Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classes...



...start tomorrow and go until almost Christmas.  Hard to believe that we will start when it is going to be 93 in Denver today and probably end in a blizzard in December.  Such is life in paradise.  I have nearly 50 students as of today but will end up with many more by the end of the week.  Eighteen year olds on their own for the first time in their life are not too organized.  I have also had my first "Professor Lindstrom I will not be in class this week" phone call.  I think that it is great that parents have taught their kids to be responsible and to let people know when they are not going to be somewhere.  Of course that young man has not heard my "first day of class" lecture.  I specifically tell my students that I do not want them to call me and let me know about their cold, their breakup with their girlfriend, their hangover or anything else that does not have to do with class.  I end up spending an inordinate amount of time answering e mails about a certain malady or returning phone calls about how their car broke down in Denver.  I really do not care.  You are either in class or you are not in class.  If you are there then I mark you present.  If you are not there I mark you absent.  I only have enough room on the roster for a check mark and not a detailed description about the battery that went dead on the student's car.  I know that they believe that if they give me an excuse then they are somehow excused.  There are no excused absences.  Either you are there or you are not there.  I consider it practice for the real world.  I have had as many as 500 employees in the past.  If they came to work they got paid.  If they did not come to work then they did not get paid.  Such is life.  Teaching is not a profession.  Teaching is a calling.  It is so hard to be a teacher and a mother at the same time.  I know that they will always remember me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Journalism..



...is fast becoming a lost art or at least a different art.  The University of Colorado is closing their School of Journalism and Mass Media  and I just got a news feed that USA Today is cutting back and going to more digital media.  I started writing about this a couple of years ago much to the chagrin of the newspaper I was writing for at the time.  It is almost like knowing that someone is going to die and then not having any class and talking about it to everyone.  Well, here goes.  Print media is going to die and there is nothing that anyone can do about it.  Change causes conflict and conflict causes change.  I think the hard part is watching it die.  It would be so much easier if it were ending overnight.  All at once.  No pain.  No agony.  

I remember when I got three newspapers delivered to my house and several magazines in the mail.  No more.  Now all I get are those irritating political mailings.  I have not even had a phone for many years.  I just use my cell phone and never get any calls from politicians or telephone solicitors.  Never.  So very nice.  Now when the mail comes I can just take all of it and put it in recycling without even reading anything.  If my phone rings I know that it is someone I want to talk to rather than some person who wants my vote.  When I was running for Colorado State Representative and for Colorado Governor I actually had people threaten me because they were getting Robo-calls at home from my campaign.  I hated that but they were created and funded by some group I had never contracted with.  Such bliss not to get Robo-calls.  Such bliss not to have to deal with recycling three daily papers.  Such bliss not having to get rid of a bunch of magazines that I never read.  I guess that I am truly blessed to have lived at this time in history. Hooray.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Retired...



...is just a word for nothing left to do.  I retired from the Summit County Sheriff's Office in 1992.  I retired as Summit County Director of Public Safety and Summit County Coroner in 1995.  I retired as Summit County Commissioner in 2004.  I retired as Colorado State Representative in 2007.  Now I am just tired.  I continue to teach full time at Colorado Mountain College where I have taught for the past twenty seven years, since 1983.  I started teaching at Metro State College in Denver in 1970 so I guess it is really forty years off and on.  I have lived in Europe, Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador.  I have spent a lot of time in the retirement havens of Florida, Arizona and California.  I spent my first eighteen years in a small farming community in Iowa.  I just celebrated my 50th High School reunion in Iowa.  Everyone I know is either retired or getting ready to retire.  People ask me almost daily when and if I will now finally retire.  I doubt it.  I love teaching.  If I thought that there was any place better than the mountains of Colorado then I would leave and go there.  Nope.  I am here to stay.  Someday they will have to pry my cold, dead hand from my snow shovel and that is the day that I will actually retire.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mission...



