Thursday, November 23, 2017

Devilled Egg Thanksgiving

The first holiday at home in years and I find that I'm not really interested in elaborate cookery. Kiara is all about sleeping in, downstairs in her apartment, so it's not like I'm committed to a family meal.
I recall Dave's habit of making supercharged devilled eggs. Kiara contributes horseradish, paprika and the all-important real mayo (my habit is to use whatever's cheap, which is fine for everyday but not the holiday.)
Crafting unique devilled eggs is fun! Here's the first batch:
Starting from 12 o'clock, it's clockwise: olive, red pepper flakes, crater of Louisiana Hot Sauce, finely cut onion greens right from my garden - it makes it a salad!, minced onions, and riced parmesan cheese. What wild flavors would you enjoy?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Base Ick Riddle

Another internet riddle going around is almost always answered wrongly but not for the reason most suspect. Here's the riddle:

Skipping over the "Losing Their Sh1t" nonsense, we have a fairly straightforward puzzle with a nice twist at the very end, or let me write, the "very very" end. That's a clue.


1. There are three symbols on the image: Grey Thing, Bananas, and Clock.
2. Grey Thing = 15
3. Bananas = 4
4. Clock = 3
5. 3+4+(4x15)=67

In the 4th equation I saw that all of the symbols were different from the symbols above.
I concluded that the actual symbol meanings are:
1. Grey thing valued at the sum of the sides of the polygons in it
2. Bunch of bananas valued at the number of bananas in the bunch
3. Clock valued by the position of the little hand.
This makes the last equation:

The symbol on the right side of the last equation consists of TWO IDENTICAL SYMBOLS!  The question becomes: what is "?".

?? cannot = "38" because "?" cannot be both "3" and "8".

However, we don't have to assume the equations are in base 10.
With a little thinking, the solution is obvious: this problem is in base 37.

To those of us used to base 10 that may be icky, but that is base digitism. Don't be a digitist!!!!

The answer is therefore "?" = "1" and the last equation is 2+3+(3x(5+6))=11 base 37.

You're welcome!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Old 45 Covers

A while back I got a bunch of 45 rpm records that were thrift store discards - nobody buys these any more). It's time to give them away - somehow! - but first to record the more interesting album covers. None of these pieces of music mean anything to me, I just didn't like waste.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Moot Court Again!

Tonight I served again as a judge on a Moot Court for the UW Law School - see This is a nice part of being part of the community - I meet some up-and-coming young people at the beginning of their careers and help a little with their success.
The Moot Courts need enough persons to fill seats and although I am not a trial lawyer, I can fulfill the role for purposes of the competition.
For purposes of oral evaluations, the training at Toastmasters has been very helpful. I can offer positive and useful feedback on what may be persuasive to a jury. I leave the heavy trial-lawyer commentary to the trial lawyers but it has been interesting to see that their views in general accord with mine; they just have a deeper foundation to their explanations.
I use the traditional "sandwich" technique - a slice of positive, a suggestion for improvement, then another slice of positive. You can really see how this increases acceptance and comprehension.
I have come to realize that this is something that I want to do better at - not just to show up and do my best at the moment, but actually study the subject so I can produce a better result. I have about a year until the next round so I'll put this on my list of projects.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Floppy Memories

I spent my free time this week uploading data from my old floppy disks. Putting it into the cloud (thanks Carbonite!) means I'll always have access, and can move these disks along to their final destination. In the process I came across a whole lot of photos which I am gradually sharing. Before I went to Russia, I bought a camera that recorded to floppy disks, on the theory that disks were cheap so I'd never run out. I never did run out but the technology moved on.
An early selfie!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Christine Places At Fall #Toastmasters Conference

Congratulations to my Toastmasters friend Christine for placing 2nd in the Table Topics finals held November 11, 2017 at the Western Washington Toastmasters Fall Conference at the Lynnwood Convention Center. The competition was fierce, representing the efforts of hundreds of competitors from all over Western Washington, and at the end Christine stood at the victory podium.
The morning of the Conference featured several very educational presentations by top Toastmasters. Surely we will see the results at upcoming meetings!
Between sessions and at lunch more than a dozen Club 832 members socialized with each other and with friends from other Chapters. Semi-Annual Conventions are a great opportunity to stretch out and touch persons from all over, learn new things and have a great time!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

To Test or Not To Test

Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, Honored Guests:

I have a serious story to tell, a problem to describe, and a decision for you to make later.
Jim and my sister Sharon were married and in love for more than 20 years. If you had to compress those decades into a single word, it would be “happy”. 
Jim loved his children, two girls; you can see it in every picture of them together on Facebook, and there were a lot.
Jim loved his toys. He and Sharon would go out on their boat and “scare the fish”, not often catching much but enjoying the water together. He towed the boat with his big red pickup that he named “Clifford”.
Jim loved the Seahawks. He was a season ticketholder for decades. The only time he ever got in trouble that I heard of, he was thrown out of Seahawks Stadium for making too much noise cheering. Think about that.
Jim could afford all this because he was really good at his job. When he got out of the Army, he started as a file clerk in title search office and worked his way up to managing the whole place. He was smart and affable, learned everything about the business and trained up the next group of clerks. Even as he got sicker, he came into the office and worked as hard as he could as long as he could.
Jim lived his life well, and loved his family, friends and work.
He didn’t know about the assassin inside him.

Jim had prostate cancer that metastasized when he was only in his 50s.  It sent out colonists to invade other organs and start cancers there. He fought the good fight and did not complain about the unfairness. His last posting on Facebook was “Quick reminder gentlemen, get that PSA test to check your cancer levels. It's critical. My love to you all.”
Then he left.

