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Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Freedom Isn't Free

I watched the Republican Convention Monday evening and heard the word freedom uttered many times. After all, "freedom" is what we cherish most. I was thinking about the benefits of freedom and how wonderful life is with it, and then I thought about what life would be like without it. Just ask the Jewish people in the concentration camps or the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein's rule. The last thing I thought about was the cost of freedom. I found this poem, maybe you have heard it before, it is worth mentioning again.

this is an audio post - click to play

Text Version.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, August 30, 2004


Olympic Dreams are for Everyone

You may not be a world class athlete, but no doubt you have wanted something badly enough you sacrificed for it daily until it became reality. The Olympic athletes are pictures of us. Some of them are triumphant, some meet with bad luck and tragedy. There are differing personalities. Some are cocky and arrogant, some are humble, and others are shy. I found myself pulling for athletes against my own country at times because of the nature of the competition and circumstances of the event. For example, yesterday in the marathon, the Brazilian runner Lima was leading with about 15 minutes to go when a crazed defrocked Irish priest ran onto the course driving Lima into the crowd. Lima was uninjured, but shaken. He eventually ran out of gas and was passed by the Italian and American who took gold and silver respectively. I was cheering for Lima, I was hoping the nut case did not steal his chance for winning. In the end, I do not think the incident mattered as Lima lost by a couple of minutes. At any rate, my point is at my age, I am more able to look at the games and appreciate the individual efforts and not make it solely a nationalistic thing.

I have been pursuing my own goal in running. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, I must run a marathon in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. I have been training since the end of May with a renewed focus. Even though I ran a marathon last March, I was not pleased with the performance. I have lost weight, secured the services of a coach, and have not missed one workout. Yesterday, I ran 13 miles at a 7:46 pace (1:41:09). That puts me half way there. My pace is good and I am building for the December 4 marathon in Baton Rouge.

The goal is just the conclusion of all the training. Marathoners enjoy the training. It is a part of their life. The actual marathons are semester finals if you will. There is always another marathon. I like the daily training. The discipline it involves effects how I see myself. It is one thing to think something about yourself or to believe you are a certain way, but unless you are doing it, there is always doubt or even worse - guilt.

The Olympic games have concluded, but the athletes have taken on new goals. They are looking forward to some future competition in which they will compete. They will be spending time daily away from the cameras and crowds. They do it because it is as important as breathing.

A passion is something you do for you. It is independent of praise or outside recognition. Thank God we all can have and pursue a passion. The measure of a passion is not how well you do, but how much you like doing it.

Go for it!

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, August 29, 2004


Protesting the Protests

The other day I read one of the headlines on my Excite homepage. It was an article about two guys in New York City who were organizing a protest to disrupt the Republican National Convention. I was curious to see #1 what exactly were they upset about with the Republicans and #2 the means by which they proposed their protest.

First of all, I am against protests unless all normal channels have been exhausted. My first reaction was, "Oh brother, some more clowns who missed the 60's and want to get their protest on." At least in the 60's, Blacks were being kept out of schools, riding in the back of the bus, and in some cases, forced to use inferior toilet and drinking facilities. Those protests had merit. I guess the Viet Nam War protests had merit too, but why on earth would somebody protest a party's convention? The ultimate RNC protest was the Democratic National Convention.

Be that as it may, there are a couple of guys in New York City ginning up the masses to "Shut It (the RNC) Down." Don't miss the irony here. They are using their first amendment rights to suppress the first amendment rights of others. My position is these gentlemen should get involved in the party which represents their views, and spend their time getting out a message instead of expending energy to suppress one.

The two men are in theri 30's and work in the financial district in NYC. They are proposing a mass underwear flash exposing anti Bush messages. This promises to be very effective. I feel like voting for Kerry just imagining such a spectacle. In case one of the protesters gets arrested, a guide on their website tells them what to say to police - "I am going to remain silent. I would like to speak with a lawyer." Shrewd, very shrewd. People on tight budgets may like reading about dumpster diving in NYC on this website. Maybe not.

I felt a blog post coming on so I checked out the Shut It Down website. I still did not know why they wanted to "Shut It Down."

It's a Gay Thing
The main reason stated on the website was protesting the Federal Marriage Amendment or the Hate Amendment as they called it. I guess because same sex couples cannot get married, the RNC should not meet. All Republicans are not against same sex marriages and all Democrats are not for gay marriage. Other reasons were mentioned, like Republicans using NYC for political gain and the Feds ripping off NYC in promised aid.

I checked out the aid thing. According to the NYC comptroller, $15 billion of the promised $20 billion has cleared or is in the pipeline. The other $5 billion will come after some bills make it through congress.

How "Shut It Down NYC" is supposed to work
The aim is to get as many New Yorkers as possible to call in sick on September 1 and go to protests instead. They are targeting Broadway plays, hotels, restaurants, and retail centers.

I would hate to be a business owner in New York City poised to make good money from conventioneers only to have my employees not show up for work to express their political views. The Republicans will come to NYC and leave. The NYC businesses and people will remain. This protest will only hurt New Yorkers if you ask me.

My Protest Proposal
I think I will call it -"Just Shut Up and Do Your Job." I am proposing on September 1 everyone go to their job and work hard. Do more than is expected of you. Show up on time. Goof off a little less. Be a little kinder to your customers and coworkers. Maybe your boss will give you a raise or a promotion. Maybe you will feel better about yourself. Maybe your coworkers will respect you a little more.

If you have a beef with a political view, get involved with a campaign, which expresses what you believe or run for office yourself. Don't waste your time trying to silence the voices of free men and women. Let them talk. Listen to them. Respond with respect and intelligence. Write letters to your political representatives. Get involved in the system instead of trying to thwart the system. It has worked pretty well for a long time and I suspect it will withstand this latest wave of possibly well meaning, but certainly misguided cry babies protest organizers.

Links and References:

(1) Excite article about Shut It Down protest organizers

(2) Shut It Down NYC website

(3) What the NYC comptroller says about the $20 in Federal aid promised to NYC. In a nutshell, he says $5 billion is in jeopardy, but congress has bills in process which should ensure it is paid.