...accomplished rang in my ears this morning as I listened to the BBC's John Simpson's interview with General David Petraeus.  Petraeus said that the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan has turned in favor of the allies and that they are on the run.  This followed a statement by Simpson that rumor had it that the Taliban was winning.  Petraeus in my mind was standing on the deck of a ship with a banner saying, "Mission Accomplished" as did former President George W. Bush many years ago about the victory in Iraq.  George W. Bush was so very wrong as he was so much of the time.  My only wish is that Petraeus will be right.  I really like General Petraeus but then again I also liked General McChrystal so what do I know?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

News...



...that the United States military personnel are now leaving Iraq was the lead story this morning.  As they were going back the way they came through Kuwait another story was hidden in the midst of the hoopla.  An American soldier was killed outside of Baghdad this morning.  I think the pullout is a photo opportunity rather than the real thing.  We are going to be leaving many troops in Iraq under the guise of training the Iraqi army and police.  Amazing.  That is what we have been doing for the past seven years and apparently we were not successful.  World War II ended 65 years ago and we still have troops stationed in Germany and Japan.  Looks like we will be in Iraq for a long time too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eerie...


...is one way to explain this week. I am off for two weeks for semester break which is nice. Of course that gives me an extraordinary amount of time to do "my things." "My things" are those things that I always do alone in my spare time. It involves riding my bike, running and going for long walks in the woods. Lately I have also included photographing wildflowers. Of course the college, knowing that we have a lot of free time, has scheduled three meetings during these two weeks. On Wednesday we had a staff meeting, today I am going to the Rifle campus for an in-service training and next week there is a "back to school" faculty meeting. "Work expands to fill the time allotted." If I have the time then someone will fill that time. Back to eerie. The eerie part is the lack of people on the Recreation Path. Eerie is the lack of traffic on the highway. Eerie are the empty stores after being jam packed for three months. Eerie is so very nice. Nice for "my time."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bears...







...are getting ready to hibernate.  We have had early morning low temperatures below freezing for about a week.  Winter is coming and the cold temperatures are a sure fire indicator that the bears are getting ready to hibernate.  Yesterday was trash day in my subdivision and the bears had a heyday with the trash that people put out overnight.  It happens every year.  I never blame the bears because they are just trying to eat enough for the winter.  The homeowners should know better but they don't for some strange reason.  They forget that we live in the bear's habitat and not the opposite.  I also think this has been a strange year for bears.  A good friend who lives in the Bekkendahl near Breckenridge has been dealing with some bears all summer.  They do not want to call the Division of Wildlife because the bears might be put down as a nuisance.  They would rather put up with the turmoil rather than see a bear killed.  I can't blame them.  Here in Colorado we had a bear get into a car and not be able to get out.  The car actually rolled away with the bear inside.  In the town of Blue River south of Breckenridge a few years ago bears were getting into homes and actually opening refrigerators to get food.  The same year a bear ripped two doors off of a locked Suburban to get to the groceries left inside in Mesa Cortina.  There have been two deaths in Montana and Wyoming recently from Grizzly bears.  I have carefully researched both incidents and I can't find a reason for the bear's behavior.  Even the wildlife biologists are baffled.  I have lived here for forty years and do not have a clue as to what is going on with the bears.  I used to think that this was normal behavior and that the increase in reports was a result of increases in population and development encroaching on bear habitat.  I no longer believe that.  Frankly I do not know what to believe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mystery...




..flower has been identified. It is a Dianthus Barbatus. It is in fact not a wildflower but a hybrid that local growers put in their flower beds.  I found it in the woods but someone must have accidentally dropped the seed along the path or possibly planted it just to see if it would grow.  I went back yesterday to take some more photos and some idiot had picked it.  Allah will chop off the hand of anyone who picks a wildflower.  Would this qualify for a hand chopping?  Not if it is not a wildflower.  You can buy it in the store so it is not a rarity of nature.  Through about ten people and finally ending up on Peak 7 near my home, the flower that I found recently that no one could name has been identified. A good friend Becky English in Denver suggested I contact another mutual friend Maggie Pederson in Glenwood Springs and she put her contacts in gear and the person answering the question lives about two miles from my house.  Talk about a circuitous route. Here is the definition and name according to a local plant grower.

