Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Engineering 411

I do not know if any of my loyal readers are graduates of M.I.T. or any other fine engineering school.  (I myself am largely self-taught as a mechanical engineer, yet I do not denigrate the path of those who felt the need for mentoring).   If you are an engineer, you might learn something from me today.  If you are merely a member of the general public, you still might learn something, provided the subject is not way over your head.

First, some family history:  my maternal grandfather on my mother’s side was a civil engineer who worked for Union Pacific Railroad (as distinguished from a locomotive engineer who operates trains and probably has much more fun).    Like me, he did not go to engineering school, nor to college of any sort, going directly to work after graduating from high school.   One day at church, a man who knew my grampa at U.P., came up to me and asked whether I knew that the man who replaced my grampa had a Ph.D.

So, apparently I have engineering genes so strong that actual coursework is unnecessary.  And that brings me to the topic of the day.  I put together TWO home projects in ONE week.

My ever confident wife, Miss Sugar, purchased two items which each came in a box clearly labeled “Assembly Required.”

One of the projects was a fire pit from Home Depot.  It is no longer in the box.  It is actually assembled.  You should have seen me.  Anyway, we have had four successful fires.  Grampa would be proud.

The other project was a bird bath.  There were six, waddayacallem, yea, bolts, and just as many, you know what I mean, nuts.  I won’t explain the entire process.  All you need to know is that the finished product is already in use.  Charlie Sheen and I call that WINNING!

If you, loyal readers, ever have any home improvement projects, now or in the future, simply call my toll free number for expert assistance over the phone.

I will let you know when the number is working.  I have delegated that to Miss Sugar.

Gender Inequality and Numerology

During my childhood, I did not realize how unfair it was of God, I suppose, to allow unequal gender distribution in our family.  I felt secure and loved for several decades, but now I wonder whether I have been a victim in some manner, so I am writing this to see if there is some organization for people like me and, more importantly, if there is a compensation fund or government program to make it up to me.

Now that I have your attention, as well as anticipated sympathy, I will explain the situation.  It is really a mere census report rather than a sociological, psychological, or biological study.  I leave interpretation to the experts.

Do I still have your attention?

Bated breath?

Okay, here goes:  My paternal (i.e. father’s} parents had grandchildren of the following, i.e., hereinafter,  birth order and gender identification designations:

One granddaughter, Ten consecutive grandsons, and then my sister, who we shall label as the Second granddaughter and, simultaneously, Twelfth grand child.

Let’s focus on me, me, me for awhile.  Let us consider my particular location in the family tree of the family previously referred to herein-above-described as the  paternal side of my family as referenced in the paragraph preceding the paragraph immediately prior to this very paragraph.

I was the tenth of ten grandsons.

I feel special.

I was also the eleventh of twelve grandchildren.  It was a coincidence that no one noticed until it dawned on me as a write this, but get ready for a sleepless night:  I was assigned and wore jersey number 11 on a Y.M.C.A. basketball team.  How did Coach Lawrence know?

Think about it.  There are things we can never fully understand.

KarenAndAlAtCrossCreekRanch

 

Show Time

You know that awkward feeling when you ask if someone is going to a party that you will be attending and the person you asked tells you that he or she was not invited?

Out of kindness, I suppose, I have not told my wife, a former model and television actress, that I am being contacted on a daily basis by Casting 360, which has modeling gigs, acting jobs, and movie extra work for me.

I am not certain how this agency discovered me.  Perhaps this very blog site attracted their attention.  I imagine that some folks at Casting 360 have been ogling photos of me posted on this site.  I am surprised that they did not respond as positively to the many photos of the photogenic Miss Sugar also on this site.  So maybe I was discovered in another manner.  Sometimes, as I walk down the street, I notice people noticing me.  They never come right out and tell me how good-looking they think I am, but I can see it in their eyes.  Probably some of those admiring eyes work for Casting 360.  It is hard to say.

Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Casting 360 is desperately trying to recruit me.  All I have to do is pay $7.99 a month for them to send me notifications about the jobs they have for me.

That is a good deal.  My first movie job should more that pay for it.

That is when I will tell Miss Sugar.  She might notice my absence when I have to travel to the movie set.  For $7.99, I could use my connections to bring her back into the family business — show biz.    If you, gentle readers, also want to try show biz, simply send me your credit card information, Social Security number, and a portfolio of photos.  I will see what I can do for you.

I can’t make any guarantees, however.  Modeling and show biz are very competitive.  Good looks are all that count.  Some of us have it, some of us (present company excluded) don’t.   You know who you are.

Springtime in the Rockies

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Two days ago, when I left for work at 6 a.m., it was snowing.  Two hours later, my wife reported that we lost our electricity.  When we lose electricity at the ranch, we also have no water because we have a well and the pump requires electricity.  Of course, we were not the only folks experiencing an outage.  It was widespread.  Because it is late May, and we had 80 degree weather a few days ago, the snow was wet and heavy, and the wet snow broke many tree branches and, apparently, power lines and even poles.