(4) Watson's Closet This is one of the links on the Shut It Down website. They sell T-Shirts that say clever things like "Bush is Nasty." One of their slogans is "Hell hath no fury like the gay community scorned. Again."

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, August 28, 2004


Weekend Replay: My Existential Angst

This was first posted July 30, 2003 Text version.
this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, August 27, 2004


Casual Friday

It's amazing how people can take something as simple as casual Fridays and turn it into a complicated issue. Is there anything that Corporate America won't turn into a controversial disaster? I give up trying to figure it out...

We have casual Friday where I work. I wear jeans and a polo shirt or sometimes a button down long sleeved shirt and no tie. It is nice and I enjoy it. If I am meeting with a family or have some sort of appointment I wear the standard pants, shirt, and tie.

I have heard about studies indicating casual dress at work lowers production and increases incidents of horsing around and even sexual harassment. At AskMen.com, I found an article which describes some of the casual Friday issues. The author's conclusion is of semi exasperation. It is amazing how people can somehow take something simple and make it complicated.

Lawyers have something to do with the problem if you ask me. Let's say someone wears something inappropriate to work on a Friday. The supervisor says something to the employee or makes them go home and change. The next thing the boss knows is he is being sued for it. So to prevent the lawsuit, companies write policies about what can and cannot be worn. Then companies have to educate employees on what can and cannot be worn. According to the article, one company hired Esquire Magazine and Ralph Lauren to conduct seminars about acceptable apparel.

Corporate Trends Magazine
The American business world has found out the hard way how important image is." They also claim there has been "a 63% increase in customer complaints, a 50% decrease in employee's commitment to the job and a 35% increase in complaints regarding provocative actions and tardiness.

There used to be the law of common sense, now common sense is easily tossed aside. Ridiculous claims are given ear by the courts. If I were a judge and an obese person stood before me asking for a settlement from Mc Donald’s, I would have him escorted from my presence. If a guy with lung cancer stood before me asking me to spank the tobacco companies, I would have the bailiff remove him once he returned from taking the obese person out of the courtroom. I do not think the courts recognize common sense and personal responsibility like they used to - or is this a false perception I am having?

So what happens when a simple thing like casual Friday gets complicated and people start bitching? The company puts an end to it and everyone suffers because of one or two people. Do you remember group punishment in school? Unless the class gives up the culprit, everyone will be writing lines. I like casual Friday, because I don't have to iron my pants. I think there is a temptation to goof off more when you are wearing jeans at work, but that is where the personal responsibility comes in. Just like going outside for class in the spring, you have to behave or you won't be going out again.

Weigh in on casual Friday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, August 26, 2004


Olfactory Transportation

The other day, Barbara and I went to a Target store. Immediately, as we entered the building, it hit us; the smell of popcorn. Oh man, did that smell good, and did it ever bring back some memories.

Vintage Popcorn BagWhen I was a kid in the mid to late 60's, a new kind of store came to our town. It was unique compared to other stores. This establishment was like a prehistoric Wal-Mart. It was called GEM which stood for Government Employees Mart. My dad worked for the post office, so we qualified. Not just anyone could shop there, you had to have a GEM card. I remember walking in with my family. Sitting behind a counter on the left was the card checker. If your card passed scrutiny, she buzzed the door open and you were allowed to pass into the Elysian Fields of shopping - at least in that day.

The selection of goods was better than any other store and the prices were certainly cheaper. Perhaps my most favorite thing was getting popcorn on our way out. The smell of popcorn hit you there just like it did me the other day at Target. I remember a bag of popcorn cost 10 cents. I can still see the bag. It was white with red and blue lettering and sported a big clown face. The clown had a big red nose. Amazingly, I found the very bag on the internet.

Such memories unlocked by a simple smell. The sense of smell is very powerful. Have you ever been transported by the olfactory time machine? It is usually completely unexpected. The smells remind us of times gone by. Some of the times may be savored and relived, but others may be memories we would rather forget.

I have smelled perfume which reminded me of a particular girl. Putting a baseball glove to my face conjures remembrances of childhood. Yesterday, as I was walking Hobo a particular plant smell reminded me of a trip my family took to Virginia when I was seven. Suddenly, I was playing baseball with my older cousin Tommy also my childhood hero. It was not expected, but the power of scent transported me in time and distance and I smiled as the memories were stirred.

We are blessed to have different ways to experience our world. Just think of the sights you have seen and the sounds you have heard. Take a moment to recall some of the things you have felt or smelled and what of the tastes.

Here's to our senses, what blessings they are, what wonders they have shown us, and what surprises they sometimes reveal.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Happy Endings

When I went to work Tuesday morning, one of the nurses informed me the night staff found my compass. It was discovered in between two couch cushions where the main suspect typically sat. I reasoned it fell out of his pocket. We had checked his room on Monday and found some other items he stole, but no compass. At any rate, the compass found its way back to me.

A few weeks ago I mistakenly fried my USB hub, digital camera, and scanner. Canon gave me a new scanner free. The camera is being repaired and will cost me $168 to be fixed. Belkin sent me a brand new hub. All in all, I would say it all turned out pretty well.

Belkin LogoI will add the Belkin logo to the button stack on my sidebar. The company replaced the hub even after I confessed to hooking the wrong power supply to it. Companies are smart when they show a little generosity. I can be very loyal.

Have a happy Wednesday folks,
Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, August 24, 2004


What a Thief Really Steals

I was robbed. Nothing of any value really, but the thief took something that was mine and now it is his. I kept a small compass in my office. I like compasses, they symbolize many things for me like finding your way. Monday I noticed it was gone. I know I saw it a few days earlier so the thief did the caper recently.

Anger welled up inside me. Someone thought so little of me, they took one of my possessions for their own. Their desire to possess a $5 or $10 compass was stronger than their respect for my autonomy. To make matters worse, it was more than likely a patient. Someone I am trying to help stole from me.

I may be idealistic, but I am not naive. I realize there are a lot of people who have absolutely no problem whatsoever taking things that are not theirs. Many of our patients have stolen things from their own families for drugs and other reasons. Still, when I am a victim of theft, I get pretty pissed off.

