Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Haiku to Roku

Sarah and Leah gave Karen a Roku Netflix player for her upcoming birthday. It's sort of a one trick pony, but it's a very good trick. It took about five minutes to set up, and three of those were unsealing the batteries for the remote. It quickly logged onto our home network, and instantly we were able to watch movies from our Netflix playlist. Amazingly simple, amazingly cool.
The service is unlimited, or limited only by the fact that not all movies are available to play instantly.
Just one more nail in the coffin for the postal service, I suppose. They're offering employees a voluntary early retirement, although they're not adding any incentives, so I don't think it's that great an offer. When people used to ask my father how he was doing, he used to say, "Clinging to the wreckage." Which could be our employee motto.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Life in Seventeen Syllables

As part of the unraveling of the disastrous route inspections and adjustments this summer, several of our routes are up for bid. I asked a carrier this morning if he was going to try to get a route of his own, after being a substitute carrier for the last few years. He said, no, that having just one route was too boring. I told him that just like a Japanese poem can examine one leaf in exquisite detail, delivering the same route day after day allows you to see nuances and relationships that you wouldn't notice if you just blew through and moved on. I was so eloquent, that after awhile I began to believe it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alaska Love Letter

I suppose it's incumbent on me as a card-carrying Alaskan to say something about Sarah Palin. For starters, her last name is pronounced Pā´-lĭn, rhymes with Wailin'. She's wildly popular here with two exceptions. One is a sore loser she trounced for governor, and the other one is a local talk show host, Dan Fagan, who broadcasts live every day from deep inside Exxon's pocket.
She endeared herself to Alaskans by standing up to the corrupt leaders of the Alaskan Republican party. By now, of course, we all know just how corrupt they were, since some of them are in jail, and some are on their way there, but in 2005 and 2006, she took a very brave and principled stand.
She has no foreign policy experience, just like Barak Obama, or for that matter, Bill Clinton when he was elected. Of course, the vice-president with the most foreign policy experience recently was Dick Cheney. She has dealt very firmly with Exxon, a company that is like a country; a vicious, oligarchic, invading, country.
Unlike the three senators running for president and VP, Sarah has actually had some executive experience, being a mayor and governor.
The only reason we'd be sorry to see her go, is we'd be sorry to see her go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We Wouldn't Have Even Had to Leave the House

"Then I saw in my dreams, that, when they were out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long. It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter that vanity, and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there, is vanity; as is the saying of the Wise, 'All that cometh is vanity.'"

We could have just stayed home and enjoyed Vanity Fair, but instead, we drove up to Palmer, to Gluttony Fair. We took a quick spin through the Salmon Parade, and then ate. After that, we had to walk around for awhile killing time, until we could eat again. We checked out cows and quilts, pigs and politicians. While we were doing that we stopped in at several food booths and had some snacks to keep our strength up until it was time to eat.

Speaking of politicians, yesterday was primary election day here. Our 84 year old indicted US Senator easily won the nomination for reelection to his seat. Our 75 year old arrogant, bullying, under-investigation-but-not-yet-indicted, US House member, may have won the nomination for his seat as well. It's too close to call, which in a way shows how clean the election was. His opponent is head of the division of elections. Still it's pretty depressing that we keep voting for crooks. We're sort of like Louisiana, but without the killer cuisine.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Notes From Notes From the Underground

"The main issue for the Underground Man, is that he has reached a point of ennui and inactivity~Wikipedia
I confess, I've never read Dostoevsky's Underground Man*, but, man, I didn't really feel like a surface dweller for the last couple of weeks in the corridors and rooms of the hospital and then at home with Karen. On Saturday, I crawled back up into the light, squinting, and went back to work. My legs were almost as tired after walking my route as I was after riding my century. Apparently sitting around isn't the most effective training method.
Tonight after work, Rich and I went for an hour's ride. Nice, very nice, to be back. Tomorrow, it looks like Karen and I will be going to the fair. In anticipation, I've abandoned my diet after just four days.

*I don't know if you can tell it's downloading from the Gutenberg project in the background

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!"

It just poured this afternoon. Water was pooling and then flowing in the street, and on the sidewalk, and even down our stairs, where we could literally have had salmon spawning, except we won't have those kind of carrying-ons at our house.