PSA stands for “Prostate-specific antigen”.  The prostate is a walnut-sized gland essential to male urinary and reproductive activities but with a tendency to go cancerous.
Two disclaimers:
This is a gendered speech. Every man here has a prostate, and none of the women. I ask the indulgence of the ladies on the basis that most of you know some male about whom you care.
I am not a doctor or a scientist. All the medical information is from google, mostly from the National Institute of Health or American Cancer Society. Don’t rely on this without doing your own research and talking with your own doctor.
That said:
About 1 in 39 men in the United States die from prostate cancer.
Of men over the age of 60 who die from other causes, 30%-70% had prostate cancer that hadn’t gotten to the stage where they noticed.
If caught early, treatment yields a high survival rate: a 96% 15 year relative survival rate.
Detecting prostate cancer: the PSA test, just a blood draw, generally accompanied by a DRE – which is undignified but brief. Men, don’t complaining about DRE to lady friend, she might start talking about what a gyno involves, so my advice is hush.
Jim told me he’d never heard of the PSA test. By the time his cancer was detected, it was too late. His process of dying took about two years and whenever he got a public voice – such as once he was interviewed over a Seahawks game – he made sure to recommend the test.
It would seem to be a no-brainer. It’s not a huge expense and while the DRE is a pain you know where, so is cancer so what the heck.

BUT there is a controversy.
Studies do not indicate that early detection of prostate cancer changes overall life outcome looking at the whole population. How can this be? It is so counterintuitive. 
1.      Part of the issue it the problem of false positives. Screening is not magic. With a false positive, you think you have the cancer when you don’t, you would undergo the risk of seriously negative urinary or reproductive issues for nothing.

2.      If you get a positive test, you have to decide whether to treat. Remember that 30-70%? You may be in a place in life where something else is going to kill you before prostate cancer, so why do the treatment – why even take the test?
As for me, I am only in my sixties and in good enough health that I need to plan for another 30 years of life. There is time for PC to kill me, so I went looking for it; I got the test. 
You have different age and other factors, therefore your analysis may differ from mine.
You have to live with the consequences, so you have to make the informed choice.
I can not ask you to get the test.
I will not ask you not to get the test.
I am asking you, today, to calendar a talk with your doctor about the PSA test.
That sounds like it’s take some time. I’ll get to it later” that’s what I would say if I were sitting in your chair. Life is busy, I have a job and a family and I’ll get to it later. 

Gentlemen: For Jim, later came before he knew about it.
The reasons for waiting - family, friends – are the reasons to go now, after this meeting, calendar a time to talk to your doctor.
Put your plan on your calendar right as soon as we're done here.
Jim didn't have the opportunity to put this on his calendar because he didn't know about the test, but thanks to him, we know.
He left so much behind – family, friends, work, a big red truck named Clifford.
Let’s not do the same.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tennis Tips for Timely Toastmasters


Visual Aids SPEECH

Bag of tricks including pie chart on clipboard (set on table next to lectern), coat of pockets full of balls, cellphone running Toastmaster timer


Once upon a time my friend Mary

A Venus around whom I had orbited for years without hope of a touchdown,

said, you should learn to play tennis!

I thought, oh yeah, she wants me .... to play tennis.

On a hot, sweaty asphalt court, I faced her perfection across the net, gave the ball a little toss, and smashed it with all the hormone-laden power of million years of male evolution.

It rocketed across the court, slammed against the far wall, and rolled back to the net.

I preened.

She said “Long”.


“Randy, it doesn’t matter how hard you hit it. If it goes too long, no score.”

No score. Not then, not later.

Speaking opportunities are like that. You have 5 minutes on a busy agenda, 2 minutes in a public comment period,15 seconds in the elevator with the CEO.  It doesn’t matter how hard you hit, if you miss the timeframe: no score.

Have confidence that you can get your idea across in a short time. Abraham Lincoln was preceded at Gettysburg by the most famous orator of his time, who gave a two-hour speech and is, today, a trivia question. Lincoln’s Address was ten sentences. Toastmasters helps us be like more Abe, speaking not just with force but economy.

I thought of this when I analyzed the times of  40 speeches given recently in this Club
– BLOCK PIECHART FRONT OF LECTERN - 1 in 3 ran long – including two of mine! I asked myself, how can I keep from going long again.

I found three ways
1.    Write Short

If I wrote 7 minutes of material for this 5-7 minute speech, I can’t afford for you to laugh. So don’t! If I wrote a five minute speech, I could let you react, or have time for ad lib callback to a previous speech, or even BLOCK PAUSE a pause to emphasize a particular point that just seems right.

When I write, ideas appear BLOCK PULL OUT BALLS on the bus, in a store, in the bathroom. Clever phrases, little jokes, all good. Pretty soon your arm is full of balls. You can’t play tennis with a handful of balls, you must put most of them back in the bag.

It’s the same with this speech. I had to put most of the ideas back in the bag. There’s nothing wrong with them, but you can only serve one at a time. Those clever ideas are still there for the next speech.

2.    How do you know the length of your speech? Practice with a timer
Tennis courts often have a line on the back wall at the height of the net. Players turn around and hit the ball over and over, just clearing that line so they know they targeting is on. Over and over and over. It’s not just practice, it’s a fun little mini-game in itself.

Speeches move in time, not space, so in place of a line on the wall we need BLOCK SHOW TIMER APP the Toastmasters timer app on your smartphone. Fire up the app once a day, and give your 5-7 minute speech, every day for a week or two. How long will that take you? 5-7 minutes. While you’re drinking your morning coffee. Don’t fret, this is not drudgery – it is a fun little mini-game. Your first tries will be off but the act of practice with feedback will make you hit your line.

3.    How do you end? Practice your killshot. That’s your conclusion.
It is fun to volley, I say something to you, you send back a laugh or a frown, we go back and forth. But at some point I have to hit it in with perfectly practiced conclusion. If you can practice only 2 minutes a day, practice your one minute conclusion twice – because that is your killshot.
Here is a little secret: if you forget half your speech because your mind gets fuzzy (and that happens to all of us) or if you run out of time BLOCK SHOW TIMER you can just jump right to your conclusion with total conviction, half of the audience will jump along with you. The audience does not know that they are missing if you go right to your conclusion like I am now. 

I have not seen Mary for 30 years, but what she taught in that short tennis lesson sticks.