Some would make excuses for the thief. "They had hard childhoods and poor examples . . . They grew up in poverty and do not understand why they cannot afford nice things. . ." I think that is BS. One insults those who are poor or who have had difficult childhoods to equate such things with larceny. People know what is right and what is wrong. They choose to steal and there are absolutely NO excuses.

Beyond all of this, the thief makes off with more than material goods. The thief causes spiritual damage. The victim becomes less trusting and more jaded. Instead of opening up to people, the victim closes himself off to avoid further victimization.

So Mr. Thief, whoever you are, use the compass to find your direction. A compass is an instrument to help lost individuals find their way - may it guide you to higher values and a greater respect for your fellow man. Perhaps the needle will point you in the direction of a conscience. I hope each time you look at the compass, you will remember your poor choice and low standard for yourself. May this memory inspire you to be a better person and may you somehow make this up by doing some good for another human being.

If not, I hope you get busted the next time you steal something and wind up sharing a cell with a guy who weighs 450 lbs and answers to the name Tiny. I hope he has "that look in his eye," where you are concerned and I further hope he will take something from you - again and again and night after night. Sleep well Mr Thief, sleep well.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, August 23, 2004


Higher Learning May Be Taking Place

Dad, mom gave me the wrong dishwashing soap and it flooded our kitchen.

I wasn't going to talk about my son for a while, but this stuff is just too good to pass up. I have talked about my pet peeves about someone not replacing the toilet paper roll before. When we got back from Baton Rouge on Friday, I went to the hall bathroom to relieve myself. The hall bathroom is the one John used. I glanced down for proper aim and noticed an empty toilet paper roll. I didn't change it. It was kind of comforting in a weird way.

Sunday about 5:00 PM John called me on my cell phone. "Dad," he said, "mom gave me the wrong dishwashing liquid and it flooded the kitchen." I started laughing because only the day before, he called me to find out how to work the dishwasher. I went through the long distance inservice and explained how to put soap in it and blah, blah, blah. What I did not know, was John was not putting Cascade in the dishwasher, he was using regular liquid dishwashing liquid. The result was a Lawrence Welk Show reenactment. He had suds everywhere and had to clean it up. I had visions of Lucy and a few other sit coms which covered this circumstance over the years. What was even funnier to me was John was not laughing.

Overflowing dishwasher

So I figured this would be a funny thing to post about. Checking out Google for a photo of an overflowing dishwasher was not difficult. The funny thing about the photo above is it was on a Penn State student's homepage. I guess it is common to overflow dishwashers with bubbles in college. Check out the girl's homepage. There are a lot of photos showing college kids drinking and being typical college students. It cracked me up.

Mark Twain
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

Lesson #2: John called on Friday evening to tell me that he and Roy did some grocery shopping. "Man, groceries are expensive," he said, "I bought $75 worth of stuff and I didn't get anything." College is going to be good for this boy. He is already learning some important stuff.

Yes, it looks like John will be realizing a few things. Life is good to teach us that those who have gone on before knew a few things. The longer I live, the more respect I have for those who have been there ahead of me. I always did try to learn from the mistakes of others. I listen to advice, because I do not want to repeat other's mistakes, but other's successes.

There are more things to learn at college than what they teach in the classroom and John is getting a crash course.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, August 22, 2004


Emptying the Nest

Here are some photos of the move to Baton Rouge. I will post a story to go along with them later today. Thanks to Mandarin Design for the photo display code.

6:30 AM Loaded up and heading to Baton Rouge

John says goodbye to his brother

Mom takes a break

The new denizens of apartment 1737

Our family on the threshold of a new day


Saturday, August 21, 2004


Weekly Replay: A Father Reflects

First posted November 4, 2003, this post describes feelings I often feel. On one hand, there is gratitude for wonderful times. On the other hand, there are feelings of sadness these times are gone. My conclusion is to be aware and live the life we have with gusto.

this is an audio post - click to play

Text version of "A Father Reflects"

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, August 20, 2004


Fortunate Son

Today is the big move to Baton Rouge. I will be horsing golf bags, tv's, and stereo speakers to the third floor of a pretty nice apartment complex. Compared to my first college living quarters, John will be living in opulence. Let the journey begin. What fun and excitement to be on a college campus with your whole life ahead of you.

I have thought about the empty nest and what this transition means. I have wondered about how it will effect my life. Yesterday, I saw people who would love to be experiencing the empty nest syndrome. As a matter of fact, I talk to them every day. I am referring to parents of patients. These are folks who will never go to college. In reality, these parents just hope their daughters and sons avoid disaster. Their parenting has taken them in and out of hospitals, group homes, and jails. They love their children and are proud of them, but they must stay vigilant and ever ready to help them out of one problem after another. They do this usually without thanks or appreciation from their offspring. Their parental love clings to their children without reciprocity.

How lucky am I? How fortunate have I and my son been?

But for the grace of God go I and that goes for you too.

Until the next time
and counting my lucky stars
John Strain


Thursday, August 19, 2004


Random Thoughts on Life and Death

Today I ran. It was warmer today and much more humid. The haze resembled fog and seemed to soften and quiet the normal early morning sounds. I ran hard and the sound of my breathing and the feel of the street hypnotized me as I went along my route. When I got home, I walked my geriatric dog. He has been falling more and more lately and has lost most all control of his bowels. I find him more and more on the floor, helpless to stand, with piles of poop around him. He often gets it all over him and I have to clean him and the floor. I think about when he was a puppy, full of life, bright eyes and coil springs for legs. Now his hind leg muscles have withered and he stands as a wobbly old man.

Then I watered my plants. The annuals are beginning to show their age. Mother nature exacts her price. What were once thriving, lush plants have grown spindly and have shriveled some. Their blooms are but a shadow of their earlier glory only a month or so back. Soon the fall annuals will appear in the garden centers and these plants will be replaced with new ones. It has been this way for many seasons. Everything has its time; its glory and everything will die.

