching OU squeak by yesterday, I've never felt so uncertain about an unbeaten Oklahoma team. Today it's the Dallas Cowboys, winless so far. Could be a long day. Might need a Bloody Mary to get me through it. Thinking of becoming a roller derby fan.

Received a late birthday present last week, a wall sculpture that I had admired in a magazine and unbeknownst to me, been ordered by the Missus. It depicts five shore birds, sandpipers of some kind, all in a row, and seem be walking along the beach with some vegetation in the background. Very cool! Problem is, where to hang it?

Although I take a lot of photos, printing them is another matter. There are only so many walls in a house on which to diplay your efforts. As you might imagine, the wall space here at the humble abode is at full capacity. The arrival of the sandpiper sculpture upset the whole scheme of things. Big changes were in order.

Hooks were taken down, replaced, and moved. Measurements were taken. Frames were centered over couches and between doorways. In the end, it was clear that something had to go. It was not an easy decision, difficult in fact. It was a little like deciding which one of your children to give up for adoption.

After much thought, I pulled the black and white image of an egret in full flight, wings extended downward, displaying every feather, with a small catfish in his beak and all in beautiful light. But the job was done. The sandpipers look great over the mantle and the rest of the pictures found their own little niche.
NO! I couldn't take it. I was not happy. The egret now lives back here in the man cave. Yes, it's hidden from the public eye, but at least it's not in the back of the closet with the other 4522 photos that didn't make the cut.










Thursday, September 23, 2010

Woo Hoo!

Despite my misgivings with the sadistic treadmill technician at the cardiologist's office, I received notice today that my tests are back and I'm...are you ready?...NORMAL! What does that mean? Normal for an old man who will fall over graveyard dead the first time he picks up a snow shovel?

I was also informed that I have uniform radiotracer uptake in all myocardial segments, wherever they are, and my calculated ejection fraction is 64%. Oh Joy. I can't tell you the nights I've lain awake worrying about my ejection fraction. Go ahead make your dirty jokes. But sixty four percent mind you! Does that mean the old ticker is pumping out blood at a rate of only 64%? What's happening with the other 36? Is it pooling up somewhere? Possibly in my stomach? Cruel people would point to my waist size, snicker, and say yes, that's obviously where it's going.

The report continues with there was no evidence of stress induced ischemia. Well, that's a relief. I could have sworn I felt some ischemia just the other day. Or was that what I had for dinner the other night?

Lastly, there was no prior evidence of myocardial infarcation. I think that's a good thing. It sounds a little like when the heart passes gas.

All in all, it was good news. Thing is, now, when the Missus shoves that vacuum cleaner my way and nods toward the carpet, I can no longer grab my chest and loudly proclaim, "I think this is the big one!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ka-thump, ka-thump

I have a weird heart. Instead of pitty-pat, pitty-pat, mine has this unnerving hesitation; pitty-pat, pitty……pat. It doesn’t do it all the time mind you, usually I don’t even notice, but I have observed a relation between missed beats and stress, mental stress, such as dealing with the wife’s cats. However, the Missus does not deem my condition serious enough to reduce the cat population here in the humble abode. There is such a thing as priorities you know.

The family doctor, on the other hand, took note of the pitty…pat during my last visit and when I mentioned feeling some discomfort in my chest from time to time; he decided we should do a test called a Myocardial Perfusion Scan. It works like this: First you go to the waiting room and wait, hour and half minimum, before they call your name. A lady then comes in with a fat needle and they inject a radioactive isotope INTO YOUR BODY! And all this time, I thought radioactivity was something to be avoided. You then are led into a room with a mean-looking machine made of steel and iron and other cold, scary things where you are told to lie down and be very, very still for 13 minutes. Being still was not a problem. I was too intimidated to move.

Next up was the treadmill, the dreaded treadmill. It started well enough; a pleasant and not unattractive woman pasted the necessary wires to my chest and hit the start button. The pace was leisurely at first. She watched my pitty-pats on the monitor as we chatted over the usual trivia. I asked what her title was. “I’m a treadmill technician,” she said. Now those that know me very well, know that I have an embarrassing lack of social skills. I’m aware of it and should have shut up, but I didn’t.

“So this is all you do, all day?”
She shot me a look and nodded.
“So it’s sort of like working on an assembly line?”

I felt a sudden chill in the room as I saw her reach for the speed control on the treadmill. The pitty-pats shot upward. Then the damn thing got steep, very steep, as she increased the incline to at least 45, maybe 50 degrees. A minute later, I’m panting like a lizard, keeping one eye on the monitor for any missed beats and the other eye on the hallway where I expected to see a team of ER personnel running toward me with a gurney.