"This species is indeed a lovely plant.  It would be nice to add it to a Colorado wildflower collection.  However, it appears to be Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and it is not native to Colorado.  I am attaching a photo I took of one of my garden-grown Sweet Williams along with a cropped section of Gary Lindstrom's photo and a cropped section of my photo.  In the two small photos, you can see the similarity in the hook-like style coming out of the center of the flower.  Other identifying characteristics are the contrasting ring near the center of the flower, the "pinked" petals (as though their edges have been serrated with pinking shears), the five, very broad petals, the clustered arrangement of the flowers and the strong rose color."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Running...



...is an addiction.  Something about the endorphins.  I did finals last week and about the same time it stopped raining here.  Last Thursday it rained all day and I was only able to get in a four mile bike ride.  Not much work when you have wheels under you. I prefer the pounding of my feet on the trail.  I have even tried the latest fad which is probably prehistoric.  Running barefoot.  It is supposed to be better exercise as you take shorter steps and hence work harder.  Time will tell.  Yesterday I ran four miles into the woods on a flat course.  Later I ran four miles up hill.  Two up and two down.  Like those downs.  And then the regular four miles on the bike.  My daughter and her fiancĂ© came to the mountains and we went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday's.  I did the salad bar and had gained two pounds when I weighed this morning.  Can't win for losing.  Maybe today I need to double up on my running?  Maybe today I need to cut the food at the salad bar in half?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We...



...the people has taken on a whole new meaning for some of the people.  The constitution guarantees freedom of religion but some think that does not include Muslims.  The constitution guarantees equality except for people who want same sex marriages.  Some people think that you can "cherry pick" the things in the constitution that you agree with or that you like and then disregard everything else.  The constitution protects all of the people and not just the people you happen to agree with.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Twenty...






...eight degrees at my house this morning.  On NPR they said the low temperature anywhere in the United States was somewhere in Idaho and was around 40 degrees.  I guess I need to become an official weather station.  A recent phenomenon now has many electronic weather stations all over Summit County and they report directly to the Internet.  I monitor a few of them and they seem to be very accurate.  We do have two official weather stations here.  Rick Bly runs one in Breckenridge and the Denver Water Board has one at their caretaker house on the north side of the Dillon Reservoir.  There is an interesting thing that happens here in the early morning.  Cold air drops to the bottom of the valley and warmer air goes up.  It is likely to be warmer at 14,000 feet than here in the valley at 9600 feet.  It is called "the sink effect" and is very large in the winter in the San Luis Valley around Alamosa.  It gets very cold down there.  So cold that I remember leaving my car running all night long because it would not start in the morning if I shut it off.  Even with the new very cold mornings we are all looking forward to the very best part of the year, September and October, when the nights are cold and the days are just right.  Also, the tourists are not aware of how nice it is and they have gone home for the year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Skywatchers...



,,,could be in for "fantastic views" over the next two days as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak."   What a wonderful sight this morning as I opened my blinds around 3 am.  The sky has never been clearer and each and every meteor was exceptionally clear as they shot across the sky.  I have never seen anything so spectacular.  It was as if it was the Fourth of July on an early August morning.  At 9600 feet and one hundred miles from Denver there was little if any ambient light to interfere with the show.  What light there was simply highlighted the darkness and created a contrast to the night sky.  I can only imagine what it must be like in the space station to watch a meteor shower and to only fantasize about traveling to stars that are so very far off in the dark sky.  What a wonderful universe we have been given to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

School...






