Friday, March 28, 2003


My big toe is still sore, and I was in the neighborhood, so I stopped to consult with the doctor about it. All the bruising and swelling is gone now, so it looks normal. I just don't walk normal. Every two or three days it starts to feel like it might be getting better, so I go play racquetball on it to test it. Of course that doesn't help. I try to limit myself to standing at the back wall practicing shots, but other players tend to come by while I'm doing that and make me play them. So you see, it's not really my fault.

The doctor says I didn't break any of the larger bones in the toe, but that the bone gets pretty small out at the end. I probably broke the end off and it will take weeks to heal. She is such a good doctor. She didn't even try to tell me not to exercise until it got better. Rather, she said when I play racquetball on it in six weeks, I'll be aggravating it less than when I play racquetball on it now.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Oregon trip

I wasn't going to send a trip report, but I just couldn't help myself.

We escaped the blizzard of ’03, and flew off to Portland. We got up plenty early, five am, and headed off to DIA. The trip there was entertaining. They have opened a new section of the loop road around Denver. We can join the northeast quadrant of the loop at I-25, just above Lafayette, and cruise effortlessly to the airport with no traffic. An undiscovered road. It’s a toll road. We thought about this ahead of time and Judy got us a transponder to attach to the windshield behind the rearview mirror, which allows us to use the express pass lanes. We blew through the toll collections at 65 mph. It is a good system, easy to get, and painless to refill.

The airport itself, has been discovered. We know before we went that anyplace in the parking lots not already covered by snow already had a car in it. Every place in the airport had a body in it as well. We avoided the endless circling to compete for a parking space by driving up to valet parking on level four, and paying a few dollars extra for the weekend. Valet parking never runs out of nice dry covered space.

Inside the airport, we were left to choose between the three hour lines for counter check-in, or the one-hour lines outside for curbside check in. We didn’t really need to check in because we already had our tickets, but you can’t get to the gate without a boarding pass. We opted for the one-hour line for curbside check in. You can’t go through curbside checking to get your boarding pass, though, unless you have baggage to check. We handled that by checking our carryons.

Standing outside on freezing concrete, however, created a new problem. When it was time to walk to the gate I could hardly walk. I’m particularly sensitive now to cold hands and cold feet, so it didn’t surprise me that my feet were numb from the cold, and that it hurt to walk, so I walked it off. Slowly.

Security should be easy. What could possibly go wrong? I made the mistake of taking everything out of my pockets except the cell phone. Alarms went off. You don’t get any second chances now. You can’t just apologize, back up through the sensor, remove the offending item, and try again. They threw me in the box, then subjected me to the strip search. When it was my turn, they used a hand wand, set on stun, to determine that I was, indeed, harmless. The coat came off. The shoes came off. The belt came off. The pockets got really, really emptied. Everything removed from my body went back through the scanner. I stood in my socks, arms extended to the sides, while the kind attendant poked and probed and patted at every tiny beep from the stun gun. He was very polite and assured me ahead of time that he would use the back of his hand for any “sensitive” areas that needed to be patted. This is all done in a very public area. But I’ll have to say he was gentle with me.

I survived the search, redressed, and made my way to join Judy, who had breezed through the process, having sent her cell phone through the x-ray machine.

The public strip search process got a lot more interesting when Judy directed my attention to the search going on in earnest in the queue next to mine. A well built, tall slim girl was down to very tight fitting pants and a very tight fitting undershirt, arms extended straight out to the side, standing in her socks, while the baton-guy carefully went over her body. I don’t know why it was taking so long. I could tell from as far away as I stood that she wasn’t concealing anything. But then I was struck with a sincere concern for the security of the entire airport and volunteered to stand right there and monitor our security effort to make sure it was working as intended, but Judy thought it was more important to head for the gate.

No problem at the gate. We already had our boarding passes. We visited with some girls who had just spent their entire spring break sleeping on the floor at DIA, and were now scheduled on a flight to Boise, a connection to Spokane, then a drive back home to Northern Idaho. A lot of kids spent their spring break at DIA this year.

Our flight was only a couple hours late. Not too late to visit with Ken, Christy, and the kids at the Portland Airport, and lunch at the Red Robin, before heading south in the rain to Corvallis. I could just leave out the “in the rain” part for the rest of the trip. That was the constant for three days. OK. I exaggerated. It wasn’t that constant. Sometimes it rained hard.

It was an easy drive south, through heavy Friday afternoon traffic. And entertaining. We got to watch a little white car in front of us follow too close and drive too fast, then hydroplane and start the dreaded wobble. He alternately occupied his lane and the lane on either side, until he finally just spun all the way around and stopped, facing us. Everyone was wonderfully alert and no-one touched. We let him turn around and head back the direction he had originally intended. We followed him for awhile, but he was driving so slow I had to give up and pass him.

My foot was still hurting, so I took a look at it before we started our drive south and got a frostbite scare. It wasn’t cold and numb anymore, but the entire top of it was black from the front of the toenail all the way back to the foot. Shit! I froze it, and the whole top part isn’t going to come back. Once we got to Corvallis, I took my shoes off again to look at it and decide if it needed some medical attention. Good news! We figured out that it wasn’t frostbite after all. Freezing it for an hour had aggravated the racquetball injury and started the internal bleeding again. It was just a new black bruise. The unpleasant color went away in a few days.