A number appeared on the screen. “That’s my target rate isn’t it? That’s where the test ends, right?”

I swore I saw her smirk. “Oh, we need to keep you at that for just a while longer.”

Maybe it was her training as a caretaker to have compassion for the elderly that took over, but she did, at last, turn the treadmill off. She managed one last gotcha as she jerked the suction cups and what little chest hair I have, loose from the skin leaving angry red marks like I’d been attacked by an octopus.

One more 13 minute session with the mean machine and it was over.

The results aren’t in yet, but somehow I have the feeling that no matter what the figures say, the treadmill technician will make sure I flunk that test.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taco Who?

It was a simple task. All I had to do was deliver a chair to the granddaughter’s house. The Missus had bought a new one at an estate sale to replace the brown chair being used in the guest room that didn’t fit in with the d├ęcor. Not that anyone would notice because the brown chair was perpetually covered by an old sheet, a cat sheet. Cat sheets are a common sight around here, their function being to keep cat fur and hair balls off the furniture. The new guest room chair exactly matches the drapes, or so I’m told. I’ve never seen the true color of it as it is sheltered with the exact same cat sheet as the old brown chair. But I digress.

“You remember where her house is don’t you,” the Missus inquired.
“Well of course I remember. I’ve been there before if you recall.” Can you imagine, a woman questioning the directional driving ability of the male species?

With said chair in the back of the pickup, I mentally reviewed the route. East on 11th street, go past the light at Delaware, turn south at the Mexican food place; first house on the right. Got it. I found the place easily, drug the chair from the truck, trudged up the front steps, and rapped on the door. A young man I didn’t recognize opened the screen and smiled. Thinking he was another of my granddaughter’s many friends, I mumbled something like, “Hey, how you doin’” and started to edge myself and the load through the entrance.

The man blocked my way. “Can I help you?” he said with a tone suggesting he had dealt with the mentally unstable before. I got a look at the living room. Hmm, did not look familiar. In fact, I’d never seen this room before in my life. I could sense the man of the house weighing his options; should I call 911 or just get my 9 mm Smith & Wesson?

Now on the verge of panic and total embarrassment, I asked the perfectly logical question. “Cheryl doesn’t live here does she?” The man slowly shook his head in a negative manner. His smile had disappeared. Red-faced and mumbling every apology I could think of, I backed away from the house, hurriedly shoved the old brown chair back into the pickup, and swallowing my manly pride, called the Missus.

“I don’t understand,” I moaned. “I turned right at the Taco Bueno just like I did the other time I was here.”

“Taco Bell, that’s where you turn, it’s another six blocks or so down 11th.”

Damn Mexican fast food joints. They all look alike.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dents

This time the traffic jam was not due to the 37 million orange barrels on the streets of Tulsa right now, the cause was a City of Tulsa work truck dealing with a street lamp pole that had been felled by another of our Okie drivers. Would you care to guess how a person can run into a pole, in plain sight, and a good ten feet or more off the road?

Oh how about drunk or texting.

Good guesses. With that in mind, I started counting the number of dents in guard rails, bent reflector posts, and other smashed light poles for the remaining four miles to my house. Guess again.

I guess five, maybe six?

No, no, no. How about 17? Seventeen severely damaged, dinged, or destroyed roadside markers, rails, and lights in only four miles of highway with a 55 mile per hour speed limit. Go figure. Who is doing all this damage? Are there that many drunken or inattentive drivers out there with us?

Wanna see something really scary? Next time you're on the Interstate and cruising along at 75 mph, check out the number of black marks on those concrete highway dividers. Those are made by the drivers of the megaton semi's when that 18 wheel Goliath rubbed against them. How would you like to have been beside that big boy when that event took place?

As for me, I'm staying home; back here in my man cave where it's dark, quiet, and safe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sleeping With Wolves

Some of you may have missed it (ignored it?) but yesterday was my birthday. I had this idea, sort of, to do something a little different for that special day. Sure the birthday dinners are nice, everyone sings that song, and you smile while opening the cards, but you're secretly thinking, shit I'm getting old.

The idea came when I read about a cabin for rent at a place called Safari's just outside Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Safari's is an animal sanctuary for mostly exotic animals that have nowhere else to live, homeless critters, many of whom have been given up by ill-advised owners on the joys or lack thereof, of having a wild animal in your home. There are tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, alligators, lemurs, and wolves to name but a few of the inhabitants.

