Saturday, March 30, 2013

We settled on a car


I want something high mileage.  Judy wants a hatchback.  We made a deal.  Minimum 35 mpg EPA Highway.  Judy picks the car.  I pick the color.  We settled on a Mazda 3 Hatchback, Grand Touring.  40mpg EPA Highway.


I picked Accountant’s Gray.


Problem is, there are plenty of Mazda 3s in the neighborhood, but none of them are my color.  No compromises.  I didn’t want to look out the door every morning and see a car that was an okay color.  I want to look out the door and say “Yes!  Accountant’s Gray!  I love that color!”


They have that color in the brochure.  They call it graphite, but what do they know.  The dealer didn’t have it; not with the package of options we wanted.  They checked around with their local affiliates.  None in Brownsville.  None anywhere in the Valley.  They checked with Corpus Christi.  No luck.  We left.


But……it’s the age of the internet.  Internet to the rescue!  Once I figured out the sorting mechanism on Mazda of America’s website, it took me about five minutes to locate two dozen cars that match our description, most of them in Texas.  We called a dealer in Conroe, north of Houston.  He said the internet was correct, he did have that car in stock.  We told him the deal we had with the dealer down here.  He matched it.  We agreed to fly to Houston and pick it up.  He volunteered to meet us at the airport and make the exchange of paperwork and keys.  We landed in Houston at noon.


They had the car there waiting for us.  We were on the road in our new car by 12:30 headed south.  We were home by 7.  One airplane flight.  350 miles driving.  One day.  One new car.


A good day.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The words not spoken


In a reflective moment, it’s not hard to remember things we’ve done wrong.  Those will stand out without any effort on our part.  But what of things we could have done right but didn’t?  There is a particular missed moment that comes to my mind.  It goes back to high school.  High school was not a good time for me.  All I wanted out of high school, was out.  If a subject interested me, I could get good grades.  If it wasn’t interesting to me, I got Cs and Ds.  I got a lot of Cs and Ds.


Tropical fish, hydroponics, mountain gorillas; those are things that interested me.  The American history class with Mr. O’Byrne, that’s a class that didn’t.  I sat off to the side, toward the back while he talked.  I discovered that the cabinet next to me held a treasure trove of National Geographic magazines.  So while Mr. O’Byrne talked I wasn’t disruptive.  I sat quietly and read about things other than American History.


It was an uneventful semester in his class until one day he suddenly said something nice about me.  He didn’t only say it *to* me, he said it to the entire class.  I don’t know why he decided to say something nice about me, I wasn’t paying any attention at the time.  Of course I don’t know what point he was making about American history, but all of a sudden I heard “Take Mr. Taylor there in the back of the room.  He’s not a good student.  In fact he’s a terrible student.”  (He was working his way up to the nice thing, but I didn’t know that at the time.  At the time I just thought I was being busted in front of the entire class.)  “But I have faith in him.  I think he’s going to do well.”


I still don’t know what point he was making and how I figured into it because I missed the entire context.  He could so easily have embarrassed me for not paying attention (well, actually he did embarrass me by calling attention to me), but he put a positive spin on it.  What had I done that he would have faith in me?  I never found out, but that one little positive moment at a time when I was lost in the wilderness of high school; I always appreciated that.


Of course I didn’t say anything to him then (or I wouldn’t be writing this now), but I thought about it after.  From time to time, when I got older, I thought about stopping by to say something nice to him while he might still remember me, but I never got to it.  Now, so much time has passed, the opportunity has passed, and I never said the words “Thank you Mr. O’Byrne.  I think that moment made a difference in my life.”



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When we drive the bus.


It gets 7mpg.  When we drive the Jeep we get 15mpg.  Sometimes we don’t need a bus or an all-terrain vehicle.  It would be nice to have something small and fuel efficient too.