1.    Write short. Leave a few balls in the bag. BLOCK: PUT BALLS IN BAG. There will be other games and other speeches

2.    Practice getting your shot and your speech the right length, using training tools. BLOCK: PUT TIMER IN BAG


You will score – on the court  and at the lectern.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Toastmasters Contest

I competed in the Humorous Speech contact in Kent and placed third. This was a disappointment, but I am proud of the speech I gave and would not have wanted to have given the one that scored the highest. At the program itself, and at all Toastmasters events, I feel it is important to give a professional demeanor, but at other times I will confess that I don't like the "humorous speech" that consists of a single joke: "I was so drunk" or "I was so afraid of flying". It's a good short joke but not enough to sustain an actual five minute speech, and there is nothing to be learned from it, except possibly not to drink.
There was an interesting speech by a person who had too many physical maladies but maintained a positive outlook anyway. I would have liked more about how she managed that outlook but otherwise thought it was the best speech other than mine. She came in 2nd.
My friend Christine won by a total knockout the Table Topics competition. Many of the competitors answered the question ("If a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk show?") reasonably and with humor, but she went farther and related it to larger themes about the usefulness of pauses - empty space in conversation or in thought. I don't know how she does it!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Christine Wins Division 2 Table Topics

My Toastmasters buddy Christine won the Division 2 Table Topics Contest, held October 19th, 2017 in Kent. Congratulations to her! I  placed 3rd in the Humourous Speech competition with my "Companions for the Road" speech about friends at St. Ed's.
Christine advances to the final round November 11, 2017 at the Western Washington Toastmasters Fall Conference at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036. The morning of the Conference will be packed with educational programs starting at 8pm; the competition will be in the afternoon. Let’s all go, support Christine, and have a great time!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Moot Court Judging

Law schools recruit local legal professionals to judge moot courts. This is an important part of the education process but it seems there's often a shortage of judge volunteers. I have advertised openings on since there's free CLE involved, but haven't participated myself (except for once decades ago at WNEC), until today. UW had sent out an additional request for volunteers and I decided to give it a try.
The only negative was actually getting there, because the campus is not well built for driving; I would have been better off doing the bus perhaps. Once in the Law Center the whole thing was well organized and interesting. My panel included three others, all with trial experience, so we agreed unanimously that one of them would serve as Chief Judge, asking questions and ruling on motions; the rest of us observed, voted, and made comments at the end.
As the least experienced panel member, my comments came first. I could speak to the rhetorical technique, more than the law technique, and I feel my experience as a Toastmasters evaluator helped. My casual reference to my appellate work lead to some interesting after-program chat with one of the contestants who was a JAG in training.
I would recommend this program to any lawyer looking to give back to the community. It is an intense experience evaluating the demonstrated skill of each participant but you just don't know how much good you are doing for them, so long as you are honest about the areas in which I lack experience.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Shingle Rain

Every room in my home has a ceiling.

The sound of rain on shingles, to many people a simple white noise, to me is an essential part of childhood, and a comfortable, comforting sound. To you perhaps it may mean I'm going to get wet, or maybe the crops will have water. To me, it means all is well.

I was one of 10 kids in a small 3 bedroom house in south Everett. On the ground floor was one bedroom for parents and perhaps a crib and one bedroom for toddlers, plus a kitchen, living room, utility room, and stairs up. The stairs led to a landing with two door:  to the right to a finished bedroom for the girls, to the left unfinished attic for the boys.

Stepping into the boy's room and looking up, you saw the rafters and the stringers - the boards that go from rafter to rafter - and the back of the shingles nailed to the stringers, forming the outer skin of the house shedding water. They were visible from inside. That's the ceiling to our bedroom and it was normal.

Likewise, the floor was unfinished planks. This is a good floor for active children because you can pry up a plank and create a hidey hole. Now we might not have much to hide, but it's the principle of the thing. If there had been linoleum or carpeting we would have had a lot less to work with.

Occasionally we'd decide to finish the room a bit. Once we got some canvas and nailed it down over the planks as a rug. We felt that was very nice! It lasted until our next project.
Somehow we came across the remnants of an electric train set, just the tracks and the engine (without the plastic shell that made it look like a real engine) and the transformer. The cables connecting the transformer and track were missing, but this was no problem, unwind some wire from another motor, wrap around the terminals on the transformer and the thing on the track, and it worked fine. The engine went around and around. And it made a smell. We sniffed. The smelled smoke but it wasn't coming from the engine. Finally, I looked down and saw that the wires were glowing bright orange and red, and the canvas under it was smouldering. We unplugged everything, put something over the scorch marks on the rug, and hid everything away. A few minutes later dad came up the stairs "THUMP THUMP THUMP" and demanded, "Have you boys been smoking?" Truthfully we said, " No, dad we have not been smoking!" and that was the end of it. I think we had to get rid of the canvas now that it has suspicious burn marks on it.

In the corner above the stairs were some shelves holding canning jars and government surplus goods. This was before food stamps. The way the government solved a problem of overproduction and underconsumption was to bag beans and bulgar where and other raw materials for handing out to the needy. Each bag was as plain as could be: clear plastic or brown paper, with the contents labelled in black sans serif font: Beans Comma Pinto. On some cans: Meat by-product.

One time we got mysterious cubes of compressed figs. I have no idea what they were intended for but we found a use.