The hook was that the cabin, a remodeled 1800's vintage cabin, was located right next to the wolves enclosure, less than 10 yards away from the bedroom window. How cool is that? As it turned out, I took a few photos of the wolves, some lemurs, an alpaca, a camel, a fat blond--yes blond--raccoon, and a few parrots. At sundown, I poured about three fingers of Crown Royal into a short glass filled with ice and waited for the wolves to get active and sing me a song, hopefully the Happy Birthday song. It didn't happen. The entire pack walked around for awhile longer, peed, and sniffed, and eventually found their own little niche in the pen for the night, curled up, and went to sleep. I drowned my disappointment with a little more Crown and thinking the wolves had a pretty good idea there, turned in as well.

At 3:03 a.m. the bedroom sounded like the entire Yellowstone wolf population was trying out for a singing competition. Howls, yips, and barks bounced off the walls and ceiling while I tried to figure out if I was delusional from the whiskey or having a bad dream. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window trying to see what all the commotion was about and verify that none of the wolves were actually in the room as I would have sworn they were, but as far as I could tell, it just one of those wolf things. Apparently, once or twice a night, one of them starts in with that eerie howl and all the rest say, "What the hell, might as well join in." The chorus lasted no more than five minutes then it was back to bed for everyone, although the heart of yours truly beat a little faster for slightly longer.

It was a good birthday. And best of all, I didn't think once about getting old.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Be afraid, be very afraid.

By now you you've heard more about the upcoming 2012 doomsday (12-21-12 to be exact) than you wanted to know. That's the day that the ancient Mayan calendar ends and has been seen by many as an omen of impending doom. Dumb ol' Mayans. What did they know?

But wait. Did you catch the NBC evening news a couple days ago? Two meteorites passed between the earth and the moon and we had not a clue they were headed this way. One of them was 65 feet wide. That's big enough to put a good sized dent in the hood of your car. But bumping into things from outer space isn't the only thing that could change life as we know it, not by a long shot. Consider the following, all being discussed as the source of the 2012 prediction.

Super Volcanoes: Our own Yellowstone National Park sits atop one of the largest super volcanoes on earth. It's erupted before on the average of every 600,000 years. It's been 640,000 years since it last blew up. Big deal you say? Just another volcano? No, this one would coat Nebraska with two to three feet of ash. And tests show that the ground under Yellowstone is more active now than in recorded history. Hmmm.

Polar Reversal: Yep, that's happened before as well. The north and south magnetic poles swap fields. What's that gonna do for that GPS in your new car?

Rare galactic alignment: Also predicted to happen near the end of the year 2012. Nobody knows what would happen with this one.

Solar Flare: Of all the scenarios for the doomsday, this one actually has the most merit. A giant flare could take out our protective ozone layer and fry us all like worms on the sidewalk. Solar flares happen all the time, just not big ones. Logic would tell us it's just a matter of time.

Then there's the meteors and asteroids. Twice now, in the past couple years, we've had sizable objects pass between the earth and the moon. In space distances, that's like a bullet that misses your head by about an inch. In both cases, there were only a couple days warning. Not that it makes much difference. Where you gonna hide?

Kind of makes you think twice about buying that extended warranty on your new dishwasher doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Old and getting older.

As my birthday approaches (it's next week if you want to start thinking about my gift) I seem to fall into one of those melancholy moods and start thinking about how many more I have left. Not that I'm complaining about the ones gone by, overall it's been a pretty good ride, but it's easy to get into that bucket list mentality at this age.

At my last class reunion (the 50th) there was a presentation of photos of classmates that are no longer with us. We had a large class, around 700 if memory serves, and it took a good 45 minutes to go through the list of the dearly departed, all of them my age or close to it. Now that will start you to thinking.

My philosophy? Live every day doing what you want to do. While that's not always possible (there is that reality factor), it's as good a thing to have on your bucket list as any.

Gotta go. Wasting time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Life is Now Complete

Somehow, over these many years of mine, I've always had the feeling that something was lacking in my life, something I'd missed despite my age and experience, and last night, I discovered what it was; WOMEN'S ROLLER DERBY! Oh yeah, you young folks probably don't remember roller derby but it was quite popular on TV for a time. Menacing men wearing scowls and pads and throwing elbows and pushing opponents over the rail, all the while whizzing around an oval rink at breakneck speed. Now that was entertainment.

Last nights experience with the lady rollers lacked the ferocity of the men but there was lots of pushing and stumbles and falls although there was no rail to flip over. That was a little disappointing. My presence there was prompted by an invitation from a friend of mine who has a daughter that's a member on one of the teams and skates regularly. See what a college education can do for you kids?