We’re looking at cars that get 35 to 40 mpg highway.  Judy went out yesterday to test drive a couple while I stayed at work.  At the very first stop, out on the test drive with a salesman, suddenly in the middle of a conversation, the salesman went chin-on-chest sound asleep.  Came-to a few minutes later thinking he was finishing a conversation but that time had passed.  Narcoleptic.  Isn’t that an odd combination?  Car salesman narcoleptic?  It’s a good thing Judy was driving!



Monday, March 25, 2013

Been to Mexico lately?



Why do you ask?






Go Broncos!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reasons to fear Canada



I see the Border Wall directly south of us and I feel so safe.  Those Mexican aren’t coming across our border to sell us guns and drugs and steal our jobs!  But then I look north; and wonder about Canada.  Where is our Northern Border Wall?  What’s to stop those Canadians from selling us guns and drugs and stealing our jobs?


Well, it didn’t take much research on the internet to discover that I’m not alone in my unfounded fears.  Consider these facts:


Ninety percent of population is massed within 100 miles of northern American border.

Seems not to mind that one of its provinces has turned almost entirely French.

Excessive politeness only makes sense as cover for something truly sinister. But what?

Citizens seem strangely impervious to cold.

Decriminalization of marijuana and acceptance of gay marriage without corresponding collapse of social institutions indicate Canada may, in fact, be indestructible.

Has infiltrated entertainment industry with singers, actors, and comedians practically indistinguishable from their American counterparts.

Consistently stays just below cultural radar yet never quite disappears.

Parliamentary government and common-law judiciary appear to function acceptably yet remain completely inscrutable.

Never had a “disco phase.”

Seemingly endless supply of timber, donuts, and Scotch-plaid hats with earflaps.

Keeps insisting it “has no designs on America” and “only wants peace.”


And if all that isn’t enough to strike fear into our hearts, what about people from Canada that aren’t even really *from* Canada.  Our German friends from Canada, the Germadians, who could even imagine what *they* might be up to?


Oh, how am I ever going to get to sleep tonight?



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our work here is done


Not really.  There is more I can do, but I’m going to do it from Texas.  It was fun to have Judy in the office on Friday though.  The Office Manager’s Office had stuff strewn all over; left abruptly.  Judy spent the day sorting and prioritizing.  It’s all neat and clean now.  She couldn’t make the whole problem go away, but maybe it’s a simpler project from here on out.  We teased that maybe that business office part of Judy’s brain had atrophied, but apparently not.  It was rewarding for Judy as well.


Overall, I enjoyed being in the office.  It was so familiar, and what a great friendly, helpful, cooperative bunch of people.  Oh, and the final problem we solved after we figured out what to do about all the Office Manager duties, was to solve the 990 preparer issue.  990s are the information returns that nonprofit organizations file in lieu of tax returns.  We hired our daughter Becky!  With all four kids in school, two of them in college, she was thinking about getting a job.  She used to do IRS Form 990s for us when Taylor was a Baby.  Taylor is now in college so things have changed a bit.  The forms are different and the software is different, but Becky can train in our office until she is ready, then do some 990s as an independent contractor from home.  Janis is doing them now, until Becky gets up to speed to take some of the load off her.  Then we’ll train Nancy, the new Office Manager to take some of the load off Janis and Becky.  With some of the Auditors doing 990s as well, we’ll have lots of capacity.


It’s still going to be a difficult two weeks for everyone at the office until the new Office Manager gets here, but things should get better after that.


So off we go.  Up at 5am Saturday; the temperature at 19 degrees, the wind at 22, mph, and it’s snowing.



We left at 6am for the airport.  Interstate 70 was snowpack all the way to Denver International Airport, but no problem.  We left ourselves plenty of time.  It took a while to get through the rental car return, but no problem, we had enough jackets on and still had time.  When we got to the terminal, we stuffed our jackets in the bags we were checking.  Baggage check wasn’t too bad.  Security didn’t take too long.  A train ride to the B Concourse.  A walk to the gate, and son of a gun, everyone else had already loaded, but the door was still open, so no problem.  Perfect timing.