I thought of the sadness and waste of death. A man spends his whole life learning, growing, building, and relating. Then, all of a sudden, it is over. My grandfather was a skilled mechanic. He could fix just about anything. He had a sense of humor. But he died and all of that knowledge went to the grave with him.

Death is the element of danger, the consequence, the due date, if you will. If it were not for death, we would have no challenge or incentive. We are given a measure of time. We know that time is limited so we do not sit on our rear ends or if we do we never accomplish anything. Life is not fair, but it is pretty predictable. There is a time to learn, a time to live and develop, a time to share and pass on what we learned, and a time to leave. We will all die. Death, however, is not as tragic as an unlived life. Some never live because of fear or self-consciousness. Some never live because of anger and resentment. "The soul afraid of dying never learns to live." A life can be wasted on addictions like drugs or alcohol. Life is surrendered to the pursuit of a feeling one's actions only make more impossible to obtain. Freedom comes from surrender. True wealth arises from letting go. Attachments imprison us. Have you ever felt that your possessions really possess you?

Somewhere there is a new puppy full of life with bright eyes. He has coil springs for legs and he will carry the torch Hobo lays down. My grandfather passed on a lot of himself to his loved ones who have handed it off to others who would listen. This is how we live on. Our influence proceeds our departure. Life will go on, if we live the right way, it will go on better.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Hold That Tiger

LSU LogoLast fall my son entered college. He commuted to Southeastern Louisiana University about 25 miles away. It seemed like another year of high school, because John still lived at home. This year he has transferred to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, which is about an hour west of here. He will live in an apartment near the school. He is moving out of the house. Friday will be the day we move him up there. Both Barbara and I are braced for some feelings we can only imagine on this side of his leaving.

I go around in circles with my thinking. On one hand, I tell myself "he is only an hour away, we'll see him a lot." On the other hand I realize he is still moving out even if it were just next door. This is another transition, another milestone. I am proud and sad all at the same time. My son is closer to being a man, a little less dependent, but will be a little scarcer.

I can ring him up on the cell phone anytime. He will come home on some weekends, but he will be gone through the week. The house will be quieter, because when John was home so was about 3 or 4 other friends. The house will be neater, because when John was home he never quite reached our standards of keeping things neat - except in his own room.

The things we complained about, we will probably long for. Well enough about my feelings, John is embarking on a lot of fun. I am so glad he has the opportunity to move out and begin to get a taste of what it is like taking care of one’s self 24 hours a day.

LSU's campus is pretty. The football games are packed with tradition. He is a part of something he will never forget. I think back to my college days and they seem but a moment ago, now I will observe my son as he lives his.

LSU's fight song is "Hold that tiger." I am thinking, "hold that clock." The seconds are ticking away too quickly. The procession of life, however, slows for no one; therefore, I will savor the moments and enjoy the times I am in rather than lament times past or to long for things that may never be.

I am about to experience the empty nest. If I think about my loss I will be sad. If I think about my son's achievements and opportunities however, I shall be proud and grateful. Parenting will never stop - it continues to be a dance of "letting go" and engaging when needed. But most of all, it is really fun.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Garage Sale

I must be living right. We decided to have a garage sale two weeks ago. It had been ten years since our first and last garage sale. I vaguely remember making a mental note at that time never to have another garage sale. Something about a lot of work and hassle. A confluence of circumstances tipped the scales and we decided to go for it again. The circumstances being: encouragement from HGTV, lots of clutter, several large and superfluous furniture items, a need for some cash, and latent masochistic tendencies. Our garage sale satiated each of these needs.

In the beginning, I had my doubts. We were quite unorganized about the whole thing. The house looked as if we were moving. We essentially went through every drawer, pile, and closet to find items to liquidate. In addition, I went through our shed and attic. It is astonishing to see all of the junk one acquires over time. So much junk we haven't used in years. It is too good to throw out or give away, we tell ourselves, so it piles up. I am rethinking how I think about material goods.

Friday, I took off work at noon to prepare for the sale. John had his instructions to mow the lawn that AM. The day before, I had done the weed eating so the yard was looking good. I had also phoned in an ad to the newspaper for the garage sale section. To further advertise, we got some bright red poster board and made four signs which were strategically placed on busy nearby roads. That was the extent of our marketing efforts.

The rest of Friday, I fashioned tables out of saw horses and plywood, turned upside down trash cans and an old door and asundry contraptions to make a flat surface above ground level. I hung a couple of pipes along the side of our carport for hanging clothes. John and I both bumped our heads on the damn thing at least 8 times each. It hung at the perfect height to walk in to. John really nailed himself once. He had to take a standing "8 count" but was able to continue. It provided some laughs. There would be the unmistakable thump of a head hitting the pipe and the lasting metallic reverberation followed by a smattering of curse words under one's breath. The one who's head had not just hit the pipe laughed having just tasted the wrath of the pipe only moments earlier.

I carried out the two desks I was going to sell and cleaned them up along with the book shelves. Everything was ready for stocking which we would do early in the morning. The weather had turned off unseasonably cool. It was incredibly fall like. Louisiana August is typically HOT, but we were experiencing highs of 80 degrees and low humidity. We could not have asked for a more lovely day for the garage sale.

Saturday morning we were up at 5:00 AM and began covering my make shift tables with sheets then the merchandise in the pre dawn dark. It all came together quick and we only had one person show up super early - 6:30 AM, but we were ready. The sale was to begin at 8:00 AM, but our busiest hour was from 7:00 - 8:00 AM. Because I anticipated this, I was not upset - you can't change hard core garage salers.

Until noon it was a spectacle of the human race. All kinds of people paraded by us. Most gave us a few dollars for items we wanted to be rid of. We saw some people we had not seen in a long time, talked with some neighbors we had not talked with in a while, and met a whole bunch of new people. The people part was fun.

As for the goods, I had already decided nothing was going back into the house. What we did not sell was going to Goodwill. I sold all of the big stuff and lots of other things. All together, we made $450 and John sold $250 worth of his things. I also have a set of tires someone is interested in and that will bring in another $250. So, I am declaring our garage sale a thundering success. It took a lot of the day to clean up the yard and put everything back. Even after I took down the pipe I hung the clothes on I found myself ducking any time I got near the area. Even a day later, I had the urge to duck. Too late now, my forehead bears the lumps of a pipe beating for not ducking sooner.