I had seen the board game "Risk". The concept of buying it was as alien as flying to Mars.  and decided my family needed a copy. I carefully copied the board using crayon on a large sheet of heavy paper. My brothers and I sat on our knees around this board on the floor and played using commodities: one brother got beans, I took fig cubes and the youngest got lentils. Lentils are the worst for this purpose because they skitter around the map. We would hunch over the board for hours. The games never really ended possibly because I hadn't made the deck of cards that gives one side a decisive advantage when well played.
The best time was when the power went out, which happened often during the winter. Electricity came on wires strung on poles by roads that went through forests; snow- or ice-laden branches could bring them down.
When this happened in the evening, mom would light the storm lanterns: kerosene lamps that always stood on top of the piano. Uncle Jerry had made his sister, my mother, a lamp by attaching the metal works to a heavy jar. The only time we lit it was when the power went out. We were never afraid of the dark because that meant we would gather around the kerosine lamp, something that never happened when there was electricity. We would reach down the game of stadium checkers from the top shelf in the hall, and we would play this game that was reserved for emergencies.
Our clocks were, of course, springwound so we never got to stay up past bedtime. We went upstairs by whatever ambient light there might have been and crawled under the covers. The rain on the shingles assured us that we were inside, dry and safe.
Looking back I appreciate that this is not normal by today's standards, but it seemed normal then.
I look at my home today and I see that each room has sheetrock and a ceiling. It seems awfully "finished" to me. Of course, that is just the standard today.
Around the world today there are people for whom a ceiling is a luxury. It's a good thing, but do you really need it?

I am grateful that every room in my home has a ceiling, but if I want to hear the rain on the roof I have to open a window.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday Mulching the Heart-Shaped Garden

I mulched the apple tree in the heart-shaped garden, using mulch given away to participants in the Seattle Reforestation project (or whatever they called it). While it was a pain locating the site (because the map on the postcard was too small, and I hadn't checked it at hope on my computer) once I got there it was fun shoveling wood chips into burlap bags and talking about sustainability.
I got a bunch more burlap bags too, which I can share with the neighbors or use to suppress the ivy. I little gardening every day is nice!
I also stopped by Pegasus to pick up a few bags of books, and was rewarded with an awesome find: another edition of the Rubyiat!

Friday, October 06, 2017


My oil furnace went missing!

Prime Suspects!

And, of course, the electrician!

Three days of chaos...

...with comings and goings...

Success: The new heating system!
Investing into my home to save energy and (in the long run) money!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Companions For The Road

The philosopher Dorothy Gale said: "There's no place like home".
Indeed. That’s why we leave.
As a young teen, Dorothy was blown out of Kansas
And as a young teen I, myself was blown away by the thought:
If I go to high school seminary, studying for the priesthood
I could please my parents
and run away from them!
At the age of 13, I took the road to the yellow brick boarding school in Kenmore.
The instructors were strict.
We sat alphabetical order:
I in the back,
Behind my pious friend Mr. Murphy,
In front, my nervous friend Mr. Dunne.
A Latin teacher picked on the boy in the front:
"Dunne, what is the singular feminine superlative of beautiful?"
Poor Mr. Dunne! He would stammer and wilt. "Pulcher? Pulchra?"
Then it was "Murphy!"
My friend Mr. Murphy gave it a try: "Pulcheriora?" and got chewed on a bit.
Then: "Winn!"
I had had two minutes to look up the answer.
So: I always got it!
From this, I reached a wrong conclusion:
I was smarter than everyone else!
This has since been proven
To be the opposite of true.
Today, Mr. Dunne is at the top of his profession, a brilliant counselor solving complex problems.
He would have been far better than I at the job for which we were ostensibly studying,
But for his unfortunate choice of last name early in the alphabet.
Do not think of him merely as scholastic roadkill.
Oh no!
For his lack of academic achievement, Mr. Dunne got extra duty in the school office: trusted and often unsupervised.
He knew he was trusted because when unsupervised, he read his file.
For a Hershey bar he would read your file too.
This was helpful for my friend the inappropriately named Mr. Holy.
Mr. Holy liked knowing things and doing things.
Just not faculty-approved things.
He knew which basement window opened from the outside, when he needed to reenter after an all night carouse.
He often dozed in Latin.
Perhaps those facts are related.
Later he used his energy and curiosity to be a very successful what?
Detective? Of course!
Late that Spring he learned, no doubt with the aid of Hersey bars, he was going back to Spokane.
He gifted me with a magazine in which the people wore not enough clothing;
A generous increase to my knowledge
Not to my vocation.
My friend Mr. Phelan, now a senior computer engineer, showed me how to solder circuit boards. 
Thus college workstudy put me in a computer lab, rather than washing dishes, which lead to all my professional success.
One Saturday we two amiable dweebs were in a walkathon, raising funds for some charity or other, strolling down the road, just us two and no faculty, discussing life, and whether computers will ever be really important, and everything.
He pushed his glasses up on his nose and said,
“Randy, you know, I’m gay.”
Well, I knew now. 
Gay was against the rules.
But friendship is its own rule.
Either my friend was wrong or the rule was wrong.
What can you do?
We walked on together.
“Also,” he said. “So’s my sister.”
Even now, my breath stops at the glory, the wonder, the singular feminine superlative that is Mr. Phelan’s sister:
She and I had been together.
Well, we had been at the same table at the school picnic.
I passed her the jello,
She gave me a smile,
I knew I was not meant for celibacy.
But now this ….
Mr. Phelan snickered. “Just kidding...”
“...About her”.
You see why we’ve been friends for so long.
There are little things, and big things, but one REALLY big thing:
Some go home to Kansas – or Spokane -
Some settle in the Emerald City
Does it matter?
With your companions of the road, you are always at home,
And there’s no place like home.
There is no place like home.
 ...I must ask Mr. Phelan for his sister’s phone number!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

First Furlough Saturday

Yesterday was my last full day of work, as most of my office was furloughed due to the usual practice around this time of year. It's just part of the gig, and I can use the time to look for other work while improving the house.
Today I started with an hour of yoga/sculpt at the Y, which was delightful. Then it was a matter of waiting for the dryer to be delivered, which was less delightful. When it arrived, however, the delivery group was quick, friendly and efficient; the first load is drying now. This is a prosaic but useful improvement!
My short term goal is to win or try to win the Humorous Speech Contest October 2. The method is practice, although I have supplemented that with research. Most of the research indicates that the writing of the speech is often underestimated as a factor, so I am honing the writing too.
This is fun. I don't have a lot of experience competing to win; as a child I was impressed by my incompetence in competitive endeavours, so I never really picked up the techniques - such as research and practice. However the best time to start is now, and I find I enjoy studying the game!