An Afterthought on Shut Up, Just Shut Up, Okay? Or, Not For the Squeamish

Yeah, so if ignorance is bliss, and we're supposed to follow our bliss, why are people always telling me things?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shut Up, Just Shut Up, Okay? Or, Not For the Squeamish

Once, when we were on a jet taxiing out to the runway, the pilot came on the intercom and explained that we were going to just sit there for a moment because we had made such good time out from the gate that they had burned less fuel than they expected and we were too heavy to get off the ground. After we had lumbered down the runway and into the sky, the pilot explained that we wouldn't be able to climb to our optimum altitude until we had burned up more fuel because we were still too heavy.
Today Karen had her procedure. The doctor stopped by to explain how it had gone. To avoid a risk of infection, he hadn't wanted to go straight in by the original incision, so he came in from the side, he said, but then he had to be sure and avoid going into the abdomen, or puncturing the spinal column, so he just took a long needle and he knew he was getting close when the end of the needle ran into bone.
The only abdominal consequence was that it sort of turned my stomach. And other than that, the blood patch seems to be working. She needs to remain in bed for one more day, and have the doctor look at it on Friday, and then Saturday, I'm going to rejoin the workforce outside the home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For the Squeamish

Karen has developed a post operative condition. When we went for a dressing change yesterday, Karen's regular doctor wasn't there. The doctor looking at the dressings suggested a procedure, the first one on the list. Karen didn't want to do it because after the way the last surgery went awry, she didn't want medical people approaching her with anything sharper than a spoon. The doctor said that the alternative was to remain for weeks even more bed-bound than she has been, even going so far as to mention bedpans. I really pressed her to go ahead with the procedure. I've been nursing her for a week, and I really didn't want to add bed pans to my duties, plus more importantly, I told her, why should she suffer so much pain for weeks when a simple ten minute procedure could alleviate it.? Plus, if they did it, no bed pans.
They scheduled it for this morning, but then decided that due to the redness of the site, they might want to wait an extra day, so now it's scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. The doctor said that by then Karen's regular doctor would be back, and she could do it. I told him, "I don't know much about medicine, but I know what I don't like." So, now, he's going to do it, although, since it's on her back and they wear masks, I don't know how we'll know for sure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Conserving Energy Through Recycling By Posting an E-Mail I Already Sent

Karen has the TV on Discovery Health's Disgusting Conditions show. She's asleep, so I guess I could change the channel, but why bother, I can't see the TV. We've got Leah's bed set up in the living room. I've been sleeping on the couch. It's not very comfortable, so last night I slept on the floor. When the newspaper came, Ellie started barking and woke me up. I had been dreaming that I was telling someone my back hurt because I was sleeping on the floor.
Of course, just like you can't complain to a bear mauling victim about a hangnail, when your wife is weeping in pain from the headache that may be caused from spinal fluid leaking, no one cares if your spine is a little sore. We'd hoped she'd recover a lot quicker than she has. You'd think she be in a better mood because I just realized that I've been getting up every six hours and giving her her antidepressant instead of her antibiotic. I think that only happened at 2 this morning, but still it must at least have made some bacteria happy. The pills look almost identical, and I was like the sleep deprived interns you see on Discovery Health; like I told one of her anesthesiologists, "I'm not a doctor, but I've seen them on TV.
By the way, what does it say about our theory of medicine that everything we put in our mouths is "anti-" something. Why can't we be a little more upbeat in the way we view health. Oh, yeah, because then we'd be like Andrew Weill and no one wants that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Like a Mother's Tender Love

As I was staring, mesmerized, at the washing machine filling up with water, I realized, if Karen's asleep, I should be napping.

Musings of a Sleep-Deprived Round-the-Clock Nurse

I wonder if the phrase "round the clock" will fade away since with the advent of digital time-keeping devices, few people think of clocks as round, or even think of clocks at all.

Why does the word "loner" even have a plural?

Shouldn't round-the-clock nurses work in shifts? I was off my diet so long (until yesterday) that I think I should be wearing a muumuu instead.

If you could put time in a bottle, what would you do with it? Would it be an interesting idea to break the bottle to launch a ship?