Goodwill still got a pickup truck full of items. We made some money and our house is a bit emptier. Phase one of the declutter project is complete. Now I need to rearrange and declutter some more. It was not as bad as I dreaded. In a lot of ways it was fun. Life is like that some times. The things we dread turn out to be fun and some things we had looked forward to turn out to be disasters. This was a pleasant surprise.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, August 16, 2004


Dream Team?

Sunday Puerto Rico beat the United States so called "dream team" by 19 points. The US men hit 3 of 24 from the three point line and demonstrated a lack of fundamentals as they were soundly thrashed by a group of men who played as one.

Usually in the Olympics my national pride is priority, but in the case of this basketball team, I am not that upset. In many ways, I am embarrassed these men represent my country. Here are a few reasons.

• The dream team is not a team at all but a collection of high maintenance egos.
• The dream team emphasizes athleticism above a fundamental mastering of the game.
• Individual egos come before national pride and a respect for the Olympics.

The US squad was beaten at their own game. For some time, American coaches have been going to Europe and around the world to install basketball programs. They worked with children and developed a generation of kids who were taught the fundamentals of the game. They learned team play and experienced levels of competition previously only available in the United States. As a result, the elite NCAA teams and the NBA have rosters well represented with international players.

What is being exposed is the player who does not work hard, who has not perfected the fundamentals, and who does not take the game seriously. For too long, someone who has athletic ability has gotten by. The gorilla dunks and show boat plays have amazed crowds and dominated the game in the states. This kind of play has had an effect on the younger kids in the US. Instead of practicing how to dribble with both hands, the proper way to pass a ball, shooting fouls, and other fundamentals, they have worked at trying to dunk the ball and how to do other tricks. It has become more important how one looks than how one plays. I suppose on playgrounds and on prison recreation courts that stuff is important, but now it is being exposed for what it is, a bunch of hot dog show boating.

The US team still has a chance to win a medal, but it will be tough. If they do, they will have to drop the individual ego trips and trade them in for some team spirit and national pride. Personally, I do not think it is in them. They lack a hunger - no - they lack a mind set. Their priorities are all wrong for the Olympics. The NBA is all about making millions of dollars just because you can jump high and throw a ball in an iron rim. For that skill one is given big houses, celebrity status, women. Big babies are created. Look at the results - Dennis Rodman is a freak, Kobe Bryant represents many who feel entitled to screw anything they want, Latrell Spreewell assaults his coach and is allowed to stay in the game. I know the players are not the only ones to blame. As long as people spend their entertainment dollars the monsters will be produced as fast as Dr. Frankenstein can mine big egos and selfish attitudes.

At least now in the Olympics, the values of hard work and enthusiasm are being vindicated. The game is not to the tallest man who can dunk a ball, the game goes to the man who names himself among other men. He melts into the group and they play as one. They work hard and perfect fundamental skills. They learn subtle nuances of the game to gain an edge. They play for the love of the game because they realize they are guardians of it to take it a few years down the road. When the game is in the Olympics, they play for all of this and for the privilege to play for their country. I do not think our "dream team" has the faintest notion about what this paragraph means and that's a damn shame.

So as much as I hate to see the US lose I like to see the values I previously mentioned affirmed. The Olympics are more about an attitude of which the US dream team has no clue.

Box Score

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, August 14, 2004


Weekend Replay: The "B" Word

Here is another golden moment between a father and a son. If you prefer the text version click here.
this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time,
John Strain


Friday, August 13, 2004


Invictus: A Poem by William Earnest Henley

A poem of inspiration for anyone going through hard times.

this is an audio post - click to play

Read Invictus

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, August 12, 2004


News or Gossip?

I foolishly turn on the television to see the news. I watch FOX most of the time, but not exclusively. Most of what is trotted out as news is the same whether you are watching FOX, MSNBC, or CNN. We choose the package it comes in, but it is the same stuff. All of the reporters are at the same place listening to the same guy delivering the same canned uninformative statement. After that, they all rehash what they just showed you, in case you are a moron, in which case a rehash would be pointless.

I think I understand why the news is the way it is, but I will gripe a little anyway. My main complaint today is the news content. Personally, I am tired of hearing about Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant. Are these news stories? Yes. Should they be reported? Yes. BUT, should these stories be the number 2 and 3 story every day even when nothing new has happened? No. Yet, it happens anyway. Somehow, a different fat lawyer or pundit saying what the fat guy said yesterday equates to "different" on the cable news channels.

In their own defense, the cable networks say that they have more time to fill, therefore, they have plenty of room for gossip stories. Furthermore, they believe people only watch about 15 minutes of their channel at a time, so the stories are repeated frequently in case someone just tuned in.

OK OK, whatever. I know advertisers pay money to get their product in front of the most people. The shows with the highest ratings make the most money. So, people must like what they see, right? Lord, I hope not. I watch, but the same stuff is on all the news channels. I may help ratings, but that does not mean I like what I watch.

I suppose there are some alternatives. C-Span for example goes into more depth than the major news channels. Am I nuts or should news outlets in an election year examine issues in depth? I suppose I just posed two questions, but try to focus on the second one.

Here is what I would suggest. Do some educating on the issue first. Let's take healthcare for example. Stories could be aired about the problem of healthcare. Update the viewers on the main concerns. Quality of care, accessibility, cost, etc. Put the problem into context. How do other countries do healthcare? What do healthcare workers say? What do consumers say? What do experts suggest. I want to know what healthcare experts are thinking. Throw in a few statistics and some human interest and we are ready to see what the politicians are saying, but now better informed and better able to spot the BS.

Let the politicians speak - preferably in a debate on the issues. Make sure the rules of the debate do not protect them from spontaneity. All of the rehearsed crap is a waste of time. After the debate, I would like to see what a panel of healthcare experts thought about what the candidates said. This process would make the task of voting less a crap shoot or ideological confirmation and more about choosing the candidate who best represents your views.