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Third Result of Our Beatings.

I am now closer to age 70 than to 50, and if that does not make you shake your head in wonder then you're not me. How did I get this way, still feeling on the edge of 17 (as Janis Ian put it)?
I see around me adults in or nearing retirement and I imagine some of them feel the same; others express complete feelings of adulthood and mastery of life. What is the difference?
I have a thing to mention, and in bringing it up I am not asking for sympathy. The past is past, and by my age I am responsible for what I have done with the hand of cards dealt to me. I hope that by talking frankly I may be able to explain a few things that will lead others to wiser action.
The most important part of my personality was forged by being beaten, or threatened with beating, every day of my life until I left home.
That's it. You don't actually have to strike a child  very often. Once the pain comes down a few times, the kid gets the message: failing to placate the one in power means pain, physical pain, pain that drives out every imperative except to do what it takes to make it stop.
I know that others have suffered worse. I'm not asking for anything, especially since it has been nearly 50 years since I was last struck. But the feeling remains: the most important thing in life is to keep those with the power to cause you pain from being angry.
I disagree with this policy, vehemently. It is wrong. But I understand the feeling, and reflecting on it offers an understanding of some friends and family members who are making what I know to be big mistakes in turning to fascism.
I used to think that beatings taught one of two lessons: some learned that beatings hurt, and that therefore you should not do it. Don't hurt people is a pretty good lesson.
Others learn that beatings hurt, and therefore it's a good idea to be the person doing the beating rather than the one being beaten. This is a bad lesson but it seemed common enough. The distinction between the two put me in a comfortable moral position, which should have made me suspicious but there you are.
I feel now that there is a third lesson that many people learn: beatings come from angry men and therefore it is most important to keep them from being angry, with your behavior and that of others. Stay in your line; keep other people from getting out of line. It is this last element that is most important: the beater enlists his victims to keep others in line.
This explains the authoritarianism of many of my fellow victims. Where one would expect compassion for other victims, there is too often only a desire to kick down, to join the beaters in ganging up on someone else.
I saw this in the fights over legalizing pot and gay marriage. Why did so many worry drunks worry so much about others smoking weed and straights with multiple divorces worrying about gays getting married? The only thing that made sense to me is that both of these issues involved changing what was officially acceptable, and that risked making Angry Father Angry.
I mentioned this theory because it offers a few obvious suggestions for improvements. First, comfort those who express fear and hatred; they may be afraid of being beaten.
And don't hit people. It's really not a good idea.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

RIP James Cline

Late last week the message came that Jim had gone into hospice, and then early Saturday that it was going to be only some hours. I made ready to go up to visit Saturday but then got the message that he had passed.
Three things you should know about Jim Cline . He and my sister Sharon were married and in love for I don’t know how long, and he loved his children as well – that was obvious, you can see it in every picture.
Second, our family is noisy and Jim was not. He was a heck of a smart guy, very successful in his profession, but he didn’t show the urge that many of us have to tell everybody everything we know, several times in case you missed it the first. More than once I stepped out of a family party to see Jim and Brad sharing a cigarette break outside in the quiet. He’d say something funny and we’d all laugh. I never heard him complain, not about anything – which is something I can’t say about myself. You set a high standard, Jim.
The third thing is his last words on Facebook: “Quick reminder gentlemen, get that PSA test to check your cancer levels. It's critical. My love to you all.’
You set a standard, Jim. I’m not going to be able to match you in not complaining, but I’ll sign up for the test on Monday.
My love to you too.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Reminder

This weekend was unusual.
Saturday morning I saw my ex as I drove to the Y. I greeted her and her new BF but they didn't need a ride, as they were rendezvousing with his ex to connect with his child. We all ended up in yoga and it was a fine class indeed. It's nice to use the muscles a different way after the delightful Zumba last Thursday.
Then I drove up to my sister Kat's, in Marysville, having been invited by my niece Stephanie for an informal birthday barbeque. I assumed it was for Kat and brought her a card, but actually it was for Ryder, Stephanie's 2 year old son. A parent may be forgiven for focusing on her own kids!
I enjoyed talking and listening to the crowd. My nephew Kristian delivered a painting "Soft Serve Squid" that he'd donated to a charity auction I one. I'm happy to have it!
I met Karen's wife and had a long talk about our common interest in veterans services - she's a VFW Chaplain and, like my Veterans and Friends pals, working out ways to go beyond VSOs to solve problems holistically.. I'll be connecting her with my friend Cyril, etc.
I had a shot of tequila with Brad and with Jim, who is ailing. This was a moving experience as it is not often that I see someone who had always been so strong and full of life reach a point in his dying that leaves him able to communicate, but hazy and emaciated. There is not much to say so I talked about his kids.
This was all unusual, and I was grateful to Stephanie for the invitation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Companions of the Road


The philosopher Dorothy Gale said: "There's no place like home".
Indeed. That’s why so many of us leave.
Around the age that Dorothy left Kansas, I was blown away by the realization that by studying for the priesthood I could please my parents and run away from them.
I took the road to the yellow brick boarding school in Kenmore called St Edward’s.

The Tale of the Dunne Call

The instructors were very old school.

We sat strict alphabetical order: I in the back, behind my pious friend Mr. Murphy, in front my nervous friend Mr. Dunne. One Latin teacher picked on the boy in the front: Dunne, what is the singular feminine superlative of beautiful? Poor Mr. Dunne! He would stammer and wilt. Pulcher? Pulchra? Then it was Murphy! my friend Mr. Murphy gave it a try and was chewed on a bit. Then: Winnie!

I had had two minutes to look up the answer. I always got it. I learned the lesson: I was smarter than everyone else! Later this proved untrue. 

Today, Mr. Dunne is at the top of his profession, a brilliant counselor solving complex problems. He would have been better than I at the job for which we were ostensibly studying, but for his unfortunate choice of last name beginning with “D”.