We were in Corvallis to celebrate with Judy’s nephew John, and his girlfriend Ronnie, who each were being commissioned as Marine Lieutenants. We had a room in a Courtyard Hotel that used to be a Sorority House very near the University. Lots of small rooms surrounding a nice courtyard. Lots of indoor open space to celebrate in. Our contingent occupied the entire hotel. Good thing.

Almost a hundred people showed up to honor the young officers’ accomplishments: college graduation and induction as Marine officers. The sequence of events went like this: A big lunch. A drive to Corvallis. A big Chinese food dinner. Lots of people. A late night. A breakfast. A military commissioning ceremony. With the Iraq war having just started, the ceremony was particularly poignant. A cake cutting ceremony. A big Mexican food lunch. A quiet afternoon. A graduation ceremony. A big noisy dinner celebration that deteriorated into drinking and dancing and went on until after midnight. A short night. Another breakfast. Lots of hugs and goodbyes. Leaving, and a quick detour to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge to see if we could spot an Acorn Woodpecker. An easy drive north. Lunch at the Red Robin with Ken and Chris and the kids again. (They were just a few minutes away at Ken’s folks’ house for the weekend.) An on time flight. The bags waiting at the carousel by the time we got there in Denver. An easy exit from the valet parking. A drive home through the express lanes of the toll road, transponder beeping at every toll collection booth.

Annie was so excited to see us. She painted an elaborate picture all over the sidewalk.

Back to the wreckage of Denver. Practically every tree has broken branches. Our cottonwood and maples suffered a few. It is common for the deciduous trees to lose branches to a storm. The blue spruce tree, which generally just stands smugly by while the other trees fail, has several broken branches itself. Evergreen trees don’t usually do that. Across the street from my office, every single evergreen tree that I can see from my window has the entire top third broken off. Most of the snow is gone. Now we have room for more.

I think we need a little sleep. And we’re still full from all that food.

Friday, March 21, 2003


OK. Tomorrow morning, very early, we're off to the airport. They opened two runways today and got the evacuation of the stranded underway. With any luck, we'll make it through the thousands of people still there, standing in line at the ticket counters, and catch our flight to Portland.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


Here's a new one. Aurora just declared a level three weather emergency. That means it is illegal for any cars to be on the road other than police cars and emergency vehicles.

Never heard of that before.


Our greatest challenge: the Honda.

The driveway, before and after. We decided the Honda could wait until May.


The alley across the street, and Puff making his way through the yard.


Had a good time outside.

The house and shamu.


It's now being called the heaviest storm in ninety years. Roads closed and hundreds of people stranded by avalanches. Interstate 70 is closed due to avalanche danger. Nederland and Eldora are isolated by avalanches.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


SNOW DAY! Haven't had one in years.

The perfect storm. Moisture from the south, cold from the north, weather from the west. We're getting buried.

Sunday, March 16, 2003


This is good. For the last two weeks, we've had warm wonderful spring weather. We've worked in the yard. We've had our windows open, the birdbath de-icer unplugged, and the dripper on.

Now they're flashing a winter storm warning across the bottom of the screen. That weather all along the west coast is working its way our way. They're predicting over half a foot of snow for the front range so far.

Bring it on. Dump a ton in the mountains, and give us some here too.

And poor Bill, stuck in the desert sun.

Office toys

Have I mentioned the blimp? The blimp Brian has? It's an indoor toy. It's a large helium-filled balloon, neutrally buoyant, with propellers mounted on it. Two for horizontal mobility and directional control. One for vertical. They are all reversible, and all controlled by remote control. For flying technique, you fire the fans in bursts. Once you get it going the direction you want, it just continues on its own momentum for awhile. Come to think of it, even if it's not going the direction you want, it does the same thing.

I was working at a client with Ken and Stephanie. I was describing the blimp therapy program I was considering putting into place in our office: we have a blimp like Brian's gassed up and ready to go. Anytime someone is feeling particularly stressed, they can grab the blimp controls and fly it around the office for awhile. Then they'll go back to work, feeling much better.

Stephanie raised the conversation to an entirely different level when she suggested we could fly the blimp through the offices with inspirational messages attached to it. You know, the poster with the cat holding on with just his fingernails with the caption "hang in there baby". That sort of thing.

My suggestion of "work harder. work faster" was immediately rejected.

Maybe we should just attach a web camera to it so I could fly it through the offices and watch everyone work right from my own desk. That wouldn't be too offensive would it?


Well, I've suffered a racquetball setback. I'm on injured reserve.

Got hit in the foot with a racquet. A straight shot right across the big toe. Jammed it. Split the toenail. Turned the whole thing purple. I can still walk, but not very well.

You try to be careful how you play and who you play. There is a lot of trust involved, playing this hard in a confined space. There has to be an understanding that safety is more important than points. Getting hit with a ball is no big deal. It hurts, but it is not disabling. Getting hit with a racquet is something else. If someone is at risk, you don't take the shot. You hold up, call a hinder, the other player thanks you and gladly replays the point.

I try to be careful who I play with or against. It is just not worth getting in there with a wild man.

This time, however, I didn't have the option of playing or not playing. I was the only one in the room. I was alone, practicing.

Maybe I won't try that shot in competition.

Saturday, March 1, 2003


We're almost there. The Swiss win one more and it's over.

Then again, New Zealand wins five more and it's over too.