Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

early voting

October 25, 2016

I voted yesterday, the first day advance voting was open this year in Kansas. The worker I spoke with said that they’d had a brisk morning and expected a packed evening. While there I did not see a single dead person voting, nor did I see any self-appointed poll watchers. A crew from a local news station did try to interview me before I went in, but I shrugged them off. I’m shy in that way.


September 19, 2016

More than seven years ago, I made a post on this humble blog about my initial fumblings with what was, at the time, called Google Documents. (It’s now called Google Drive.) I then wrote two more related posts about it. You can read the first post here, then the subsequent posts here and here, which I know you probably won’t, but, whatever, as the kids say. (Also, this humble blog has been around for nearly a decade!) The reason I note this is because the office where I work has recently denied us access to Google Drive. The stated reason is concern over company files getting loose in the world but the real reason, I am certain, is to thwart me. I’ve placed a lot of my stories on Google Drive and I found it handy for dipping into them during working hours when a fresh thought came into my head. So now I’m shopping around for some alternate online file storage system that hasn’t (yet) caught the attention of my corporate masters. A few have been suggested, but if you have any ideas, let me know.

Update 27OCT16 – I still can access Google Drive at work. I won’t bring that to anyone’s attention however.


The three books I wrote about in this recent post are still languishing on my desk. I have not read a word from any of them since I last lamented my laziness. (Not included in that list of books is another sitting idly on my desk: The Autobiography of Mark Twain – volume 1. I drove myself more than half way through it when I first got it, but it can be hard going since so much of what he writes about is obscure, ancient history that I have no context for.)


My latest story, “Old School,” is at an online magazine for consideration. I’m surprised with myself. I think this may be the fastest I’ve ever gone from writing a story to submitting it. Normally I would let a story sit for several months before sending it off so that embellishments and further developments can come to my mind and I can refine the story. But this one is a bit of fluff, a comic little tale that probably doesn’t merit too much thought, so I haven’t been finding these embellishments coming to mind. Probably it’s finished, and if it’s accepted by the ezine, then it’s definitely finished.


The weight machine is now fully assembled in my basement. I sat in it and tried a few of the exercises just to ensure that it works. It does. Now I must. Ask me about this down the road so I’m embarrassed enuf to actually use it.

Update 27OCT16 – I am actually using this thing!


I have managed to find a way to put the word “enuf” into one of the One-Match Fire stories. This is my effort to evolve the language.

three books

September 15, 2016


I think I mentioned once before that I have three books sitting on my desk (within easy arm’s reach as I type this). They are pictured in the photo above: the sonnets of William Shakespeare, The Little Red Book of Running, and The Metamorphoses by Ovid. There they sit, staring at me, chiding me, intimidating me.

My intent was to read one item from each, each day. Or maybe read one item from one one day, then one item from the other the next day, then an item from the third the third day. A simple, thoroughly workable plan.

And for probably just about anyone other than me, it would work. But there the books sit, unread. I’ve poked at a few of the sonnets, and I’ve read a few snippets from the Red Book, but I only got about halfway through the introduction to the Ovid book, and I’ve stalled ever since.

All of this should be edifying, of course. The sonnets have already figured in my One-Match Fire stories, giving the title to “where late the sweet birds sang” and letting me make oblique references in several of the stories to “bare ruined choirs.” The running book (a gift from my wife), of course, should fill my non-running hours with uplift and motivation. And The Metamorphoses will inform my reading of Iris Murdoch novels, where characters sometimes make reference to this work or the myths that are related there. All lofty and worthwhile motivations. And there they sit. Sigh!

I recently passed the ten year mark with my current employer. (I know! I can’t believe it either!) I was given a catalog of gifts I could select from to commemorate my decade of selfless service (to big pharma, alas). There were the usual gifts like watches and jewelry and luggage and decorative glassware and all kinds of “things” that I already have too much of. Unique among them, though, was a weight machine. One you can sit within and do all kinds of resistance exercising with weights on pulleys. I’ve used one of these in the gym at work (a nice benefit, by the way), just as I used the fancy treadmills there before I got a ‘mill o’my own. So I thought that having my own weight machine in my cluttered basement (much smaller scale but probably perfectly suited for my humble needs) would be a good thing. And I think it is. The beast came to me unassembled. More than a month ago. The box weighed 300 pounds, and I’m sure it has more than 100 separate parts (not counting the screws and nuts and washers). I have been slowly assembling the beast since then. (It took me two days just to carry all of the pieces down to my basement.)