Do not think of him merely as scholastic roadkill. Oh no. For his lack of academic achievement, Mr. Dunne got extra duty in the school office. He knew he was trusted because he was often unsupervised, and used that time to read his own file: Trustworthy

For two Hershey bars – our medium of exchange at Stalag St. Edward - he would read your file too.

A Holy Tale

This was helpful for the my friend the inappropriately named Mr. Holy.

Mr. liked knowing things and doing things – just not Latin or theology. He knew which basement window opened from the outside, should you need to reenter the building after an all night carouse. He often dozed in Latin. Perhaps those facts are related. Later he used his energy and curiosity to be a very successful what? Detective? Politician? You're both right!

 At the end of spring term, he learned, no doubt with the aid of Hersey bars, that he being sent back to Spokane. He generously gifted me with a magazine in which the people wore not enough clothing; a great increase to my knowledge, not helpful to my vocation.

The Tale of Mr. Phelan: Out On The Road

My friend Mr. Phelan, now a senior computer engineer, showed me how to solder circuit boards. Thus college workstudy placed me in a computer lab, rather than washing dishes, the foundation of all my financial success.

One Saturday we two amiable dweebs were in a walkathon, raising funds for some charity or other, strolling down the road talking about life and everything, just us two guys and no faculty. He said, “Randy, you know, I’m gay.”

Well, I knew now. 

But what did I know? Gay was against the rules. But friendship is its own rule. Either my friend was wrong or the rule was wrong. This is no contest. We walked on together.

“Also,” he said. “So’s my sister.”

Disaster! Even now, my breath stops at the glory, the wonder, the singular feminine superlative that is Mr. Phelan’s sister: pulcherissima!

She and I had been together, or at least, we had been at the same All School Picnic, a hundred boys and their families milling around. She smiled at me over the fruit salad jello, and perhaps seminary would not last for ever. But now?
Mr. Phelan snickered. “Just kidding. About her”.

Conclusion: On The Road

You’ll understand why we’ve all been friends so long. We share so much, big things, little things, but one REALLY big thing:
Some go home to Kansas – or Spokane -
Some settle in the Emerald City
Some stay on the road
It doesn’t matter: with companions, you are already at home, and there’s no place like home.

Maybe I’ll ask Mr. Phelan for the phone number of his sister.

2017 Humorous Speech Contest, Chapter 832 Toastmasters (I won yay!) 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Zumba Etc

Today was a typical Monday for this part of my life. The cats work me, asserting that they were starved even though we all knew that the feeding is done in the downstairs apartment by the girls. They cats always try, and sometimes they are rewarded by milk. As Gail Gorud said, I am often a soft touch.
Since I cleaned the litterbox thoroughly on the weekend I usually skip that Monday mornings. After ablutions I make my preferred brekfast of oatmeal and fruit, with maybe some protein on the side. The coffee drips as I make my lunch salad and then I'm ready to go. Shall I catch the early bus, or the just-in-time bus? Today I went for just-in-time, which was late and therefore so was I. Fortunately there was slack time, but I dislike using that.
I like my work well enough; I meet (virtually) 20-40 people a day and solve problems (ideally). Which I could prefer better technology, I like the work itself and take pride in managing the experience which is, after all, often fraught with worry for the customers.
I made it home on time to drive to Zumba - I have not built up the confidence to take the bus yet - and had another excellent class. I have decided I enjoy exercise that doesn't involve being shouted at, and dance is ideal for this. I just need to add a little more strength training and I'm set!
I drove Nessa home from work and we stopped to pick up a last-minute item for support. Kiria made enchiladas fit for the gods, and I farted around on my computer, surrounded by cats, until bedtime. I made sure to have my Toastmasters role well prepared for, checking the equipment and drafting Table Topics so there is nothing last minute
I'm not sure that I made any major progress toward large life goals today, except that I am maintaining and moving closer to the heating system renovation - so there's that. Another day!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Windows 10, Memory Hogging, and the Passage of Time

When the Mac died I decided it was time to give Windows another try. I'd spent extra money getting a premium computer and it died all the same, so I tried the opposite route of getting the least expensive possible.
That turned out to be $179 (plus sales tax) - a 4 Gb of memoryWindows 10 device on sale at Target. At that price it's almost an impulse item, and I needed the computer. I took it home, set it up, and was frustrated because it was unusably slow. For example, I would click on an email to read it and wait more than a minute even for the email's checkbox to activate showing me my click had worked. I gave it a day, then took it back. Target is good about returns.
I decided to just give a heavy sigh and buy whatever was midrange for now. Next up was Costco. Their top performing machine was l6 Gig plus 4 of video memory and had a cute backlit keyboard that I knew I would soon hate; it was labelled as a gaming machine. I guessed that the extra video memory was of no use if I didn't game, which I don't, and the display was only 15". I went instead for the 17" display with 16 Gig of memory. That is what I'm using now, and it seems to perform acceptably.
My first home computer was the noisy Coleco Adam. I say "noisy" because the power supply was embedded in the printer, which ran on a daisywheel so I associated booting up with printer warm-up sounds. For all its faults it kept up with my typing. Next I got a Commodore 64 which was mostly for gaming, although I vaguely remember I justified it to myself for experimenting on  software for helping the developmentally disabled.
The first computer I got that was comparable to those I was using at work was a Franklin 800 from Sears. I went with the dual floppy drives and goes a lot of writing done on it, mostly resumes of course. Thereafter I alternated between DOS or Windows and Apple devices, and noticed that as the features improved the memory requirements went up even faster.
That's just the way it is, I suppose. My parents were of a generation that could still recall when "horsepower" referred to an actual horse, and I am of a generation that could still recall when a megabyte was "a lot" instead of "a little".