Actually, I kind of enjoyed watching them. I learned about Jammers and Pacers and Blockers. Points are earned when Jammers pass members of the opposing team. Other than that, I have no clue about the rules. A man dressed in black with a handheld microphone, walked around the rink urging the crowd to yell and cheer and saying things like "Give it up for Criminally Insane". Yes that was the name on the back of one of the Jammers shirt. Other names were Torch Her, Severe Lisa Distik (sound it out) and Death by Kitty. Some wore face paint. The best makeup of the night had one lady looking a bit like the Joker from the Batman movie.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening was the attire of one of the officials. A guy who looked to be at least six feet four and sporting full beard and mustache, was wearing ladies black mesh hose under his shorts. I asked my friend about it and said the guy always dresses like that.
Cross dresser? Getting in touch with his feminine side? Or just plain weird? In any case it was all part of the fun of roller derby.

And so emotionally satisfying. The hole in my life had been filled. I slept like a baby.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Day After

For weeks, I've anticipated the start of football season, practically counting the days until the opening kickoff. After yesterday, I'm thinking 90+ days until basketball starts. OU, my favorite college team for like forever, looked uh, how can we put this kindly, like Sand Springs High School on a bad day? Every year, I tell myself to pay no attention to the hype coming out of the coaches; that this is a great looking team; we have a couple potential Heisman candidates, and yes we'll be in the hunt for a National Championship!

Okay, great by what standard? Greater than a team that goes 4 for 12 ?
My grandson is a potential Heisman candidate and he's only 7.
National Championship? C'mon coach.

But I fell for it, like I always do. Yes, they did win. Barely and that's with Utah State missing their best running back and wide receiver. There's that. So why do I feel like the season's over?

Drive a man to drink.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Survival

Ever watch any of the "survivor" shows on TV? There are several to pick from. The most popular by far is Survivor with the same old challenges and the predictable narrative in every single episode. "Come on in guys". "Wanna know what you're playing for?" and my particular favorite, "Immunity idol, back up for grabs."



Then there's Man vs. Wild where this goofy guy with the English accent that overacts and pretends that he's facing death around every corner.



A relatively new one has man vs. woman where each gender shows off their perspective skills in coping without an ipod or a GPS. Neither succeed.



Survivorman is okay, sort of. At least he doesn't have a film crew following him around and sets up his own camera shots. Gotta admire his stamina if nothing else.



My recent favorite is Dual Survivor. One of the participants is labeled a "minimalist" and doesn't wear shoes, no matter if he's dealing with the frozen tundra, piranhas, snakes, thorns, sharp rocks, or cactus. The other guy is a military dude trained in dealing with jungles and swamps. He's usually the hunter and trapper of the two.



As a wildlife enthusiast and photographer, I have one major problem will all of these shows. While it's a given that surviving in a hostile environment requires food wherever you can find it but why is it necessary to kill the wildlife to make a stupid TV show? And they all do it.

Don't forget, all of them with the exception of Survivorman, have a film crew and means of emergency evacuation or medical help if needed. Go ahead, trap the critter, explain how to cook him up if you want, but don't kill the damn thing to improve your ratings. Do we really need to know how to skin an iguana while lost in Belize? To me, that sucks. Animals of the wild have a tough enough time surviving on their own ( a true survival story) without the egotist TV stars knocking them in the head and severing their spinal cords to demonstrate how to live off the land while surrounded by half a dozen people with satellite telephones.



Go ahead, show us how to make fire with sticks, built a shelter out of palm leaves, boil water in a plastic bottle if you want to, but leave the animals out of it. I think we could figure how to skin one and hold it over a fire if our life depended on it, without your dramatics.

Good news, bad new.

First, the good news. My AC worked all last night and is still working this morning although NOW it's nice and cool outside.

Was suffering a bit of cabin fever and even through the forecast called for scattered showers, I wanted to get out of the man cave for awhile and shoot some photos. Been thinking about driving the old Route 66 toward Oklahoma City and look for photo ops along the way and since there were some nice overcast skies to diffuse the light, it seemed like a good idea to take off. The rain started pecking at the windshield within two blocks of home. Drove an hour, rain never stopped. It was almost a constant downpour. Too heavy most of the time to see much of anything. Drove home. Rain quit as I pulled in the driveway. Electronic rain gauge read .04 inches. My dying grass continues to turn a sickly shade of yellow.

Another unpleasant surprise popped up when I stepped out to my newly stained and preserved wooden deck. Everywhere the rain water pooled up, a whitish circle had formed. This after buying one of the best stain products there is from the Home Depot.

Drive a man to drink.