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Just Enjoy Saying Gumminess Quotient

So, Karen is still home, and so am I. I'm kind of a bad caregiver, in that when Karen is asleep (or awake) I do puzzles on the internet, and read the news. The keyboard is pressing into my wrists, and my hands keep falling asleep. Then they wake up, look around, "Where am I?"
Comparing her post-op symptoms and internet sites, leads to phrases like, "Everything is still fine, maybe we should double up on your antibiotics."
I'm about to give you a cooking tip for mashed potatoes. I got it from a book that Sarah sent me to read while Karen recuperates. What's weird is, I think that's now one of our family traditions. How many times have I done this, I wonder. It reminds of those years when we still had a family. Every summer we would rent a houseboat from the same guy to spread ashes in Big Lake. The minimum rental is overnight, but it never took more than a couple of hours. The last time we did it, the rental guy said, "You know, you can keep it till tomorrow." Sarah said, "Dad, how many people would have to die so we'd need the boat that long?"
Anyway, the idea is that you cook the potatoes up to about 160°, then cool them before reheating them to about 180°. This reduces the gumminess quotient.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dateline: My Living Room

Karen did come home yesterday afternoon. It's good to be back, although I do miss the round the clock nursing, the housekeeping, and the staff that would respond to any request at the push of a button. She still has all that, it's just that now it's me and Corinne that come running, and I think Corinne's getting ready to go to her home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Going Home, Maybe

Karen hasn't been discharged yet, and we don't know if she will be, or if she even should be. In the meantime, I love the new room. It has a bathroom. Being in the CVIU room meant going about 300 yards down a hall to a public restroom. The first room had a metal toilet under the sink like a soviet motor home that could be pulled out, but we never did.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gilligan Goes To the Doctor

Yesterday Karen went to Providence Hospital for a three hour outpatient procedure at Day Surgery and we're still here. One of the doctor's came out after the surgery and in that Chuck Yeager drawl that minimizes everything right up to a wing falling off, told me that her lungs had filled with fluid, and she had stopped breathing, everything was fine, but they were going to keep her here for a day or two to make it even more fine. Just now we left the CardioVascular Intervention Unit where we spent last night for a regular room, so we're making some progress.
I'm sorry if this seems a little incoherent, I've only had a couple hours sleep in the last two days. I'm sorry if this doesn't seem a little incoherent, since that means I'm never all that.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

If You Fry It, They Will Come

To celebrate our accomplishment, we had a barbecue last night. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had been training harder for that than for the ride itself. That training paid off, as I was able to pace myself through the hot dogs and the battered deep fried pizza, all the way to carrot cake and ice cream with many scenic side trips through chips and baked beans. Dennis, our cook, had put a hot dog in the deep fryer to see when the oil was hot. I'm not proud of this, but as a child of depression era children, I believe in, "Waste not, want not," and to be honest, deep fried hot dogs are a perfect blend of fat, and a different kind of fat.
Incidentally, battered fried pizza is worthy of its own booth at the fair. I'm not sure I'm the one to run it though. I'd probably eat up the profits; I'd probably tell potential customers, "Hey, if you want a slice, get your own booth."
A sad note, one our Hardly Davidsons went for a run instead of riding with us, and was mauled by a grizzly bear. She survived the attack and a harrowing walk for help, but will be hospitalized for awhile with broken ribs, a collapsed lung and other serious injuries.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

So, A Quick Recap, Well, a Recap Anyway

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap*

Yesterday morning dawned clear and crisp. My friend Rich and I rode along the coastal bike trail. Because it was so cold, Mt. Susitna across the inlet seemed to be floating up out of the fog at its base. The ride across Anchorage was just to build up speed like the probes sent to the outer solar system loop Jupiter to build up speed before being flung on their way.
There is a bike trail all the way to North Birchwood Road, and then you are unceremoniously (we had hoped for bagpipes) dumped out on the highway. By then, you're almost in the wilderness, or at least, that's what I'd always thought while driving it. I mean I didn't think that every time, sometimes I thought about the difference between funnel cakes and elephant ears on the way to the fair. In real life, as viewed from a bike seat, there are a lot of on and off ramps to cross while the traffic makes minimal effort ( a minimal effort consistsof horn blowing) to avoid hitting you. Despite what you may have heard about Anchorage being bike friendly, the shoulders of the road were thickly coated with loose jagged rocks. About four miles along the highway I had my first flat. I fixed it, and we got ready to ride off, when Rich discovered he had a flat. Apparently hidden in the rocks was a windshield wiper assembly. I see now why they call them blades. By the end of the ride, I'd had two more flats, and, on reflection, maybe replacing my good road tires with much narrower ones that only cost $6 each was a poor decision.
The rest of the ride to Palmer was lovely, crossing the Eklutna Flats, and the Palmer Hay Flats. It was pretty, and, refreshingly, as you might imagine, flat. When we reached Palmer, I saw a bike shop and went in and bought an extra tube, a good investment that would pay off before we got home.
Rich has a friend in Palmer. She wasn't home, but she'd given Rich the code to her garage door and we went in to eat lunch. She had bought us some fried chicken. At that point we had ridden 58 miles and at the first bite of chicken, I knew my life till then had been only prologue. Being in the house was perfect as a little thunderstorm rolled across town while we ate and watched it rain. It had moved on when we left, although a few minutes of riding allowed us to catch up with it. It rained hard, but only briefly and the last couple hours of the ride were once again in sunshine.