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


This morning the Mac quit.
I'd  spent a premium to get a top of the line device, and after about 16 months thus morning, the display shimmered and then went dark. Much of the device continues to function, as if
I press the power button I get the 'power on'  chord, but I can't go far blind.
It's valuable enough that I took it to West Seattle Computers for a checkup. I trust them to do the right thing and not to overcharge, but my being unimpressed by the Mac reached a tipping point today. It's just not the magic box it pretends to be - you have to be looking at it constantly to make it work, and that's just stupid - anyone with keyboard skills can look anywhere to get things done, so the computer becomes merely a tool, not the focus.
I find myself forced to take up the bloated Windows 10. Rather than waste my time going the top of the line route, I got a cheap device with only 8 gig. It is slow but usable.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Toastmasters Training and Kat Dining

Saturday morning was taken up with officer training for Toastmasters. I enjoy getting together with a lotto people dedicated to self-improvement!
For the evening my sister Kat came over, toured the house and then had dinner and gossip cat "Noble Barton". This was really fun.
Sunday I caught up on chores. This may sound prosaic, and much of it is, but it's necessary and useful and I don't regret the time. I rewarded myself by writing memes and planting potatoes that had gone leggy. I do wish the  cats barfed less....

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fabulous App and the Busstop Buddy

My bus stop buddy Margaret and her husband Phil are moving to 35th, as they've bought a house for their growing family. I'll miss the conversations, especially on sustainability projects run by the nonprofit she works at. But good luck to them at their new location, and may the family flourish! At our most recent chat, she reminded me of an app I was trying ("Habitica") that supported developing useful habits by making a game of it. Using the game mechanic of frequent small challenge and rewards, and progressively more difficult, less frequent but larger rewards, felt like a good idea. I played with Habitica for a while but quietly dropped it during one of my periodic cellphone purges, because I had begun to regard it as a chore. If I chose small daily tasks, it was not fun to tick them off and if I chose large infrequent tasks, the app didn't help. Margaret suggested the app "Fabulous" as a more sophisticated approach; she'd tried it for a few days and liked it. I promptly downloaded it and fired it up. It appears to be preloaded with good habits that it presents over time, freeing me from the work of writing tasks. I'll give it a try - I can always use self-improvement!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Happy Birthday Grill

Happy birthday to me!
My birthday gift was a grill which was a double gift since I had to assemble it. It was a great practical puzzle, with cryptic directions and ultimately a single solution achieved only after solving many micro puzzles. My prize is the capacity to grill dinner + 4 mysteriously leftover bolts.

One of the nice things about this puzzle, er I mean grill, is that the little parts come on a blister pack, so you can see easily what's what - very organized!
The back of the blister pack identifies each screw, bolt, nut, washer and cotter key, with perforations so you can just open little doors to get them, like an Advent calendar chocolate. Nice!
But I still ended up with 4 extra bolts (Part "M" for "Mystery"!)
Happy birthday to me! My birthday gift was a grill which was a double gift since I had to assemble it. It was a great practical puzzle, with cryptic directions and ultimately a single solution achieved only after solving many micro puzzles. My prize is the capacity to grill dinner + 4 mysteriously leftover bolts.

Sunday: Good Bye To All That

Sunday Kris came and took several items of furniture for which I had no use and she had attachment: The fancy Chinese cabinet (converted into TV stand by owners before us), the rice chest (with WW2 Chinese newspaper stuck to the bottom,  and above all the vintage chaise longue from a Colorado whorehouse of the 19th century.  She did't offer any money and didn't bring the promised baked goods. I'm not really surprised.
The only thing left here to which she may have a moral claim is the metal stove in the basement which had with great fanfare been brought over from eastern Washington as a momento of a favored aunt, and the red maple from Larry and Ginger. I texted her, giving them a year which is too generous and if the stove is in the way ... the problem is that it's hard for me to discard things.
Afterwards, I texted what I hope will be our last communication:
"Now that I have gifted you with several thousand dollars worth of vintage furniture, all of which I have the legal right to sell, I think everything to which you might have any attachment is off this property except possibly the wood stove and the maple tree. I would like them gone by the end of the year.
I wish you well in your new house and I offer a word of advice.
As you know, our relationship fell apart because of the mutual mental or emotional issues that we have. On my part depression and the hoarding instinct that came from being raised in abject poverty lead to your feeling repelled by me, and I understand that. This is not something that you were ever able to articulate and that is a problem that can poison any future relationship you may have: your refusal to articulate issues while they are still small enough to be dealt with. Your preference for holding grudges until you can release them with great drama has not served you well, and is a threat to any future relationship.
You may reject this advice, but keep in mind I have no motivation to lead you astray at this point.
The other word of advice is to do something about your alcoholism. At one time you said your mother asked if she had taught you to get divorced and you said no, but in fact the answer is yes. Your bio dad died of his alcoholism, and your mother taught you that drinking heavily is simply the way to be. No doubt she learned that from her father, and you will note that she is completely alienated from her family for no reason that makes any sense except emotional issues that she has.
I have little doubt that you will [not] accept this advice, because that's the nature of the disease, but I have given it and that's all I can do.
Some alcoholics live to a great age, others go like Joe my brother and lie your father. If you value your current or future relationships you should do something about it.
That's all the advice I have for you. I don't think we have anything else to talk about.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Toastmasters: Picnic Table Topics

Madam Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and Honored Guests…..

Table Topics is the time when we practice extemporaneous speaking. 
We do not prepare speeches or even know in advance about what we will speak.

This can be frightening. Extemporaneous feels like “unprepared”. To dislike being unprepared is not a bad thing.

But, my friends and fellow Toastmasters, extemporaneous speaking is something we have all done. Our first words ... "mama" or "papa" or - in the case of my 3rd ex, "forsythia" - were all unplanned. 
And ever since, every day we have spoken extemporaneously with family, friends and co-workers. 

You are good at this.

For example, at last Saturday’s Toastmaster’s picnic I heard brief talks - chiefly stories - by everyone there. None seemed rehearsed or prepared. Each arose spontaneously and organically from the inspirations of the moment.

(Maybe John had something prepared, I don’t know …)

Drawing on the happy success of that event, I bring this bag of picnic inspirations. 

I ask you to bring out of this bag a picnic object. Then, talk for one to two minutes about a memory it may evoke, a plan it may inspire or simply about what it may be.