...started last week on August 2 in many of the larger school districts in Colorado.  I guess that summer if over and I did not have time to enjoy it yet.  There is a noticeable reduction in the amount of vehicle traffic in our resort community.  Less free time with the children equals less free time in the mountains.  It happens every year but this year is seems so very early.  School goes into the month of June and now takes up much of August.  That only leaves the month of July as a month free of school.  The state law here and in most states mandates 180 days in the classroom each school year.  So why the difference.  I can only surmise that it has something to do with the various breaks during the school year.  There is a fall break followed by the Christmas/New Year break followed by the winter break and ending with the traditional spring break.  That is a total of four or five full weeks off during the school year.  I remember growing up in Iowa when school started the day after Labor Day in September and ended around the last week of May.  That gave use June, July and August off.  The entirety of those three months off.  We were told then that the school year was designed around the farming schedule.  Not sure that was true but it always sounded good.  But who am I to complain.  My youngest child will turn 30 this year and my oldest is 46.  I guess all I can do is keep track of the traffic and notice if it changes with the school schedule.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rivers...



...meander.  As I drove through western Iowa these past few days I was reminded that water is not an asset in Iowa the way it is in Colorado.  We try to put water on our ground and in Iowa they try to remove water from their ground.  My sister and I paid a fee to remove water from our farm and put it into a ditch that eventually ran into the Raccoon River and to the Des Moines River and then to the might Mississippi River.  I went from hither to yon, mostly yon, in these past few days and would cross the Raccoon River twenty times in a few miles.  The roads in Iowa all run either north and south or east and west while the rivers know no limits.  Further west the meandering river becomes the Boyer River that empties into the Missouri River near Omaha and Council Bluffs.  Millions of gallons of water that are all bid good riddance as they find their way to the Gulf of Mexico only to be polluted by the oil from BP's well.  Somehow there is no justice for Colorado or for Iowa

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unemployment...



...is a terrible thing.  I have been unemployed a few times. I have never collected unemployment benefits because I found a job before the benefits would become active.  But now that we are in the worst recession since the great depression I am seeing more and more of my friends unemployed.  A few years ago one of our local fire chiefs was fired.  The following day I saw him collecting shopping carts in the parking lot of Safeway.  He hit the ground running and took a job, any job, immediately.  He did not sit around whining about being fired.  He did not blame the president of the United States or politicians.  He got up that morning and went to Safeway and got a job collecting shopping carts in the parking lot.  He was making six figures as a fire chief and he was making minimum wage at Safeway.  That did not stop him from working.  He just went to work.  The other day I was in Wal Mart and I ran into a former local police chief stocking shelves as a stock clerk.  He did not let his ego or his pride get in the way of working.  He wanted to work.  He needed money.  He applied as a stock clerk and went to work right away.  The former fire chief and the former police chief both took jobs that were highly visible in the community but that did not stop them.  They both had a higher calling and that was to work.  To contribute to our local work force and to make some money in the meantime.  I worked construction for about four years back in the 1970s and early 80s.  Once after my construction job finished I went to work as a bill collector at a collection agency in Boulder for minimum wage.  I am not sure that my salary eve covered my gas money for the commute.  In another situation I finished a major construction project where  I was making well into the six figure range and I went to work as a clerk in a small convenience store for around $3.00 an hour.  The money was not the issue.  Working was.  My self esteem was.  The funny thing was that I really enjoyed that job.  I was truly part of the community and doing something important for my customers.  I also was driving one of the biggest Cadillac Eldorado's they ever made and was wearing a two carat diamond pinky ring.   The car was parked outside and the ring remained on my finger.  Everyone thought that I owned the store and was not an employee.  When they would ask I would tell them the truth but most could not believe that I would ever work as a convenience store clerk with my work history and my educational background.  That was not the issue.  Everyone needs to feel valuable.  You do not feel valuable sitting at home on the couch feeling sorry for yourself.  My advice to any and all of you who are not working is to go down to the local grocery store or big box store and apply for the lowest paying job in the place.  You will not believe how good that will make you feel.  In Proverbs it says that Pride comes before a fall.  Put aside your pride and go to work today.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Retirement...