We have a backup generator.  Unfortunately, it requires gasoline and pulling a cord to start it.  Miss Sugar tried to start the generator but was unsuccessful.  So, she wisely left before the snow got worse.  She was smart to do that because shortly afterwards the highway was closed behind her.

Sugar booked a bed and breakfast in town, where we stayed the past two nights.  This morning we came home.  The highway was open, our road was plowed, so we made it back okay.  Our own unplowed lane was tough to navigate, but we made it to the house.

We called some friends who live a couple miles away.  The have been snowed in since Thursday.  They  endured the loss of electricity.  They had groceries.

We now have electricity.  The pasture will be green from all the moisture.   I shoveled off the steps and hot tub.  No one feels sorry for someone with a hot tub.

Life is good.

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Do You Want Cheese With That Pizza?

Miss Sugar and I visited a car dealership, where we met an interesting sales person, who was very entertaining.

He is, he told us, 47 years old and does not run out to nab prospects “like the young spider monkeys” who are also part of the sales team.

We asked about a certain vehicle, a Lexus RX350.  Miss Sugar said she would like leather seats.  I said that I think all Lexuses (Lexi?) come with leather seats.

The car salesman confirmed my assumption.  He said, “When you order a pizza, you get crust and cheese without the cheese counting as an extra.  You don’t have to order cheese, but you might have to pay extra for sausage.”

This was a fitting analogy because the salesman has a very Italian name.  Sugar understood immediately because her father is Italian.

I just liked being right.

Dog Park Disaster

So, as a favor to our dogs, my kind wife, Miss Sugar, took them to a dog park.  Because we live on a ranch, those who know us might wonder why our dogs, who have their own river, would be candidates for visiting a dog park.  Well, it is because we had been away from the home place.  We have been camping and, while camping, we have kept our dogs tied up so as to not bother our fellow campers.   So, as I said, Sugar took them to a dog park.

As a preface to describing what happened at the dog park, I will educate those of you who are unfamiliar with what constitutes a dog park.  Note carefully that dog parks are enclosed areas in which unleashed dogs can run and play and fetch, etc.  Emphasis in this definition is on the term “enclosed.”  This is important for obvious containment reasons.

So, as I was saying, Sugar took our two dogs, who are Labrador Retrievers, to a  dog park.  This was the first visit for Beau.  It did not go as planned.  It was a surprise to Sugar that someone left the park without closing a gate, thus failing to, you know, maintain closure of the enclosure, a fact that did not escape Beau’s attention.  He saw his chance to escape and did indeed escape, much to the dismay of sweet Miss Sugar, who watched Beau take his leave.

Now, many dog owners are thinking, I bet, that Sugar should have called her (notice I do not say our} dog.  Those are people who have dogs who come when called.  Beau is not in that category.  Beau only comes when he wants to come.  He wants to come only when there is nothing better to do.  On this occasion, there was, in his opinion, something better to do.  He explored an area new to him.

Sugar cried.  She and Sadie had to leave the dog park to get in the car to try to catch up with Beau.

It took an hour.  She was sad as she worried.  She was relieved to find him.  She was angry that she had to.

Born This Way

Baby puppies and kitties do not run around right away.  Baby horses do.  It is funny to watch a one-day old foal run and buck.  It can have no memory beyond yesterday.  What is it thinking?

foal

I suppose a difference between dogs and horses is that dogs are predators and horses are prey.  As prey, they must immediately be capable of fleeing danger.

But mostly, foals play.

I don’t know what is going through their minds, but it sure looks like it would be fun to be a foal.

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What they can’t imagine is that when they grow up the real fun begins.

 

The Least of These

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply,Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 10: 35-40

Nowadays they are called behavioral health facilities.  Formerly, they were known as mental hospitals.  I have been leading some “groups” at one.  The groups are on a different topic every day, such as “Asking for Help,” and “Healing from Anger.”

Some of the patients are very depressed.  Some of them have made suicide attempts. Some are bi-polar.  Some are psychotic, hearing voices and seeing things that others do not.  Some have dementia.  Some have post-traumatic stress disorder.  Some are addicts.  All are God’s children.  All, at one time at least, had parents.  Some, at one time, were accomplished people.  Some have dealt with mental illness their entire lives.

Often, one or more thank me for what I said in group.  You, Dear Readers, might be thinking that I am doing something kind for “the least of these.”  But I am going to tell you a secret.

These patients, all of whom have suffered, can display great wisdom.  These patients, all of whom have suffered, display great empathy for one another, almost without exception.  And when they share their wisdom with me and the rest of us in the groups, and when they show empathy for one another, and when they appreciate my contribution, then I am blessed by us being in each other’s lives.

The secret is this:  I am one of the least of these too.  And there is another secret: So are you.  I think, at times at least, we all need help and we all need empathy and we all need to heal.  All are sinners who have fallen short.  We all may be counted among “the least of these.”

