Thursday, November 28, 2013


We had a lovely day, filled with the blessings of community.  Even Yotie had her fill. We are blessed with our freinds, family and freedom. Unlike much of the world's population, we are also blessed with clean water and good food.   Hardly gets better than that. From our household to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Evil Weasels

Please read this and tell everyone you know who is approaching or over 50 years old about it.

I started getting the 'free 90 day AARP memberships' in the mail before I turned 50. I'm pushing 60 and still get them about 3 or 4 times a year. Like most people who receive these, I toss it right in the trash can. I now realize what a HUGE mistake that has been. With my 'free' membership, AARP has been counting ME as one of the 20+ million that they represent. I don't want AARP to represent me because they believe in what profits AARP, which is probably nothing I embrace.  AARP was a big supporter of the current healthcare 'transition' because it will make them big money, not because it will help people over 50 years old.  WE will likely transition to being disposable humans.

So what I ask you to do and/or share with friends and family who receive these free memberships is to:
1. Open and remove the membership card.
2. Write CANCEL IMMEDIATELY in large black letters on both sides of the card.
3. on the page to send dues, write: "I prohibit AARP from representing me (and my spouse if that's on the address line) now or in the future unless I expressly send a change to this instruction. I revoke any expressed or implied past permission to represent me ( and my spouse). Remove my name from membership roles immediately. Do not contact me in any way henceforth, including mail or telephone."

4. Put both items in a new envelope addressed to Cindy Lewin, Chief Counsel, AARP, 605 E Street NW ,   Washington, DC 20049 

5. Put a stamp on it and send it. Keep a memo of the date sent.  

Think about what you wish to do with the included post-paid envelope.

Can't wait for my next 'free' membership so I can stop being an accidental AARP member and stop being one of the 20+ million, many of whom really are not members and oppose what AARP is doing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Late Monsoon Bounty

Now for something a little less controversial....
This year the monsoon was bountiful. After a good July and August -- on track for a good monsoon, September blessed us with another 5+ inches of rain.  My garden went berserk. Plants that usually bloom once in a summer bloomed again. Here are some snaps of the spectacle:


This is a Chaste tree (vitex) with either Monarch or Viceroy butterflies. Where we live, vitex usually blooms in late June. Some branches that are visible have already set seeds from the earlier blooms.

These beauties include a Maximilian daisy that was so top-heavy from blooms that it fell over! The morning glories are a freebee from some bird or Johnny-glory-seed that passed by. Salvia greggii paints the background red.

I thought these purple cone flowers (Echinacea) had died. Glad I was wrong!

The green leafy stuff behind them is Jerusalem artichoke. The deer mowed them down last spring, so they are about  a month behind on their bright yellow blossoms. I anticipate lots of edible tubers in about a month!

Last, the view from the porch. (We did a little more weeding after the photo)   Hose is from the rain barrel to the new apricot tree. Shrubby tree on the right is a Mexican Elder, which this year actually produced elderberries!  How nice!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Testing the limits of tyranny?

Or just being petty and vindictive?  I really found this 'closing'  ridiculous. (I obscured the name of the site for a variety of reasons)


The last blurry line contains threatening language about prosecution if you pass the barrier.
Speaking of the barrier, here's a close up:

This Bureau of Land Management property is in the middle of nowhere. They sell nothing. All you can do is walk around a bunch of old, decaying buildings and take photos. Oh, there is a donation box, so you could donate money to the 'upkeep' of the road and old buildings, but that's about it.
I was really shocked when I saw the extent of the 'inflict pain' philosophy.
The nearest working gas pump is more than 50 miles away. Someone had to drive 73 miles from the nearest BLM office to put up these signs and cones. At least half the drive is on slow country roads, so it took about 2 hours each way, plus the time to put everything up on the two entries -- the other one is a mirror image coming from the other direction, i.e. the other end of this half-mile long road.  The main road that passes the entry gets about 15 cars a day.  Maybe one of those cars stops here.

Heaven forbid that you walk around the remnants of a ghost town unchaperoned. Except that most of the rest of the year, every year, you are unchaperoned.  Sometimes in the summer there's a volunteer living in an RV, but they usually stay in the RV because it gets very hot outside.