Everything about the morning was right on time until they tried to push the plane back.  It was stuck in a snow bank.  The tug couldn’t get enough traction to move it.  We had to wait while they sent for some de-icer to pour on the ground so the tug could get a grip.  That worked, but then we had to go to the de-icing station.  It sounded like one of those drive-through car washes where you don’t have to get out of your car.  I didn’t get to see how that part worked, but I have this image of a guy on a cherry picker with one of those car wash wands spraying back and forth, except that he’s spraying a 757.


We were an hour behind by the time we got in the air.  We missed our 1pm connection in Houston by 8 minutes.  No problem; we found some nice people from Trinidad and Tobago to talk to while we waited.  Judy and I both got on the 3pm flight and arrived at the McAllen Airport to 100 degrees.  That was a nice 80 degree swing from what we left.


We ate a Whataburger for an early dinner then picked up Annie and Henry from doggie camp.  Home and happy; we’re glad to be back.


We’re pooped.


Friday, March 22, 2013

More photos from last weekend


Boulder Creek


Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers look alike, except for their size and bill length.  I got both of them in the same frame.


…and a photogenic Red-shafted Northern Flicker preening for his photo.






Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who's the Man?


They said they had to get my heart rate to 130 or higher to get a good nuclear scan.  153 would be the maximum for my age.  Okay then, 154 is the goal.  We spent 14 minutes on the treadmill to get me there.  They injected the marker fluid at 153.  I got all the way to 157 before they slowed down the treadmill.  It felt great.  No pain.  No blips on the EKG and blood pressure monitors.  Nothing but healthy on the nuclear scans.  This is the best stress test I’ve ever had.  I was above my calculated maximum heart rate and when they slowed down the treadmill, I still had more.  I could have kept going!  Everything about my heart looks as healthy as it possibly can.  They sent me on my way with No Restrictions and said to check back with them in two years.  Two years!  Every time before they’ve told me to come back in six months, or be careful with the chest pain and remember to take my nitroglycerine.  What a difference between then and now.  Whatever twinge I felt last Sunday, and lightheadedness last Tuesday, wasn’t my heart.  The news couldn’t have been any better.


We took a while to bask in the glow before I went back to work.  When I had my first heart issues I had four blockages, needed three stents, and was continuing to accumulate plaque fast.  It was only a year and a half until I needed the next round of stents.  They gave me a choice, basically: take a Statin drug or die.  I didn’t like the choice as presented.  I’ve taken Statin drugs and that’s not an option for me no matter the consequences.


I did some research on the internet and found there were other opinions out there about heart health.  Many people share my adverse reaction to Statin drugs like Lipitor.  I filtered through the information and misinformation.  I made my best guess.  I settled on a regimen of nutritional supplements from a company in New Zealand called XtendLife.  I take a lot of pills every day now; about 20, but none of them are prescription.  All these pills aren’t cheap, and there were no guarantees that this was going to work.  Anecdotal results, not clinical trials.


These stress test results are so spectacular because they mean I have accumulated no new plaque in the last three years!  They gave me two choices and I found a third.  The supplements I’m taking might really be working.  I might have found a long-term solution for my heart.


Wow.  We’re still stunned.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Work update


I’m here in Denver helping us get through the sudden departure of our Office Manager.  I think we’re doing well.  We’ve figured out most of what the prior Office Manager’s job was.  We hired a new Office Manager, Nancy.  She brings experience and a fresh perspective.  She should be great.  She doesn’t start until April 8th, but we’ve been doing so well keeping up with all the stuff we need to do, we should be fine until then.


In fact, we’ve been doing so well, I began to worry that maybe this wasn’t all about me anymore, so I decided to feel a little “off” on Tuesday.  I don’t want to be that guy who ignored the warning signs, so I went to our Cardiologist in Boulder for a checkup and that got all the attention focused exactly back where it should be.