I keep telling myself that if I went down to the basement each night and did just one step in the 25-page assembly booklet, I would have it all together in no time, and then I could begin pushing iron and working on the upper body strength so desperately needed for hefting grandchildren. (You forget what that’s like after you stop hefting your own children. Trust me.) Whole weeks have gone by without me touching the beast. Still, I’m only about two-thirds of the way through the assembly. Unfortunately, I’m at the point where I must begin stringing the cables that are the pulley system betwixt the hand-held (or leg-held) parts and the weights themselves. This actually requires abstract thinking since the machine ain’t all together but I have to imagine/perceive/conceive/project how/where the cables will run, assembling and stringing them on faith since they’re not connected to anything much yet. My brain is fatigued. (I had a friend do some electrical work on my house recently, and he saw the weight machine in pieces in my basement when my wife took him down there to find the electrical breaker he needed to shut off, and he casually suggested that he assemble the weight machine as a surprise for me. I wish my wife had taken him up on that!)

So the weight machine approaches completion, just as the three books on my desk await reading.

I can’t be the only person in the world like this.

Labor Day 2016

September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day to everyone. Can you imagine trying to legislate such a recognition to hard-working people today, in the current labor-hostile climate we have?

Did my pre-dawn sixer this morning in the deliciously cool air. I came into the spooky shelter at the park I’ve mentioned before (here and here) and there was a person there, though not sitting in the dark because the shelter lights were on. It was a young woman, and she had some things spread on the picnic table before her. She was also, apparently, charging her phone in one of the live outlets available. What is it about this shelter that seems to be attractive to strays in the wee small hours of the morning? Anyway, I came trotting in, waved to her to show I was no menace, then walked to the far corner of the shelter where the water fountain stands. I took a drink and stayed over there so the woman needn’t worry about me. She spoke first, though, commenting on my shirt. It was the one I earned for running my first half marathon and she said she liked the image on the front. I asked her if she had run it, and she said no but that she was thinking of getting a tattoo of a similar image (the city skyline, reflected into the “ground” below it).

So this park shelter continues to provide me with interesting experiences.

second spring

August 30, 2016

We seem to be having a second spring here in Kansas City. We’ve had unprecedented amounts of rain for late August, leading to flooding in some parts of the city that made it all the way to the national news. (Television being the great validator of anything that happens in our world.) Two of my far-flung siblings had even contacted me last week to make sure I was alive. Not to worry; my house is on top of one of the highest hills in the county. My basement is dry.

The trails I run on (the Indian Creek Trail and the Tomahawk Creek Trail) both follow their namesake streams and are thus in the lowlands. I’ve been on both of them in recent days and while they showed signs of flooding (and a few puddles as well as a few muddy, impassable stretches), nothing I encountered did any more than divert me once or twice. My newish running shoes, on the other hand, are now a mess.

Rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week (which means I may be on the treadmill in my basement, though I have done some long runs in the rain if it’s warm enuf), but the weekend looks dry and warm. I’m thinking I may have an overnight at my little cabin in the woods.

old and new

August 15, 2016


A few of you know this though most of you don’t. I have kept another blog for more than a decade. It’s about my cabin in the woods plus the 80 acres around it and the lake below it. I call it Roundrock Journal, but don’t try to search for it; you’ll be disappointed. That blog uses WordPress software, but it is not hosted by WordPress. Keeping a blog for that long (on a server that maybe doesn’t have the best firewalls) apparently increases its chances of being targeted by evil doers. It’s been hacked a few times, but my crack technical team (daughter, son-in-law, and now grandson) have been able to get in the back door, clean out the malicious code, and restore the blog to its rightful glory. That is, until this last time.

Roundrock Journal is toast. The latest hack has been pernicious. Most of the time even I can’t get in. (Some have reported luck getting to the blog on their iPhones.) The team has put some effort into scrubbing the blog, but it’s apparently not enuf. (I first started using “enuf” on Roundrock Journal.) I’m told that the hundreds of thousands of words of text I’ve written there and the thousands of photos I’ve posted can (somehow) be captured and moved to a new blog that would be hosted by WordPress. This would cost a little money but nothing outrageous, especially if it meant I could avoid hackers better. However, the work to capture and move the substance of the old blog — for the first five years I made a post every single day — is a much bigger task than I want my crack technical team to undertake. Not only do I need this same team to drag my sorry self through the New York City Marathon in a few months, but they’ll also be the ones who will pick out my nursing home. So I’ve decided to retire Roundrock Journal. It had a good run, as they say, and this humble blog has long been in need of some diversity, so I can begin making Roundrock posts here. Everyone wins!

