Monday, April 29, 2019

Fountain of eternal effort

It's cold(ish) and breezy here today, with an official promise of snow. Something -- perhaps the feel of the air or the slant of the sunlight occasionally peeking through the overcast -- calls up a memory from the distant past. Elementary School spring Track Day.
Something like this, only colder. And everything was black and white back then.

I have a memory of one such day when I was probably in fifth grade. It was cold and breezy like today and more than a bit on the miserable side. But it was outside, away from the classroom, and there was less than a month remaining in the school year. So it was great!


As of this morning, here in Kimball County, Nebraska, slam in the middle of the High Plains of North America, we're in a winter weather advisory.

It's cold out right now, only 27 degrees (I guess it was actually 31), and there's a brisk north wind. It's overcast and looks a lot like there'll be snow. The NWS forecast is predicting 6-10 inches.

The dogs don't mind.

The cats don't care.

No matter how much I whine, it is, after all, only April 29. In this part of the world the long-term frost-free date is May 20, and I myself have seen big snow storms as late as June 3. My Grandpa Wilbur told me that he'd seen snow in every month of the year, save July.

If this storm system does what the major media proclaims it will, this will be my last ever blog post, for after tomorrow I will be dead and gone, along with all my fellow High Plainsians. We will have been murdered by the Reagan/Bush/Bush/Trump Global Warming Catastrophe.

If that should be my fate, see ya on the other side!

However, if by chance I don't get kilt by the global warming, I'll probably be back.


Today is April 29, so that's 365 days of dedicated working out. I started on April 30 of last year, and with the exception of a week when I had the death flu in November I've managed to do some level of weight/resistance and/or cardio every day since then. It's been a good year and the results are more than I hoped for. When I began I could walk 3-4 miles but I was pretty sure I'd never be able to run again. To my great pleasure and surprise, along the way I found I could run again.

Since last April 30 I've done 2,547 exercise miles (6.97/day), 16,606 flights of stairs (45/day), and far too many of various lifts and calisthenics to enumerate. If I'd have known all that misery was ahead of me, I'd never have started!

It's kind of funny and ironic. I have a lot of memories of how easy running was when I was a lad. It was work and took a lot of effort, but in some ways it seemed almost effortless. The ironic thing is that I really hated it at the time. It was so boring, and such a waste of my valuable time! I only did it grudgingly, because I had to be fit to be allowed to keep doing the job I wanted to do, so I endured it. I usually tried very hard to get that shit over with as soon as possible in the morning so I could get on with doing valuable stuff, like flying, drinking, and chasing girls.

My morning routine at Oceana was to roll into the clinic at 0530, run a 5.5 mile course, shower and change into uniform, and be ready for morning muster at 0645.
Roughly, more or less...

On the boat it was different because air-ops dictated the routine of the entire ship, and there wasn't always a daily opportunity to run. When there was opportunity, I ran on the flight deck or in the hangar bay. When there wasn't, I didn't. I managed to keep fit on the boat though.
We actually had airplanes back in the day, so the running was a bit more, er, complicated.

Fast forward 3-4 decades, and after a year of getting fit my daily workout routine is starting to become something a bit more planned and tailored to specific goals and needs. After a year of work, I'm kind of back at a basic level of fitness, and that's good. Strength and endurance are much improved and trending in a good direction. However, my flexibility and mobility are not so good, and have in some ways been reduced by the last year's physical exertion. The running and lifting are great and I'm really enjoying them, but I've overworked/over-strengthened some muscle groups while leaving others to whither on the vine.

I've had some nagging injuries, and my physical therapist has convinced me that the way forward is to do more targeted stretching and begin building strength in the muscle groups that I've been ignoring. That's great and everything, but I find that stretching and fine tuning, well, boring.

I've added a daily dozen mobility stretches, illustrated here.

And to address the neglected muscle groups in my legs, hips, and lower back, I've added a shin box routine. This one hurts a lot. Well, parts of it do. But pain is weakness leaving the body!

Unsurprisingly, to get where I'd like to be, I'm going to have to manage my own worst enemy, which is me!