March Madness on the Ranch

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With the lack of moisture and high winds, there are frequent warnings about fire danger.  So frequent are those warnings that one must be an idiot to light a fire in these conditions.

So when I put trash in the burn barrel, I was aware that idiots should not do what I was about to do.  As a special person who is not a member of the general public to which the frequent warnings were directed, I wisely checked the wind and determined that there was not much of it.  Therefore, I took matters into my own hands and lit the tissue paper from the waste basket from the bathroom.  As expected, the tissue paper ignited immediately.

Having successfully started the fire within the safe confines of the burn barrel, I took the waste basket back into the house.  There I went to the other bathroom and picked up another waste basket.  Then I heard the loud pop.

I looked out the window and saw that the grass next to the burn barrel was burning.  An aerosol can had exploded and landed on the ground.  It was a hairspray can which my wife had foolishly placed in the bathroom waste basket without warning me that I should not put it in the burn barrel.  What was she thinking?

Anyhoo, as a result of my wife’s utter carelessness, the grass fire spread quickly, beyond the reach of the hose I had heroically stretched to spray water as far as I could.  So, with great embarrassment, I reluctantly called 911.

“What is the nature of your emergency?” I was asked.

“A grass fire,” I explained, deciding not to tell the dispatcher that it was all my wife’s fault.  The investigators would see the hairspray bottle and determine that it was clearly not mine.  Ergo, it could not be my fault.  Fortunately for my wife, she was not home.  I determined that I would simply tell those investigators that she was a fugitive and they would never be able to catch her.  I would keep them busy while Miss Texas made her getaway.  It is my job to protect her.  She could count on me.

In the meantime, before the firefighters arrived, and before the criminal investigators arrived, I bravely filled buckets with water and kept trying to stop the progress of the fire.  While I was so engaged in that task, a nice man stopped by and pitched in.

Eventually, the professionals arrived and got the fire under control.  The nice deputy sheriff did not give me a citation because he recognized that it was “clearly an accident.”  He did not even ask about the whereabouts of my wife.  I imagined how grateful she would or should be for my success in clearing her name.

While on this streak of righteousness, I decided to text my wife at work to inform her in advance that I had found a clever way to clear that old dry grass out of our yard and beyond.  I decided that she would likely notice the 3 acres of black grass when she returned, so, like George Washington before me, I took responsibility for burning down the cherry tree.

Actually, the fire stopped at the banks of the irrigation ditch and did not reach the trees on the other side.  God protected us because the wind (the slight wind, I mean) blew the fire away from the house.  The firemen protected us. And I protected Miss Texas.  I am no snitch.

I just hope that she learned her lesson.  It could have really been bad.

Getting Back on the Horse

I confess that I have been bucked off many horses, many times.  I have been bucked off other things as well.

There is a saying that gives me some comfort.  “Ain’t a horse that can’t be rode; ain’t a cowboy can’t be throwed.”

Unless it is a bronc at a rodeo, who bucks for a living, and you are not allowed to get back on, there are two important reasons to get back on after being bucked off.

One reason is very simple.   If you don’t get back on, the horse won and will think that it can get you off whenever it wants.  So, for training purposes, and for the horse’s own good, you want it to learn that it can’t get away with it.  You want it to learn that you are boss; that you are in control.

The second reason to get back on is for your own good, for your self esteem, I guess, to not quit and to not be afraid.

Besides horses, there are other things in life that buck folks off.  (I am not talking about bulls, which are not really intended to be ridden anyway, at least not by me.)

Getting cut from a team is like getting bucked off.  It is  surprising that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and inspiring that he did not quit basketball.  Some say that he turned out to be a pretty successful player.  Some say the best ever.

Getting fired, getting divorced, declaring bankruptcy, losing a loved one who dies, and health problems of all sorts are examples of life bucking you off.   When you are laying in the dirt, you often do not feel like standing up, mounting up, and taking another ride.  Those are the times to “cowboy up.”

Sometimes, I suppose we are more like the horses doing the bucking.  You might say that people who are recovering from addictions are trying to get a “monkey” off their backs.  From another perspective, you might say that making choices that lead to addiction could be to escape life’s demands, like you are trying to buck off responsibilities.  Either way, addictions involve bucking too.  Overcoming addiction is like getting back on the horse because it requires re-taking control.

God knows when we get bucked off, whether literally or by being cut from a team, fired from a job, divorced from a spouse or any of the ways we fall and land hard.

God also knows when we are bucking.  Like a good horse trainer, He does not give up on us.  He has ways of letting us know that we are not in control.

The Bible tells us that the hairs of our heads are numbered, that God knows when a sparrow falls from its nest, and that, lo, He is with us always.

Our heavenly Father is always ready to help us get back in the saddle.

From personal experience, most of us realize that “there ain’t a cowboy can’t be throwed.”  If you haven’t been throwed yet, you will be.

It is by faith we see that with God’s help “there ain’t a  horse that can’t be rode.”
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