...is a concept that is sometimes hard to explain.  My students asked me why the money in the Social Security fund is going to run out soon.  I went on to explain about Social Security replacement plans and how I had been on other retirement plans for most of my life and therefore did not contribute to Social Security.  The other issue is that the government has been taking money from the fund to pay for running the government.  When FDR created social security it was going to be a great thing and insure retirement for all of us.  That is no longer true.  Another issue is that our population is actually decreasing.  The baby boom was from 1945 to 1964 and since then we have not had any increases in our population. In fact if it was not for the illegal foreign workers (right now at about 12 million)  we would have had a huge decrease in our population.  Less population equals less people contributing to the plan.  I told them about  Iowa when I was growing up that we had a county farm.  Farmers would sign their farms over to the county and then move to the county farm to retire.  It gave them a place to live and it allowed them to continue to work in a farming environment.  Total security for the rest of their life.  It was located in the local community so the residents could continue their local relationships.  The same community along with their life long church and friendships. In my community in Iowa they now have an assisted living facility, Sunny View, where people can remain near home in their final years.  A few miles away is Friendship Haven where people can retire in a much larger community. The question I could not answer for my students was what would the government the state and local government do with the thousands of people who will retire soon and not have any social security income.  When I tried to explain 401K plans, IRAs and Keogh plans I got a blank stare.  The students and apparently not their parents have given any of that any thought.  As a side note we were talking about how there is an excessive number of housing units today.  Housing that cannot be sold and some think will never be sold.  If that continues maybe the government could buy those homes and give them to retirees.  A very prominent economist yesterday said that the housing market will not correct itself for at least ten years.  Banks were set up to sell financing and mortgages and not to own homes and to manage property.  What a dilemma.  Just start planning today because you will not be able to rely on Social Security tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rain...



...last night made a lot of noise as it hit the sheet metal surrounding my two fireplaces, hot water tank and furnace.  It is a comforting sound late at night or early in the morning.  When you live alone the sounds of the weather reassure me that all is well with the world.  The snow is falling for our resort industry and the rain is falling to replenish the reservoir for the farmers.  Another part of the cycle of life in the high country at 9600 feet.  I am constantly reminded that many people live in this place because of the weather.  It is never boring and it is constantly changing.  The very most common subject of conversation is always the weather even when there is no weather to talk about.  Let's talk about how it has not snowed.  Then again we can talk about how it has not rained.  Talking about something that has not happened.  Aren't people funny?

Monday, August 2, 2010

When...



...I went into the Air Force in May of 1960 my pay was $50 a month.  After basic training it went up to $60 a month.  At the end of four years and as an E-4 Airman First Class I was making $160 a month.  I was married with one child.  I did not get per diem and I did not get a housing allowance.  I saw this morning that it is costing us $1.2 million to keep on soldier in Afghanistan for one year.  Yes, you read it right.  $1.2 Million for one soldier for one year.  My how things have changed.  Maybe we should rethink the cost of that war not even counting all of the dead bodies.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

God...



...Bless Johnny Cash reads a bumper sticker a friend gave me recently from the Waterloo bar and grill in Louisville, Colorado.  Louisville is pronounced Louis-ville and not looee-ville as in Kentucky.  The Waterloo bar and grill is said to be an arm of a place in Austin, Texas.  That is Tex-ass as if you did not already know that.  Actually,  Austin is not really in Texas as they have a whole different set of rules in Austin as compared to Texas which has the dubious honor of having the greatest number of executions in the nation.  Over half of the executions occur in Texas.  Nearly most of the other half occur in Florida.  Go south young criminal.  Go south.  Anyway, back to Johnny Cash.  I actually saw him twice live in performance in my life.  Once in Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1958 and the other time in 1967 in New York City at Madison Square Garden along with the Statler Brothers.  In Fort Dodge I actually stood next to him for a couple of minutes before he went on stage.  I could count the hairs in his ear.  That is how close I was.  In New York I was so far away I could hardly tell who was on stage.  In 1972 I threw away about 200 vinyl LPs because I was tired of carrying them around.  That pile included every record Johnny Cash and Elvis had produced up to that point.  I think about that often.  Johnny Cash is dead.  Elvis is dead.  I am alive left with only my memories and a bumper sticker from the Waterloo Bar and Grill in Louis-ville, Colorado.  I did not even get a kiss or a hug.