So far so good though. After a week of stretching and strengthening, I'm feeling remarkably good. It's a slog to get through my new pre-workout routine, and there's a good bit of pain involved as I stretch and push the tight and weak stuff, but there's been a solid payoff. I'm already feeling better, moving more smoothly with less effort, standing and sitting with better posture, etc.

Over the last year I've had a lot of people praise me for my efforts. I've had even more people ask me what I'm trying to accomplish and why.

I like being praised as much as anyone, but in this case it feels kinda squishy. I feel like getting fit is only remarkable because I was so unfit at the beginning, so along with the praise I should be hearing, "Of course, you shoulda never let yourself go like that."

As for what I'm trying to accomplish, I'm simply trying to feel better and place myself in a position where I continue to feel reasonably good for as long as possible as I go forward. There'll come a time when I lay down and die, but I want to do my best to be active and engaged up until the very last possible moment. I don't want to spend months or years in the recliner covered in doughnut crumbs. That's not much of an existence.

Perhaps most importantly though, I look around and see a lot of people who've had the choice of fitness taken away from them by disease or injury. It makes me feel guilty to squander something that they'd give anything to possess. As I work out, I try to carry those folks with me in a way. I doubt that makes any sense, but it's part of my motivation.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Corpsman Chronicles XVII: Chaff and Flares

I was going to tell you a funny story about Boards, and I will, but it'll be a bit incomplete.

At this particular time and place Boards and I were part of the NAS Oceana Medical Clinic's E-5 Mafia. Befitting our status as made men and women, most of us (maybe even all of us) were given a really good deal. We were "allowed" to become Duty Section Chiefs of the Day. From our perspective it was a good deal because we were able to get off of the regular five-section watchbill and jump into the 15-section COD watchbill. Just like that, we went from standing duty every five days to twice a month. We thought it was great. Our former fellow duty section members  -- especially the non-made E-5's, thought we were a bunch of brown-nosing suck-ups. I didn't agree, but I could see their point. Breaks of Naval Air. You wanna be parta la Secondclassa Nostra, you gotta put in the worka in the trenchesa.

From the clinic admin and senior enlisted side, this was a good deal also. The E-6's and E-7's who previously stood duty twice a month now stood duty like, never. The clinic's sole Senior Chief (E-8), who hadn't stood duty since the Cuban Missile Crisis, was against the deal from the beginning. In his view, every enlisted sailor should be on the watchbill and standing duty in their proper rotation. No exceptions!

However, there's always been a strange operational methodology practiced naval medical circles, and the Senior Chief was outvoted by the clinic's three navy nurses, an Ensign, a JayGee, and a Hinge.

So the plan was adopted and we Mafia types began standing duty as Chiefs of the Day.

So, the duty thing. How to explain?

Back in the day, or at least back in my time, the entire enlisted crew of any ship or station was evenly divided into duty sections. In my experience there were always three duty sections on the boat, while the number of sections at shore establishments varied. Each duty section had "the duty" for 24 hours, in rotation. So in a three section rotation section one has duty today, section two tomorrow, section three the next day, then section one again, etc. I don't know for certain, but I suspect that today's navy still uses the same system.

Duty sections were/are slightly different at sea and ashore. At sea there are no weekends or days off or going home after work. Everybody works all day, every day, but people do have to eat and sleep and triple-s, get haircuts and shine shoes and stow their laundry, etc. The ship therefore has a regular day shift, which goes from roughly 0700 to 1800 or so. If your section doesn't have the duty, you get up at revile -- about 0600 -- and do your morning business and have breakfast, then go to "work" at 7 a.m. You work throughout the morning and get to go to chow at lunchtime, then work until the end of the day. Then you're kind of on your own; you go to chow, take care of personal stuff, watch television or read or play cards, etc. Then you hit the rack at lights out, around 2200 or 10 p.m., sleep all night, then get up at revile and do it all over again.

The ship operates 24 hours a day though. You don't pull over and park at lunchtime or bedtime. So at any given time about a third of the crew are busily engaged in all the stuff that makes the ship go. Thus the three section duty rotation.