Get rid of the political spokesmen who twist their words like pretzels, who always disagree with the other side to the point of ridiculum. (I hereby proclaim "ridiculum" a word.) Let's make the process more academic and factual. I for one have grown weary of the emotion. We should elect our leaders more with our head than with our fickle emotions.

Well, that's my blueprint for news reform. I really don't need to hear about Michael Jackson on a daily business. Britney Spears is from Louisiana, but she is a far better dancer than she is a political analyst and singer for that matter. Scott Peterson is going to get off, just tell us when it happens. Kobe will get off too. In the meantime, lets learn something useful.

I believe a more informed content as I have suggested would still capture good ratings. There I go being naive and idealistic again.

What do you think?

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Customer Service and Customer Disservice

Our blogs are overflowing with complaints about one thing or another. Customer service stories hover near the top of the list and for good reason. My story today is not about a bad experience, but about a surprisingly good one.

I have posted twice about the demise of my Canon digital camera and my Canon scanner at my own hand. Before I realized it was my fault, I had called Canon tech support and was eventually contacted by Canon Customer Relations. My purpose in calling was simply to find out where to send the two items. Both devices were out of warranty so I did not expect Canon to do anything.

The first thing I noticed was how Canon was breaking the well established customer service rules I had grown so accustomed to in recent years. Let me list just a few of them.
The Rules of Customer Disservice

• Never agree with the customer about what he/she thinks is the problem. To do so is admitting guilt and makes it difficult for our attorneys in later court cases.
• Do not act in a human manner when speaking with customers. They are essentially our enemy. They are calling for something and we want to keep what we have. Small talk and laughter with a customer is grounds for immediate termination.
• If at all possible, attempt to instill doubt in the mind of the customer by making him / her feel stupid. Condescension is a great technique.
• If you are not successful in getting the customer to hang up on his / her own, transfer the caller to someone else. "Phone Hell" is a great technique for discouraging someone on a mission.
• Avoid giving out your name and direct telephone number to a customer. They may want a relationship with you and call you each time they have a problem. It is much more effective keeping them at bay if each call to our company is like the first time.
• It is company policy to have a customer tell his story in detail to at least 27 agents and wait on hold a minimum of 30 minutes before he / she is given a remedy. Granted, the remedy should be false hope.
• The object of our customer service department is to help the customer see it is far easier to purchase a new item than it is to have it fixed through our warranty program.

Now back to the tale of the camera / scanner repair. I was given instructions to send the camera to the factory in Illinois. I did that last week and am waiting for a response. I anticipate an estimate of repair costs. This result would be totally appropriate for a camera out of warranty that I ruined. If you remember my recent post. The cause of the melt down was me hooking up a 9 volt power supply to my 5 volt USB hub.

My customer care guy was Mike Shumult (sp) in the Chesapeake, Virginia office. Mike was very professional. My incidents were being handled as if Canon did something wrong. I was apologized to by several people. Mike was my case manager to put it in healthcare terms. When I learned the problem was my fault, I notified Mike to fess up, but also to solve the mystery. He did not make me feel like an idiot and he did not launch into the "oh, well, if you screwed it up, there is nothing we can / have to do about it" speech. He just said, "let me see what I can do." This was last Friday. On Monday, a package awaited me on my porch. It was a gratis brand new scanner.

I bought my scanner from Canon's eStore in November of 2001 for $125. I used the hell out of it for the better part of three years. I broke it. Canon's response was to send me a brand new one free. I was filled with gratitude and now a sense of loyalty to Canon. I called Mike to thank him for his generosity and to ask where I could send a letter to thank them for their outstanding service. He gave me the name of his supervisor and I penned a letter right then. I hope he does not get in trouble for being too generous.

Hopefully the camera repair won't be too bad, but I am $125 ahead as it is now. The money and getting my stuff fixed is one thing, I am also happy to have some faith restored in big companies. It is possible to treat customers like human beings. It is possible to resolve problems without hassle and red tape. Thank you Canon. I will be a loyal customer from now on and one of your goodwill ambassadors. If any other companies are listening, look what marketing benefits $125 buys you. Instead of wasting money on BS TV ads, why not provide exceptional service to your customers.

One company who could learn from Canon is Cingular. Their customer service reps adhere to the rules I listed above. If I can persevere long enough to talk to a human, it has been about 30 minutes and I am angry. I am often met with a flat sounding moron who uses dead air hoping I will give up. You may be familiar with the scenario. Customer asks a question, customer service rep. says nothing. Customer rephrases question. Customer service rep. says huh? I don't understand what you are asking. And so on and so on. If you get angry with them, they read from a script. "Sir, if you are going to be abusive, I will terminate this call and phone the police to have you publically executed for trying to get us to do what we have been advertising." I could go on about how bad Cingular's service is, but I want to make this more about how great Canon's service is instead.

So there you have it. Customer service exists over at Canon. Buy their products. They are great products and I can attest to their exceptional support.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, August 10, 2004


You May Need A Coach

If you read this blog regularly, you have not escaped reading about my passion for running. I run for several reasons. (1) To stay in shape, (2) To manage weight, and (3) Spiritual reasons. I like to work toward difficult but attainable goals. I like to compete against myself, and I like the discipline of it all.

About three months ago, I retained the services of an online coach, Dr. "Mad Dog" Mike Schreiber. I hired Mike for a couple of reasons. (1) I wanted someone to tell me what to do and (2) I wanted some accountability.

I am very pleased with the results. I have lost weight from 195 to 175. My running pace has gone from about 8:10 per mile to 7:30 per mile. I am well on my way to qualifying for the Boston Marathon in December when I run the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. If all goes according to plan, I will be in Boston April 18, 2005 for the race every marathoner dreams about.

I was not sure how the coach thing would go. I have always poo pooed personal trainers. I said, "folks who get personal trainers are lazy, they should learn what to do and do it instead of wasting their money on a cheer leader." Well, I take it all back. If you have a personal trainer or a coach telling you what to do, you can focus on doing it. I have enjoyed putting all of my effort into the running and not spending a lot of time reading and getting confused.