The Cardiologist did an EKG and a Cardiac Enzyme blood test and declared me “normal”.  Shows what they know.  We’re going to do a treadmill cardiac stress test tomorrow as a follow-up.  You can imagine how the conversation with Judy went about that.  Mention the word “cardiac” and just try to guess how long she is going to stay in South Texas while I’m here in Colorado.  I picked her up at the airport this afternoon.  I get 24 hour supervision the rest of my time here.


We had a nice evening with Matt and Lindsay and the boys.  Judy got lucky and they fed us Pizza!  She didn’t even have to wait for me to get home to get more pizza.


Tomorrow morning it’s me against the machine.  We’ll let you know who wins.  If I win, I get to go home and back to work.  If the machine wins, it’s straight to the Cath Lab.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The evidence


Pine Grosbeak, male and female



Common Redpoll in the snow



…and Brown-capped Rosy-finch!


…with Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees


Monday, March 18, 2013



I went on an eagle quest at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  I saw lots of cool stuff, but I didn’t see any eagles.  I spent the afternoon at our daughter’s house for kids, grandkids, steak fajitas, and cheesecake.


Sunday, I went on a Rosy-finch quest.


I did my research.  Rosy-finches had been reported in the town of Ward the day before.  I’ve never seen a Rosy-finch.  They’re here in the high country in the winter and I’m not.  The town of Ward is at 9,500 feet.


I drove up Boulder Canyon.  By the time I got to Nederland it was snowing hard.  The highway turned slushy then straight to undisturbed snow pack.  I turned around and went right back into town.


I turned off the highway onto snow covered side streets and prowled for bird feeders.  I found one, parked right across the street from it, and started watching.  Nice high-country birds.  Steller’s Jays, Chickadees, a Red-breasted Nuthatche, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins, but no Rosy Finches.  Didn’t expect a Rosy finch there anyway.  Nederland is only at 8,000 feet.


Well, after an hour, the snow let up, the sun came out (a little), the highway cleared up, and off I went to Ward.


I located two different feeders I could watch from the road in Ward.  Between them I added Downy Woodpecker, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Mountain Chickadee to the list, but no Rosy-finch.  It snowed hard and the wind picked up.


I still had time, and the highway was okay, so I headed off to the Fawnbrook Inn in Allenspark.  They have a feeder there I’ve been to before.  Not much chance of a Rosy-finch though.  Allenspark is only at 8,500 feet.  I did add Hairy Woodpecker to the list and got both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches though.


Back to Ward for one more shot.  Watching a feeder through my binoculars (I had talked to both the homeowners and gotten permission.), I saw two male and one female Pine Grosbeaks!  I had only seen that bird once before, years ago.  Then a Common Redpoll popped up onto the feeder.  That bird wasn’t even on my radar.  Life bird!


And finally, last new bird of the day, a Brown-capped Rosy-finch.  I got everything I wanted and more.


A quick trip down Lefthand Canyon to Boulder.  A walk in a Boulder Mountain Park for my exercise for the day.  (It felt good to get out of the car to stretch my legs.  It was still cold and windy, but at least I was out of the snowstorm.)  Then off to my daughter’s house for another visit and some good Chinese takeout.


A very good day.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Alex update


He came in 9th at the State Gymnastics Meet in Steamboat Springs this weekend.  That’s good enough to go to the five-state Regionals in Albuquerque in April!


Go Alex!



Saturday, March 16, 2013



A visit to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.


Bison at the edge of Denver.


And a fair amount of other wildlife.












Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Capitol Hill


We decided not to be normal.  Instead of staying in a motel, we booked me into a bed and breakfast in an old mansion on Capitol Hill.  I’m 4 blocks from work.


See those four arched windows across the top on the third floor?  That’s my room.

The giant Jacuzzi is in the turret.


This is the mansion across the street.


Charming interior common areas




And my room.