What this meant in medical was that the duty section were present and running the shop before and after the "regular" 0700-1800 work day. So two out of three days you had a normal day, complete with a nice, uninterrupted (kinda/sorta) overnight snooze in your comfy rack. On the third day though, you were pretty much chained to main medical. Generally speaking, the duty section split up the overnight hours into two or three four-hour watches so that you could get some sleep, but no more than four hours at a time and always subject to interruption. There were exceptions to all of this. For instance, the four members of the flight deck crew were permanently 12/12 while underway -- that is, 12 hours on and 12 hours off -- and so weren't part of the three section duty rotation.

On the beach it was much the same, except there was a five-day, Monday-Friday work week, and everyone went home at the end of the day and had weekends off, with the exception of those on duty. The duty section was present in the clinic from 0700-0700 on their duty day. On weekdays they did their regular job from 0700-1600, but at 4 p.m. they stayed behind to run the Emergency Room while everyone else went home. On weekends the rest of the clinic was closed, but the duty crew was present in the ER. Just as on the ship, the duty section rotated watches through the night so everyone could get a little sleep, but no one got or expected a full night's sleep.

Clear as mud? I often wondered, but never got around to asking, how the Army and Air Force did things. Did they have duty sections? I know the Marines did, because they're part of the Navy. But I still don't know about the other branches.


Bright and early one summery morn of a Fine Navy Day, I rolled into the clinic to do my pre-work run. As I breezed through the ER en route to the locker room to change, I noticed that Boards, the Duty Section Chief of the Day (COD), had some serious thunder clouds swirling over his head. When I looked close I could see tiny white-hot lightning bolts striking the prominent bilateral protuberances adorning each side of his brain housing group (said  protuberances being responsible for his nickname). He was grumbling as he scrawled rapidly in the duty section log book, enveloped in a haze of mentholated tobacco smoke as he sat at the COD desk. He ignored my opening insult and carried on writing. Must have been one of those nights. I do not think he agreed with my assessment that it was a Fine Navy Day. 

When I returned from my 5.5 mile run I entered the clinic through the front doors as was my wont and proceeded directly to the Admin Office. With the exception of the locker room in the back of the building near the ER, the wearing of athletic attire was strictly prohibited in the clinic, which was one of the reasons I always entered through the front doors after finishing my run. I always stopped by Admin, too, in part to make sure that the Remington Raiders saw me flaunting a local regulation. I also had to collect a serving of post-workout Motrin from the cute little Yeoman (herself an E-5 of course) who manned a desk in the back of the space. She was on limited duty following a car crash and I flirted with her shamelessly, but she was on to me. She didn't mind funding my NSAID addiction and trading double entendres, but her heart belonged to some knuckle-dragging Boiler Tech in the fleet. All part of the Adventure.

As I strode into Admin Boards was busy copying pages from the duty log book for his morning report. The thunderclouds were still clearly visible, and he was being pestered by the Senior Chief, who immediately switched targeting to me and my unauthorized attire.

"No athletic attire in the building during working hours!"

As I answered I caught a flash of gratitude and a hint of a grin from Boards.

Taking a conspicuously slow look at my G-Shock, I noted that it was 0645. Clearly before working hours. However...

"And you're late for muster, too!"

Ruh-roh! I was well and truly in the shit, deep behind enemy lines, in a predicament I'd placed myself without any help whatsoever. Hoist by my own petard! I prepared for the worst.

In that dark, awful, moment I heard the sound of snapping glass coming from the copier. I glanced at Boards, who raised his eyebrows in a fleeting "what, me worry?" gesture before pressing the big green copy button. In that moment I realized what Boards had also concluded, that he'd managed to snap the copier platen glass by pressing the logbook down too firmly while preparing to make a copy. All things considered, pressing the go button was probably the single most contraindicated action he could take. So naturally, he took it. I rather suspect I'd have done the same, had I been in his shoes.

Sparks immediately shot from the copier as it squealed with a terrible sound of rending metal and plastic and breaking glass. Boards cocked his head and grimaced in feigned puzzlement as acrid smoke started pumping from the back of the unit. Power and lights went out in Admin as breakers tripped, then, with an audible click, backup lighting units flickered on, striving mightily to overcome the thick but already dissipating smoke.