A coach fits with my personality. I am a pleaser. I wanted my teachers in school to like me and respect me. I vied for their affection by doing the work they gave me. I want approval, which I equate with respect. I want to be acknowledged for giving good effort.

There are all kinds of coaches out there. What do you want to do? What is it you want to learn? How about learning a foreign language or learning to play a musical instrument? Whatever you choose, you will do better if you have a coach.

Whatever you call them, coach, teacher, or mentor, they will increase your chances of success. So go on, get yourself a coach.

Do you have a coach of have you considered getting a coach to help you achieve a goal?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, August 09, 2004


A Change Is Gonna Come

Each day features less daylight. The brilliant green is draining from the vegetation leaving pale green or brown. The shadows are a bit different - longer maybe. The sky is bluer. Fall is coming. Back to school sale papers weigh down the Sunday paper. Teachers are gathering supplies and attending workshops. Football camps are bringing the high school campuses back to life after a summer of hibernation. In a week maybe two, the marching bands will be heard. Their strains drift in at first only recognized as something different. "What's that sound," one will think, but as the marching musicians near, the music is louder. The memories are stirred and another brick is laid in our life. Another year is marked. We are going to experience another autumn.

I love this time of year. The Louisiana heat broke this past weekend for a rare cool morning or two. Rare indeed, the heat often persists until October with the first hint of fall coming in September. However, when the first respite comes, it stirs the hope and enlivens the spirit. Even if it remains hot, it still looks like fall. I have still not quite adjusted to the difference between Kansas and Louisiana where weather is concerned. In Kansas when it looks as I described above, the air is cool and crisp. The mornings are quite nippy. In Louisiana though, the mornings remain humid and afternoons hot. Eventually the heat subsides and the autumn weather has its time.

I am ready for football. The NFL teams are in their training camps. I am ready for the cooler weather. It will help my running. This year, in about two weeks, my son will be going away for college. He has transferred to LSU - only an hour and fifteen minutes away, but it will be different with him living away from the house.

Change is a constant in life. We cannot stop it if we tried. Those who do try appear foolish or even sad. I draw comfort from the fact that though things do change, they are at the same time familiar. As a new autumn is ushered in it is fresh and new, but ancient in its appearance and the way it caresses our senses. Life is a procession of hellos and goodbyes, whether it be people, activities, or even the seasons. These changes are sometimes difficult but often welcome and comforting.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, August 08, 2004


Garage Sale

The last garage sale we had about ten years ago, I swore I would never do it again. Next week I will break that promise when we have our second garage sale. In an effort to declutter, the house seems ten times as cluttered due to going through closets and making piles of things to sell, things to keep, and things to give away. Sometimes I get mixed up about which pile is which.

Today, I am going to rummage around in the attic and shed for things to sell. Next week, we will be pricing items. Then on Thursday or Friday, we will get the yard fixed up. Early Saturday, I will put out tables and hang clothes line. From 8:00 am to Noon the sale will be on. At 1:00 pm, we will burn the leftovers.

I had better get to work. Why did I ever agree to do this again?

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, August 07, 2004


Weekend Replay: A Sense of Wonder

Audio blogger was down until about 3:00 PM today and that is why my post is so late. Today's selection was first posted Tuesday, September 16, 2003. If you like, you can read the

Text Version.

this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, August 06, 2004


Suffer The Little Children

Mark 10
13   And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14   But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15   Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

In 1962 I was five years old and I remember one fall afternoon sitting in my kitchen with my mother and two siblings. I was listening as my mother was explaining about the current event of the day - the Cuban missile crisis. My brother and sister were 11 and 8 respectfully and mom was answering their questions. As the talk of nuclear war and what that might involve went on, I became very frightened and started crying. My tears halted the conversation and I was comforted and reassured, but I can still remember that fear. It was the fear only an innocent can feel. Maybe my tears were the result of learning about the world's reality.

I mention this story to serve as a benchmark for what children are being exposed to today. As I watch the news, the talk is of terror threats and warnings. A real war rages on, but is often the third or fourth story. I understand the business of news and though we complain about the content, we do not seem willing to turn off the television until news companies alter their approach. Sometimes I think we blame the news companies for our own fascination for the macabre. We look at car wrecks when we pass. We do not want to see but we still look.

I am not writing as a call for any one thing. My purpose is only to bring to your awareness how drastically different things have become in forty years time. From a "Leave It To Beaver" society to the "Osbornes," the change has been striking.

All of this talk of war and terrorism, the sexual and violent content on television and other media forms must have a negative impact on our most vulnerable members of society. We take their innocence from them earlier and earlier. There has always been abuse and children have endured hardships at the hands of society in other generations. How will history judge this generation? Will MTV, sex, and violence be equated with atrocities from other times? I fear our laissez faire attitude about this problem. It seems debate on the topic is more to defend the media and societal norms than to consider any possible damage being done to little children.

I do know that when I was five years old the mere talk about nuclear war and the thoughts of my own possible death was quite disturbing. Fear is only one emotion and our society is raining down information uncut and uncensored on everyone. From Janet Jackson's self promoting exhibitionism to the vitriolic rantings of partisans - what in God's name is this doing to our children?

These conditions make parenting and grandparenting all the more important. The caretakers and stewards of the children must shield them as best they can. For the other things which may be more disturbing, they will have to help them live with the images and thoughts. It is a shame though how society will sacrifice the precious commodity of a sweet innocent soul to make a dollar from a voyeur.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, August 05, 2004


It Was All My Fault

Last week I wrote about the demise of my Canon Powershot camera and my Canon scanner. The culprit I blamed was by Belkin USB hub. It somehow delivered too much electricity and fried my two little friends.

Since this happened right after I moved my computer into the new workstation, I felt it was probably more than a coincidence it happened. I investigated. I looked on the internet for my Belkin hub and it was supposed to have a power supply delivering 5 volts. In fact, it was hooked up to a power supply delivering 9 volts. I plugged my modem power supply into my USB hub and my hub adapter into my modem. Somehow, the modem worked fine, but the extra 4 volts was enough to close the book on my camera and scanner.