Makes me scratch my pointed little head.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What "Essential" Means for a Government Job

I'm getting a little frustrated with the pundits' question about government workers re: essential or emergency essential status.  The snappy quote is "well, if they aren't essential, why don't we just fire them and solve the budget problem?"

There may be some people and jobs that could benefit from that treatment.

My experience was in the field of military installation operations support. That's a fancy name for keeping the basic services working for the groups who perform the military mission.  We had lots of 'emergency essential' and non-essential jobs. Here are a few examples:

The people who cook food for Soldiers were essential every day or Soldiers did not eat. In part this is because many military units are no longer authorized cooks, so someone else does it for them. It is much more expensive to the taxpayer to have them eat out for lunches and dinners because they get additional tax-free money called 'separate rations allowance.'

The guy who ordered the food was essential half a day each week. One week he would order the food during that half day, the next week he would receive it, inspect it and inventory it off the trucks. He had levels of certification above the cooks so he could spend taxpayer money. When he was working full time, he had other duties, like menu planning, cost reduction and facility inspection but those tasks were not essential in the emergency duty description.

The people who fix broken pipes were essential so that if a pipe broke somewhere in the 9 million square feet of buildings or 40 miles of outdoor piping, it could be fixed fast. Because of the age of some of the infrastructure, we had lots of breaks.

The engineers who design interior building remodel projects are not emergency essential. The buildings need to be remodeled in the future to prevent more expensive expenditures like unnecessary new buildings, but those projects can wait a few days or weeks.

The Chaplain is essential because he/she runs counseling and suicide-prevention services for military personnel.

The organist is not because we can have a Sunday service without organ music.

The NEPA coordinator (environmental compliance officer for future projects) is not emergency essential.
The specialists who manage the hazardous waste are essential, because the law requires proper storage and disposal regardless of the budget situation. Many of the tasks require daily inspections and short timelines with BIG fines for non-compliance.

My last position as Strategic Plans Director was non-essential in emergencies because we were concerned with plans for 1 year or more from now, and the results to see whether the organization was on track. Like any business, long term planning is not a luxury, but is also not an emergency process.

There are also some jobs you wouldn't think of as emergency essential, like child-care.  Turns out that on a military base, if there's no child-care a large number of younger Soldiers call in to stay home with their kids. Missions suffer.

It's not that these non-essential jobs don't need to be done, its that they don't need to be done continuously during an emergency.

I hope that is useful information.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Self-Observation is a skill that can be cultivated

Most of us have a rear-view mirror talent to see what we should have said at a critical time, like when the boss was accusing us of something we didn't do. I had a really Crazy Boss once that gave me a stern lecture about 'attempting to shirk my duties' when his boss directed me to do two different things on the same day, same time, but 500 miles apart. I could not delegate either assignment to a subordinate because both required knowledge that my 3 new employees did not have. When I asked his boss if the second assignment therefore relieved me of going to the one 500 miles away, she said yes.  That's what we call being properly relieved of the duty in military circles. 

Crazy Boss called it 'trying to shirk my responsibilities.'  Rather than argue with a crazy person, as I had seen the trend by then, I took some lumps I did not deserve.  That is self-observation and a response of not escalating a bad situation.  Instead, I waited a few days and spoke with the Crazy Boss's boss, 'apologized' and clarified to be sure she did not see my request to clarify relief as 'shirking my duties.'  She was stunned by the question. I briefly related what happened and the ranting reprimand by my direct Crazy Boss. She then shared with me that she, too, had seen the erratic behavior and was working on a solution. She asked me to 'hang in there' and it would be fixed.  It was and did not affect my performance record.

By observing myself, my reactions and managing my behavior, real-time, I avoided a situation that could have gotten me fired. I saw myself getting angry and frustrated with Crazy Boss. I stifled the desire to argue with him, which likely would have resulted in a reprimand for insubordination. I took some crap I did not deserve, but was stronger for it in the long run. Turns out the man was in the early stages of dementia and was expressing a lot of confusion and anger in the workplace.  He couldn't direct it toward his boss, so I was the target du jour. He retired soon after.

That, in a nutshell is an example of basic self-observation.  It is the ability to dispassionately observe yourself, how you are feeling, and decide how to react to both.  Freed from the shackles of blindly acting on our emotions, things change.  Here are a couple of websites that provide more info about the skill: One from Penn State and this more esoteric one. 