With the gift of a miraculous distraction, I slipped out of admin, did the Superman in a phone booth thing, and made muster only a little bit late.

A few hours later Boards explained his actions with the copier. "Well, the morning wasn't going to get any more fucked up. Besides, I wondered what would happen. That was a pretty cool failure mode."

That's a good memory for me. In those days, with the crowd I hung out with, there was no end of fun and goofy hi jinks. As I was thinking back on this particular event, I was trying to remember what exactly had made it a rough night for Boards as the COD. Something tells me it was a memorable event, but I can't recall what it was. Thinking back prompted me to remember one or two memorable events from my watches as COD, so I'll have to share those in a future post.

Before I end this one though, I thought I'd share a few words about the Senior Chief. I didn't realize it until years had passed, but for as much as he rode me, that old fart always gave me an out. The athletic attire is a good example. By the letter of NASO regulation, athletic attire was banned throughout the clinic (and other formal work places) except for locker rooms and adjacent passageways leading directly outside. There was nothing in the regulation about working hours. It was a straight ban, with two specific exceptions. Period. Dot.

Why did the Senior Chief give me the "working hours" out, time and time again? I have no idea. But I'm pretty sure he was a complete master at managing young sailors, at keeping them coloring more or less inside the lines while not crushing the stuff that made them worth keeping around. It was many years before I realized that he was a good guy, and that every time I thought he was being a dick, there had been only one dick in the room, and it wasn't the Senior Chief.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Corpsman Chronicles XVI: Sorry 'bout that

Big, beautiful moon out tonight.


Seems like since my Dad got sick I've let a lot of stuff go. I hardly do anything here anymore, and I sure as hell don't put up any worthwhile content. Or at least I don't do it in a worthwhile fashion.

And I've pretty much gone interweb sinker. I can't remember the last time I actually read any blogs.

I've got lots of excuses, but pretty much zero good or even adequate excuses.

Sorry 'bout that.

I had a comment on the blog today from someone I've never heard of before, so I checked out his profile which led me to a couple of interesting blogs with links to blogs I used to read, sooooo....

I'm pretty sure that's like a sign or something.


Speaking of signs...

Yesterday as I was running a big black tomcat crossed my path. A couple of hours later as I checked out at the grocery store my change from a $20 was $6.66.

Yep, no doubt about it. That's some pretty scary stuff.

So what does a scientifical minded fellow do when faced with legendary signs of bad luck?

Well, here's what I do. I suck it up and drive on. With just a smidgen of extra caution.

From everything I've read regarding bad luck signs, and from my own extensive experience spending quality indoor time underneath ladders with opened umbrellas, and with black cats and the Number of the Beast and broken mirrors and spilled salt and many other terrible omenish events, it appears that while I've seen any number of supernatural warning signs, such signs have simply never been even loosely correlated with subsequent personal disasters. When it comes to other folks, to the best of my knowledge, any correlation between sign and disaster has never been reasonably proven to be anything other than coincidence.

In general, I feel pretty safe in saying that the chance that my observing a supernatural warning sign will cause a subsequent personal disaster is very unlikely. Very, very, very unlikely.

However, unlikely is not the same as impossible.

So I take a little extra care as I'm out and about, and I try hard not to do anything dumb. Until I forget about the scary portent of disaster and go back to my usual larking about without a care in the world.

So far so good.


And now, on with the show.

So there I was, standing overnight duty in Medical on the boat. This would have been late 1980 or early 1981. As a Nation and as a Navy we were under a rather crushing ops tempo at the time, but I was junior enough not to know what that meant. From my perspective, I was just doing the job as assigned. I'm either on the beach or on the boat. I do what I'm told, and do it to the best of my ability. I'm not a slave or a robot, and I get to do and learn some really cool stuff, so I'm happy with my lot and very willing to serve. However, I wouldn't know an ops tempo from a procurement budget and that's just fine with me. That the ship and airwing have only had a 30-day stand down between the end of a major deployment and the beginning of workups for the next major deployment is simply what it is. Even had I known that the "usual" stand down period was 90-120 days, it would have meant nothing to me. I wasn't on leave, so I was supposed to be at work, either aboard ship or at the Air Station. I was a sailor, I was on a ship at sea, and that's the way it was supposed to be.