*I don't want to paint too vivid a picture here, but after sitting on a bike seat for 100 miles, my manhood wasn't worth much either.

Friday, August 08, 2008


We're in Palmer and hearing thunder, but we pretty much had to ride to the only cloud in the sky.
We're both a half mile from a PR with 42 miles to go.
2 flats.

We few, we happy few

So in the end only 2 of us showed up, even our honor guard that was to escort us out of town failed to show. We're 25 miles into a beautiful ride having coffee in eagle river.

Well, Bushy Tailed, Maybe

Robert Parker's character, Spenser, once said his dog got so excited to go on walks, that it made it almost impossible to take her. He actually said it better than that, if you can believe it.
Anyway, I woke up at 3:45 this morning, and was awake for quite awhile so I could be not quite my freshest when we hit the trail in about an hour and a half.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm going to bed shortly, and when I get up, it will be a new century. Check back during the day for updates.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mmm, Deep Fried Something

Our good friend Satan is staying with us this week and doing our menu planning. Supposedly I'm in training for a century ride on Friday, but if that doesn't pan out, I may consider a food eating contest.
Oh damn (ha, ha, Satan reference) I was looking for a cute link to a food contest and found this at the International Federation of Competitive Eating safety page:
The IFOCE is against at-home training of any kind... The IFOCE urges all interested parties to become involved in sanctioned events -- do not try speed eating home.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Skirts and Flip-Flops

A lady on my route, recently returned from Seattle, gave me an an article from the Seattle Times about a Lacey (the town where he lives, not a comment on his manliness) letter carrier lobbying to make kilts part of the men's postal uniform.
I looked at the picture, and, call it what you will, it's a skirt. I'm reasonably secure, but I already walk a Pomeranian and wear spandex bike shorts, so I think wearing a dress (especially the one with the frilly collar) to work would remove some level of ambiguity.

Do you remember I told you about casing mail and muscle memory? When I first started at the post office (delivering stone tablets for Herodotus,) our cases had seven shelves. Then, controversially, they changed to six. When we started vertical flat casing, they went to a four shelf configuration, which we have used for maybe 15 or 20 years. Now, another, unexplained, innovation, we're going to five shelves. If casing is a dance, we're going to be going, for awhile at least, from grand jete´ to something more hokey and pokey.

Back in the '70's, Neil Young sang, "I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie." It turns out my informant at work was wrong yesterday. We're not going to a permanent third bundle. I think Neil and I are both relieved.

I Guess Imelda Marcos Now Manages the Post Office

You know how sometimes you have to "wait for the other shoe to fall"? Apparently the Postal Service has invested in one of those carnival pitching machines to just hurl shoes at us constantly. This morning our letter trays were scattered around in no order, although that was more of a sandal than a shoe, but then, I had a conference on the next set of adjustments in store for my route. I was exhilarated at the proposed changes, and that thrill lasted all the way from the meeting to the garage where I heard that starting next week we will have machines sorting even more of our mail. Do you remember me saying that having to carry a third bundle of mail is difficult and time consuming? Every day from now on.
When, and if, it happens, I'll probably have a guest poster to describe it; Dante, if he's available.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Running Down... to the Starting Line

I'm reading a training guide to getting ready for a Century Ride, like we're having next weekend. Apparently, I'm in the taper phase of the training regimen. The scary part is that the taper phase is way more intense than anything I've done so far to get ready. It's probably too late now to try and do everything they recommend, so I'm working on the eating every 20 minutes that they suggest for these last six days. At least I think that's what they said.
I intend to post updates here from the ride. I imagine they'll be mostly about how beautiful the scenery would be if I could catch my breath and hold my head high enough to see any of it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

If You Used to Work to No Purpose, but Now You Run a Coal Mine You Could Be an Ex-Ploiter

Today I read about a word that didn't make it all the way into the language; "ploiter" which meant to work to little purpose. I can't believe that a word that summarized the whole human condition, my "career" and the book of Ecclesiastes in two syllables didn't survive. Man, what isn't pointless?

Also today, it was clear and warm. Before I had time to really get going about how uncomfortably hot it was, it clouded back up.