I call my 80 acres Roundrock, continuing a long tradition of people naming places. The reason I used that word is because the place is — literally — filled with round rocks. Behold:

round rock

I have collected perhaps a hundred of these round rocks. Hundreds more await. Kick away the leaves in certain parts of my forest, or stumble along the wet-weather stream that bisects my acres, and you can find them easily. The one in the photo is about the size of a grapefruit, which is their most common incarnation, but I’ve found some as small as golf balls and as large as basketballs. (There is a fragmented one on my neighbor’s land that is the size of a beach ball.) These are not rounded by rolling around in a stream. Roundrock is mostly ridgetop. Rather, they grew this way. Yes, the rocks grew into these nicely spherical shapes, just calling out for a human hand to hold them and put them in gardens and on book shelves and here and there. When I get the gumption, I’ll explain how they came to grow, but I’ll tell you now that it involved a meteor impact.

So Roundrock Journal is retired, but the stories about it will live on here. I hope you can tolerate them.

That preying mantis in the top photo greeted me when I spent the weekend at my cabin. It hung around for a while, but eventually it moved on to do whatever it is they do.


a tale from the trail

August 10, 2016

Wow! It was a year ago that I posted an account on this humble blog of an eerie encounter I had one early morning as I was running in my quiet suburban neighborhood. See the riveting account here. (I was certain I was about to die!)

I run that route regularly; lately it’s become my go-to Saturday morning run and not only because it ends at the neighborhood bagelry. This past weekend I ran it both Saturday (stretching it into more than 8 miles) and Sunday (seeking only the 6.1 miles I got from it, but giving me more than 40 miles for the week, which is only the second time I’ve ever done that!). On Sunday, my feet hit the pavement at around 4:30 a.m. (No, that’s not a typo! I love the solitude.) I reached the same shelter I discuss in that earlier post sometime around 5:00. These days I run with a headlamp. I hate the thing. Its elastic strap squeezes my pumpkin head, but I can see the trail below my stumbling feet, and I assume any cars coming my way when I’m running down (the middle of) the street can see me too.

When I came into the shelter, though, I had another unexpected encounter. I saw a lamp similar to mine bobbing betwixt the picnic tables. I assumed it was another runner, out at the ungodly hour to beat the heat (and the rain that had sprinkled me again this run). But it wasn’t. It was a woman dressed in a skirt and a jacket (from what I could tell in the dark) who may have been coming from the restroom there. Keep in mind I was the one running toward her. She had every reason to think I was the menace.

I wished her a good morning as I darted past, and she said something similar to me. (I forget what; I was so surprised!) Then I went to the water fountain on the far side of the shelter, not only to rehydrate but to put some distance betwixt me and the woman so she wouldn’t need to worry about my presence. After taking a few sips (rinse mouth and spit first, then drink), I turned to look for the woman. She was gone. I should have been able to still see her at this point if she was walking the trail, though that seemed unlikely. But she hadn’t walked to the sole car in the parking lot either. She effectively disappeared in the darkness.

I puzzled about this for a while. If she needed the restroom, why hadn’t she gone to the brightly lit, 24-hour convenience store not a block away? I suppose it was reasonable for her to assume that she wouldn’t encounter anyone in this little park. (After all, technically, I wasn’t supposed to be there. The trail is officially off limits until sunrise, which was still more than an hour away.) And she did have a light with her, perhaps pepper spray too, which she might have had in hand, with her thumb on the go button.

I’ll never know, of course.

Poe has a story called “The Imp of the Perverse” that deals with the self-destructive impulses in people: being terrified to stand at the edge of a cliff yet having some perverse desire to throw yourself off at the same time. I think I’m becoming this way about the shelter in the park on that bit of trail in the lonely hours of the pre-dawn weekends. Some perverse part of me wants to keep going there, actually hoping to have more incidents like this. In the mundane, white-bread existence of this suburban wage slave that I am, I can see how this makes a kind of sense.

But only after I finish that New York Marathon. Geez, that thing has me terrified in its own way!

And because I had included a photo of my pumpkin-headed self in that earlier post, I’m including one here:

me and three

This is a picture of my daughter, Rachel, her boy (in blue), Kenneth, me (in the cap), and my other grandson, Emmett. Somehow my face has actually managed to achieve a smile. (I don’t think it’s repeatable.)

Update 13AUG2016 – I ran through this park/shelter again this morning and encountered more than a half dozen women also running on the trail in the dark with headlamps. Of course, since it was before sunrise, they had no more business being there than I did. I don’t think they expected crossing paths with anyone since they were taking up the whole width of the trail and had to shout out to make way when they saw me approaching (with my headlamp on).