Anyway, there I was. It was late, but as I recall it wasn't yet zero-dark late. I was sitting at the check in window of the medical records office, listening to boom box music, smoking a camel, and drinking a warm coke. Myself and another HN/E-3 were "up and standing watch," the rest of the seven or eight man duty section were racked out in medical berthing, just a few frames aft and one deck down.

BLAM! The door (technically, a non water tight door, or NWTD) from the portside passageway crashed open and a guy came running in, yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Come quick, come quick! A guy fell down the ladder and he's bleeding all over the place and his brains are coming out!"

At that moment I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I was on duty, and my station was main medical. I was not supposed to leave my station unless and until I was properly relieved. Period, However, I also seemed to be the closest corpsman available for a shipmate who had sustained a very serious injury. That shipmate needed attention now, not at some point in the future after I'd dicked around long enough to find someone to tell me what to do. So I yelled at the other HN on duty, told him to call the duty section Leading Petty Officer (LPO), and that I'd report back when I found what was going on. I grabbed my Unit One and followed the fellow who'd crashed through the door 15 seconds earlier.

We went back out into the portside passageway and forward a few frames, then outboard to a ladder well.
This one's only a few frames aft of the one in question!

There was a crowd gathered and I bellowed, "Make a hole! Medical!" I shoved through the crowd, cursing. At the top of the ladder I looked down and could see another crowd gathered around a khaki-clad man laying on the deck in the narrow confines of the ladder well. There were also six or eight guys standing on the ladder, rubbernecking at the scene of bloody mayhem below. Fucking unbelievable.
Just not a lot of room for rubbernecking.

I gave forth with long and loud string of profanities, which helped me clear the ladder. More than one ladder-perching sailor collected an elbow to the nose as I fought my way down toward the wounded man. It seemed to take forever but couldn't have taken more than a handful of seconds for me to get down the ladder and get a good look at the injured man.

He was on his back on the deck with his feet an legs still up on the ladder. His eyes were closed but he was clearly breathing, which was a good sign. His head and shoulders were in the middle of an impressive puddle of blood, and as I watched the puddle continued to spread. On the up side, that meant his heart was still beating. On the down side, the ol' human body only holds so much blood.

On my knees in the blood I quickly probed the injured man's head wound. It felt impressive, but there weren't any brains coming out. I couldn't actually see the wound because I didn't want to move the fellow in case of a neck injury. I flipped up his eyelids and his pupils reacted promptly and equally to light. His pulse was strong and he was breathing just fine. Other than a bloody scalp laceration and perhaps a concussion he was probably fine, but that cervical spine...

My quick and dirty field assessment told me that we needed the Medical Response Team (MRT) to move this guy to sick bay. We needed them here sooner rather than later, so we needed to call away a Medical Emergency. I scanned the crowd for someone senior, and found a lone khaki amid a sea of slick-sleeved (E-3 and below) blue shirts. Unfortunately, he was a LT(jg). He looked pretty green around the gills and possibly on the verge of fainting. He looked back at me through coke-bottle eyeglass lenses and swallowed nervously. Shit.

Just then a big hand grabbed my shoulder. "Whatcha need, Doc?" 

A Senior Chief! Hooray!

"We need to call away a medical emergency, Senior, this guy needs to get to medical right away, but he might have a neck injury."

As I was talking I opened my unit-one, pulled out a large battle dressing, and began to staunch the blood flowing from the injured man's head. Only then did I notice the silver eagle on one collar, and golden cross on the other. Jesus fucking christ! A Captain, and the ship's senior Chaplain to boot! Thank heavens he was unconscious and didn't hear me cussing!

Within moments the 1MC roared to life, announcing the medical emergency. The MRT followed within only a few minutes, and I got out of the way.