Come step up!

Who will take the first picnic table topic? 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Update: Toastmasters Picnic, Pegasus Books

This week was packed with obligations and opportunities that all seemed to come together at about the same time, but with the aid of my trusty Planning Chalkboard I managed to be on time for everything and get everything done.
Saturday starts with a class at the Y. For the past couple of years it's been a barre class, which has been excellent for my core. I'm actually stronger than I was 10 years ago, using objective measurements. I don't seem to be getting ahead in the gradual appearance of aging, but that's the Tao I suppose.
The weekly DAV meeting was dominated by a re-reading of the Bylaws, which had been given some minor charges at the Departmental level. An under appreciated reason for brevity in Bylaws (and accomplishing as much as possible through Standing Rules under the Bylaws instead) is that the waste of time of 30 grown adults listening to a re-reading which they will do nothing about and will promptly forget.
I slipped out shortly after noon to take Arthur in to the doctor for his monthly eye drain. It has to be done at the office because the whole point is maintaining a sterile environment - the slightest infection in his eye would be Very Bad. This is really not much of an inconvenience now that he's accepting the procedure without a majorly fight, so he doesn't need anesthetic.
Then it was off to the Toastmaster's picnic, atop a building in West Seattle. Great company, nice views, roasting sun. I really do enjoy this group of people and feel grateful to be admitted to their company. I heard great stories from around the world and shared a few aphorisms or cryptic comments that seemed to amuse.
I went home and took a three hour name. I'm really not made for direct sunlight.
Sunday I went to Harbor Freight to get  brush chipper. My yard generates branches and blackberry vines; my choice is to pay for a yard waste bin or to chip them to use on the gardens. Let's try the localizing solution first.
I met with a former pro bono client and we discussed the possibility of further action using some new whistleblower legislation. This is entirely new to me and the big problem seems to be figuring out what is in the best interest of the client and of the client's interests  - which are not always the same thing.
Finally I went to the last day of the West Seattle fair (or whatever they call it) at the Alaska Junction. Pegasus was donating its leftover books to the Hospital if I could move them. Nate came through with his SUV and the load took less than half an hour!
I also addressed the financing issue for the heat system. I had put off actually filling out the paperwork because of the usual reluctance about major fina commitments, but I feel good about this decision having chewed it over thoroughly.
I feel I got a lot of things done - and am now ready to go back to work!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy Accident Netflix Edition

It often seems that I progress by errors and accidents whose unintended consequences reveal opportunities.
This winter's failure of my heating system compelled me to get cracking on the home refinance well in advance of the deadline, as the only way I could imagine financing its replacement. That lead to a general reordering of my finances and an improvement in my situation by converting my high-interest-rate student loans into more reasonable home equity loan. It also let me draw a little equity for a few improvements. Most of all, it freed me from the fear of losing the home entirely, under the terms of the divorce decree. I had dreaded the refinance because at the time of the divorce I had no confidence in my ability to refinance (and therefore to keep my home) but it turned out I had made the correct moves to get it done by securing my job at Treasury; all I needed was the confidence to execute.
 This weekend my Netflix account stopped working. I had been given the extra stream on Sherry's Netflix account as, I suppose, the contribution given for the upkeep of the girls. I felt obliged to try it out and it became a habit. I worked my way through all of "Deep Space Nine" which was fun, and then "Fraser" which started fun and became dutiful - I don't think it aged well at all, particularly the homophobia but also the lack of growth. I enjoyed seeing "Dr. Strange" for free - truly a fun translation of the comic to the screen. I started working through the original "Twilight Zone" alternating with "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt".
However watching Netflix had become less fun and more dutiful. I don't have that many hours in the day and too many of my free hours were ending up staring passively at a screen. Each individual moment is reasonably distracting but at the end what have I got? Not anything that I have created, and not a memorable human contact. It became unsatisfying but Continued out of habit or duty I suppose. Until this week end it stopped working.
I now have time to write. This is an improvement! There's no pretending that my writing is up there with "Twilight Zone" or even "Kimmy" but it is my own and the act of creation feels good.
 I am grateful for the happy accident that ended Netflix for me. Perhaps I should consider what other habits may be usefully changed by a happy accident.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Picnic at VA Hospital

The picnic for patients and staff at VA Puget Sound Healthcare System went really well. Area businesses donated an amazing amount of food and we volunteers had a great time serving those who served, as the saying goes!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Highland Park Improvement Club Book Swap

The summer reading program at out local elementary school needed books, and the local civic organization (the Highland Park Improvement Club) stepped up with a book swap Sunday. One of the organizers asked if I'd bring some books - both children's books for the youths and adult books for their parents - prompted no doubt by the Little Free Library I host in my front yard.
I am clearing out the detritus of years, which includes a lot of stock for culling and resale that never made it into the listing process. Amazon's rates have increased to the point that formerly marginal books are losers, and my finding a regularly paying job means that time spent on slightly profitable books is a loss. Even the time culling is a loss since the profit from the whole enterprise at this point approaches nil.
I took six or eight boxes to HPIC and boy were they surprised! Looking back, I see that they expected five or ten, maybe twenty books, and what they got  was literally half the stock they had to swap. I made sure to ask if they wanted help cleaning up if it didn't all get distributed, and they assured me that they would take care of it. They may have a small lending library at HPIC now, haha!
I chose not to tell them of the other 3 boxes in the trunk, which I had earmarked for the VA Hospital Lending library. Instead, I drove over there and put them in, and then treated myself to stopping by Pegasus Book Exchange and hanging out. There's always a good conversation and plenty to read!
The end result of the day is that I clear out ten or more boxes, not counting the recycling. I have much left to do on the house but at least I have a method now.
I am currently collecting and reviewing bids for the heating system. I have an acceptable bid but I feel that I ought to get a couple more just to be meticulous. I am having to weigh the raw price against the fuzzy notion of service. If there was an easy answer, I would already have it, but I do have the comfort of knowing that I already have an acceptable answer - I am merely trying to do better!