As I learned self-observation skills, I had some references to help identify my emotions. A great one is  The Passions (1983 version) by  Robert Solomon.  Chapter 11 is about 90 pages clearly describing a number of emotions (and strategies on responding or overcoming those emotions) in a way that you can catalogue your feelings.  Please note, this is not about wallowing in your emotions. The process of self-observation helps you do the opposite: see what you are feeling or what is motivating your behavior and making a conscious decision about whether that is likely to accomplish your goals in the interaction.  It enabled me to observe and say things to myself like "this is me getting really angry" or "I am so sad I want to cry."  I then could choose whether to show anger or cry, or say to myself that those actions are not appropriate to the situation and behave differently.  It is a tool that can enhance your self-discipline and effectiveness.

One of the first times I practiced this in real life was when I needed help from a dreaded customer support telecenter. When I was finally answered, I very calmly told the service rep that I was an irate customer and wanted to speak to a supervisor. She actually put me right though and the supervisor made things right.

Have you ever experience a situation when some one's reaction to a situation is inappropriate or really not proportional to whatever just happened? It is often from unresolved, pent-up emotion from some situation in the past where the person was hurt or wronged.  This energy is unleashed inappropriately and automatically into an unrelated situation.  It is difficult to refrain from reacting to that outburst and escalating the situation. Self-observation can help you reduce the energy and diffuse the interaction. You can learn and understand if you are doing the same thing and start to avoid the negative responses that leave both parties wondering what the heck just happened.  I have seen the technique, when used in coaching married couples, bring the couple back from the brink of divorce.

One way to start learning to self-observe is to stop yourself periodically using a timer or alarm. When it goes off, stop to jot down how your are feeling at the moment. Once that gets easier, add how you are behaving or acting and whether your observed emotion is influencing your actions or behavior. Last step is whether those actions are appropriate to the situation. Repetition of these steps will help make them automatic skill behaviors, like catching a ball.

You will need to be persistent to learn this skill, and it may never come completely naturally. Just as we make ourselves go to work or eat our vegies, just know it is something that's worth the effort.

One additional bit of wisdom gained from growing older and using these skills is that compassion does not always appear to be kindness.  It is providing appropriate help for someone who needs it, and who needs to grow. Sometimes compassion can look like being a jerk, like not giving a drunken alcoholic another drink or not loaning a chronic gambler the money to 'pay the rent.'  Sometimes someone needs to suffer through a problem of their own making for them to learn and grow.

As an aside, some of these websites reference eastern mystics or non-Christian religions. I have practiced these skills for about 20 years and find that they enhance my ability to live a more Christian life and be more charitable when needed. They do not detract from or contradict my faith at all, and have enhanced it.  For Christians, learning not to be ruled by your emotions is another potential skill toward allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your actions if you so desire.  For everyone, the skill can be valuable.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I'm confused

Is there something odd about a President that is willing to negotiate with Iran but not with his own Congress, or is it just me?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today's "Something New"

I'm a firm believer in the old ' learn something new every day."  I figure that if I pay attention and commit it to memory, I can the go play on the computer!! Today's was so useful I thought I'd share with any of you who have allergy problems.

My allergies have long been horrible -- to the point of managing around them during parts of the year. I vacuum often, wash the bedspread once or twice a week, etc.  I stopped taking the desensitization shots about 5 years ago because of work conflicts, and am back a square one with suffering.

Over the last several weeks, I thought I was losing a tooth -- one that was crowned about 2 years ago. Not happy about that at all and the discomfort was really annoying. Went to the dentist's office, got X-rayed, etc.  No problem with any of the teeth near the pain area.  It continued to bother me so much that I actually got a second dental opinion. Same results, EXCEPT this second dentist understands physiology!  He asked about what I'm taking for my allergies and I told him which antihistamine.

He advised that I also need to take a decongestant if I start having dental pain during allergy season.  Seems the action of the decongestant reduces the swelling deep in the recesses of your sinuses and Eustachian tubes, etc. When these tissues are swollen, it can result in pressure on nerves or ligaments in the area and feels like -- dull toothache pain!

I bought some 30 mg Sudafed (which required lots of personal information being surrendered), took one, and am actually starting to get some relief!

Ya' learn something new every day!