Later in the sick bay treatment room, while I was writing in the chart and the Chaplain was being sewn up by the ship's senior medical officer, the Chaplain confided to his fellow Captain that, "I knew I'd be fine as soon as I heard your foul-mouthed corpsman clearing the ladder!"

You could have heard a pin drop, and all eyes (save those of the Chaplain) in the treatment room focused on me.

"Uh," I said, "I'm, uh, sorry 'bout that, uh, about the language sir. I mean Captain. I mean, uh, Chaplain, sir. Uh..."

"That's all right, son," said the Chaplain. "Very impressive in fact."

The glare from Captain Dalton, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, suggested that it wasn't, in fact, all right. But it became more or less okay an hour later after he'd torn an O-6 sized strip off of me.


A month or so before the cussing fiasco, a cute little Corps Wave (female Hospital Corpsman) was dropping me off at Pier Twelve. The ship was getting underway, and so was I.

"Oh, why do you have to go?" she asked.

Being young and very stupid, I didn't realize that she was asking the same question that about 10,000 other women and children were asking that very moment.

"Because they'll throw my ass in the brig if I don't," I replied. "Sorry 'bout that."


A couple of years later I was standing duty at the Oceana Clinic. There was an aircraft in the pattern which had just declared an emergency, so the tower "rolled the meat wagon." That was us. I was the paramedic, and Mike Graham was the driver. Our meat wagon was a 1969 Jeep 4X4 field ambulance. What we called a "cracker box." It was a great unit, but different than the Dodge cracker boxes. Those were automatics but lacked power brakes. The Jeep was a four-speed but did have power brakes. As we roared out of the parking lot and turned onto Tomcat Boulevard I was still trying to fasten my seat belt. As he turned, Mike stomped down on the brake. Hard. My forehead hit the inside of the windshield hard enough to break the glass. With my brain rattling around inside my skull and vision blurred by smarting tears I heard Mike say,

"Sorry 'bout that!"

This one's a '64, but pretty close.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spring game, sand sprints, and snow (now with more upates!)

It was dead calm this morning, overcast with light snow, and the temperature was about 28 degrees. I headed out to do some roadwork. I was desperate to log some miles as I've been stuck in the weight room since Monday, what with medical stuff and the winter storm and all.

As I finished my second mile the snow stopped, the clouds began to break up, and the sun began to chase away the gray. The temperature began to rise and it looked like we were on the verge of a lovely spring day.

So I hit some sand sprints, 16 sets of two. The last three I did with my phone out in video mode, which wasn't very satisfying. I hate sand sprints. Always have. Which is why I love them.

After the sand sprints I did two more miles over to the underpass steps and knocked out 94 flights. As I was running steps the clouds closed back in, the temperature fell, an east wind picked up, and it started to snow again.

A great workout on a typical April day in Nebraska.


Today is Nebraska's Spring Game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. It's a kind of a big deal in this here state, and hopes are high that the Cornhuskers will return to greatness this year under second-year Head coach Scott Frost (Former Husker QB and National Champion). Of course it's just a spring game, but just like the players, true Husker Fans have to put in the grinding post-season, Spring, Summer, and Pre-Season work. So we'll be eyeballing the game later today.

UPDATE: Reds 24, Whites 13

We won! But we also lost. It's a Spring Game thing.

Yesterday my Niece Julia, a Freshman at UNL, was working a shift at the Nebraska Bookstore, which is a kind of manically iconic Husker Nation business and landmark. She happened to meet some old dude with a big, flashy Husker ring.

The old dude with the ring turned out to be Keithen McCant, Nebraska's starting QB from the 1990/1991 seasons.

Miami kicked the shit out of us in that 1992 Orange Bowl, BTW.

McCant was in town for the Spring Game of course. And now Julia is the most famous Evertson of all time. Yes, it's a thing. A form of psychosis, perhaps, but nonetheless a thing.


Yesterday we had a visitor at the ranch. He (possibly she) stopped by the south deck to hang out for a while.

It's a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). One of the smallest of the Accipiters, they are mainly aerial hunters and generally feed on songbirds, doves, and pigeons. Here are a few higher quality stills.

Very cool birds.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Last storm?

A Tuesday headline from one of the regional newspapers:

Area Prepared For Last Major Storm

The story explained that regional government services were absolutely prepared for mayhem as they girded their loins to take on the very last snow storm of the season.

I had to shake my head. You don't even have to go back a decade to discover three significant winter storms -- one a legitimate blizzard -- which came in mid- to late-May. I'll not name the newspaper because they're no worse and no better than any other, but they're just terrible when it comes to reporting news. Everything is sensationalized and politicized. Even worse, they're smugly certain that they're the best newspaper there's ever been, and they've got the newspaper association awards to prove it. I remember, back in the day, laughing my head off at the crap propaganda reported in Soviet Bloc "newspapers." I also remember being smugly certain that such a thing could never happen in the U.S.

As it turns out, the storm wasn't much of a storm. It was quite miserable for about 36 hours, with temps in the teens and low twenties and four or so inches of snow blown horizontally by a howling and frigid north wind, but it was no different than any other brisk April snow event in this part of the country over the last 125 years of record keeping, and probably over the last 15,000 years since the end of the last major glaciation.

NDOR did close all the roads, and there's no doubt that there was snow and ice and reduced visibility out there. I suspect that the closure decision was made by people watching the major television news channels though. They have a much clearer view and understanding from New York City.

Yesterday morning as I was going out to Mom and Dad's to check on them I got pulled over by NSP for driving on a closed road. I'm afraid I was a bit of a richard to the trooper. I understand his position, but it was clear that he was far, far more concerned about the possibility of engineering a drug stop (Colorado is a mere 12 miles south on Highway 71) than preventing an accident or even enforcing a stupid and non-necessary road closure. So I lit him up, and when he realized that there's a sick, elderly person in the mix, one relying on my personal care, I suspect his plans for drug bust glory faded a bit. Maybe when he grows up and starts to shave he'll be able to do a better job of thinking. Maybe not.

Nevertheless, I survived it all. The sun is out this morning and although it's still cold (22 degrees) we're supposed to see a warming trend. Spring will continue to be birthed, and it won't be too much longer before I'll be whining about the heat. And the newspapers will be reporting the end of life as we know it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pending weather, sorrow, gratitude

It's a gray and raw day as the sun rises on April 10. Yesterday was sunny and warm if a bit breezy. The temperature hit 76 and it looked and felt and smelled like spring.

The forecast had farmers out trying to get fertilizer down before the weather changed.

Shortly after midnight the change began. It got cloudy and breezy and drizzly, and the temperature began to fall. It was 35 degrees at sunrise and heading south. The barometer was way down at 29.57 and still falling. Daylight revealed a dim, damp, breezy world. Brrr!

The present forecast calls for snow to begin falling at about noon. The temperature is expected to keep falling and bottom out in the teens. The wind is expected to pick up and stay in the 40-gusting-60 neighborhood for the next 48 hours.

As of now, snowfall quantities are forecast in the 6-12 inch range. The forecast is very similar to the forecast preceding the March 13 storm. And not unlike the forecast preceding the big snow storm we had last April. Springtime in Nebraska!

It'll be interesting to see how it develops. It's warm enough for the snow to be quite heavy and clingy, so we're being cautioned to be prepared for power outages. I think we're prepared; backup generators tested fine yesterday and the backup propane tank is full. There's plenty of food and water and no reason to be anywhere but indoors, so there's nothing left to do but hunker down and enjoy nature's majesty from a safe and comfy seat.


I was surprised and saddened yesterday to hear of the death of a young woman who I knew hardly at all but liked a great deal.

Larissa was only 37 when she succumbed to brain cancer. Here in the first world in the twenty-first century, 37 years is less than half the more or less expected lifespan. In this place and at this time it's a very young age to die, and despite the fact that young people die each day, it's uncommon enough to be a shock when death touches a young person that we actually know.

I didn't know Larissa well. I worked with her on some local beautification projects when she was employed by the city, and I always appreciated her attitude and enthusiasm. She was a little bit of a hippie and certainly didn't conform with many of the stolid, conservative habits of her friends and neighbors. She was never pushy or political about it, she just forged her own path and didn't waste a lot of time worrying about what other people might think or say. There's always a price to taking a path like that, but Larissa always seemed to be willing to pay that bill and never hinted that the weight of it was a burden.

Superficially Larissa and I probably seemed to have very different beliefs. I favor a more evidence based approach to understanding and navigating the world, while Larissa was perhaps less worried about evidence and more interested in what her heart told her. In today's America we would generally be expected to be great enemies.

It wasn't like that at all though. We could argue about some things at great length -- and she often made vexingly good arguments -- but there was always a great deal of respect present at our debating stage.

I'm at a bit of a loss for words here. I'm not wordsmith enough to name -- let alone explain -- all the complex feelings I have about Larissa and about her passing. I know that I was always happy to see her and that working with her was never a chore. Her upbeat enthusiasm, sly wit, and great good humor could always put a smile on my face.

I mourn her passing from the world, because the world is now diminished. And though I'm sad, I'm also very grateful that I knew Larissa, at least a little bit. I'll miss her.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Springtime and the grapes of wreck

April 8 and it's a beautiful morning.

It feels like spring this morning. At sunrise the air temperature had just fallen to 43 degrees, which happened to be the overnight low. As Sol's magnificent warming light flooded across the Prairie the air temperature trend reversed and within 15 minutes had gained 10 degrees.
The air felt like it held a lot of water molecules, and sure enough, relative humidity was hovering at the 90 percent mark.

It was shirtsleeve weather. A bit on the cool side but trending not-so-cool. In addition to warming the awakening countryside, sunlight added a sepia tone to everyday images, producing achingly beautiful portraits. I snapped a few pictures, none of which do the beauty any real justice.

Each of these moments, each of these scenes, are similar to countless moments which have occurred down through the ages of Earth, yet each is also completely unique, never to come again.

Yesterday, while Goldfinches swarmed the thistle seed feeder,  Nona accompanied Mom on her daily prairie walk.

People who wonder where I come by my love of walking and outdoor physical activity need look no farther than Mom, who at 78 years young gets out and walks multiple miles across the ranch nearly every day, rain, shine, or snow. It keeps her fit and provides the gift of scale, context and perspective to balance the insanity constantly vomited from the television and various "news" sources. What a treasure her shiny new hips have turned out to be.

But I digress. Nona joined the walk, as she always does. She came back early though, slinking surreptitiously into the farmyard, a piece of Pronghorn leg clamped in her teeth. I watched her for a while as she cast about for a good place, dug a hole, and buried her prize.

That's the wild side of a domesticated dog. It's not normally evident, but yesterday something triggered her wild behavior genetics and she was, for a brief time, more wolf than dog. Fun stuff to observe and think about.

On a bit of a tangent but lurking near the forefront of my mind, I've often wondered about the exact circumstances of the very first human experimentation with alcohol consumption. In my mind's eye, I can see Og the caveman returning to the home hole after a long but unsuccessful day of hunting. He's tired and hungry and thirsty and disgusted, resigned to having a growlingly empty belly until he can kill something to eat. In the back of the cave are a pile of rotting grapes, which smell sour and off. But Og is very hungry, so he bolts down some grapes...

And something magical happens.

Was it like that, the first time a human got drunk? It could have been I think. Not that it really matters.

Anyway, here in the present of 2019, someone close to me is struggling with alcohol. It's an ugly struggle. Fortunately for this person there are a great many resources available to help overcome the problem. That wasn't always the case. There are also a great many people who love this person without reservation and who will unhesitatingly provide as much support as they possibly can. There's no way to know what the outcome will be. In the reality of reality, there are things that the afflicted person will have to do to get better, things only the person can do. It'll be a hard road, filled with fear and uncertainty. If the person successfully navigates the road all will be well. If not, then not. It is the way of life. Only time will tell.

In the midst of springtime beauty there coexists ugliness and despair. Nothing in life is ever simply wonderful or simply awful. It's always a mix. That's not a bad thing. It might be one of the keys to making our mortal existence worthwhile.