On one hand, I was glad to know what really happened. On the other hand, I felt stupid. In my defense, there is no identifying info on the power adapters to pair them to their device. Regardless, I hooked them up wrong and made the magic smoke rise.

My next task is to call Canon and tell them what happened. Even though the devices were out of warranty, they were very nice and were apologizing to me for the problem. I would not be right for me to receive free repairs since it was my own negligence, which caused the problem. Now, if they want to be gracious after hearing my admission, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

You may remember the story about my son and the poker chips. He ordered a $10 roll of poker chips, but received a nice case with ten times the number of chips he ordered and two decks of cards all valued at $100. I called the company to tell them about the mix up and they told us to keep the item as a reward for our honesty.

The last task is to fess up to Belkin. I wrote them an email requesting an RMA # for the hub. I told them about how it fried my stuff. I did receive the RMA # and here is the letter I sent along with my fried hub.
Dear Sirs,

My original message via email explained how two peripherals connected to this hub were fried. My camera was ruined one evening and my scanner bit the dust the next morning.

Since I sent that message I discovered the cause of the problem and it was my fault. I had moved my computer and in the process of reconnecting everything, I interchanged the power supply of my modem and my hub. The result was, the hub was connected to a power supply of 9 V instead of the 5 V it was supposed to have.

The power supply enclosed is not the power supply hooked up to the hub at the time of the incidents.

I do not expect you to replace this since it was my own fault, however, if it can be repaired at a lesser cost than a new one, that would be nice.

John Strain

OK, I feel better. Confession is good for the soul. I will let you know what happens with all of this, but I have a good feeling. I believe my honesty will be rewarded. I can rest assured that I did the right thing. No matter what happens I am already satisfied.

Do you believe honesty is the best policy?

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Lighting Up

• In 1998 451 billion cigarettes were consumed in the United States.
• Individuals with a mental illness consume 44.3% of the cigarettes in the United States annually.
• Studies indicate a smoking rate among individuals with a mental illness from 58% to 88%.

Smoking Graph

Source: The Psychiatric Times, February 2001

It is interesting how many psychiatric patients smoke. It is incredible to contemplate the money they spend on cigarettes annually. Today is the 3rd of the month - check day. Once cashed, those government dollars will work overtime purchasing cigarettes. When the inevitable health concerns arise, more government dollars are required, this time from Medicare to provide the care.

No matter how much "out of it" one of our patients is, he/she seems to have a 6th sense about smoke time. Many of our patients are indigent or have no family to bring them cigarettes. Therefore, we provide "unit cigarettes."

Some might think it odd for a hospital to provide cigarettes to a patient. However, not to do so will often result in a patient getting upset and possibly requiring additional medication. We figure a cigarette is cheaper than an Ativan. They are necessary to keep the peace.

Still, researchers are studying the link between tobacco and schizophrenia. We know nicotine alters brain chemicals. Some of the altering is beneficial for schizophrenia, but some of it makes the disease worse. Regardless, smoking is one of the few pleasures these folks have left.

If you would like to read more about the connection between smoking and mental illness, do a google search of schizophrenia and smoking.

I just wanted to point out a few facts that had me flabberghast.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Just Drop It In Water And Presto!

Grow a boyfriendIn this day and age all you need is water and you can have instant rice, potatoes, grits, and yes, even instant boyfriends. One of my coworkers returned from Florida and brought a "Grow a boyfriend" to one of the social workers (currently without a boyfriend). The "grow a boyfriend" is touted to grow to six times its original size. Then when you take him out of the water he shrinks back down. Not unlike a real man, this growing six times his size and then shrinking back down can happen again and again. "If you can't get a date, then grow the perfect mate." Well, we all had fun with the comments, double entendres, and insinuations.

It is funny how one thing will remind me of something else. Suddenly I was transported back in time to the summer of 1970 or there abouts - I was 13 and traveling with my boy scout troop to a canoe trip destination of Ely, Minnesota. Long trips can be boring, thank goodness for gas stations. The gas station attendants must have felt invaded when our orange school bus pulled up to their pumps. Boy scouts would pour out both ends of the bus and scatter like a tube of BB's poured onto a concrete floor. Some headed for the restroom, some for the coke machine, some went to browse the tiny sales office, and some to licit change from the cashier. Once the bus was fueled and the scouts were herded back onto the bus, we all compared notes about what we bought. The usual haul was soft drinks, snacks, free maps, and an odd pair of sunglasses. Condom machineAfter one gas station stop, there was some whispering and giggling that spread throughout the bus like the ebola virus. One of the scouts purchased something for twenty-five cents from the vending machine in the men's room. This was a brave scout. We always looked at the foreboding machine, some would twist the knobs and pretend to purchase a "rubber," but we never figured anyone had the guts to actually buy one. Such an offense would bring certain punishment of unfathomable proportions. The actual purchase was not a condom, instead, it was a small envelope with two little red capsules in it. On the envelope were the words, "Instant Pussy."

Now, keep in mind, Al Gore had not created the internet yet, so boy scouts did not know about surfing porn on the net. Occasionally, a few torn out photos from a Playboy magazine would circulate from scout to scout like the smuggling of national secrets. Even more rare occasions involved someone having an entire Playboy. I appreciated the entire magazine over the single photo pages, because I enjoyed reading the articles. Hehehe. I am trying to paint a picture here of how horny we all were or thought we were. In some ways it was a competition to produce the best photo of a naked woman or even better, produce an actual female body part. I cannot speak for what everyone else was expecting. I knew it would be erotic, so I was right there when the capsules were dropped into the water. The little cup of water was surrounded by a bus load of warm blooded, heart thumping, heavy breathing, budding hard legs. We just knew it was going to be awesome. Finally, it happened - the capsule opened up and produced a small foam kitty cat.

The disappointment and sexual tension was replaced with laughter and insults for the former hero who purchased the red capsules in the first place. His fortune turned as quick as Jack's in that beanstalk story. Boy scouts want results, not just heroic effort. I did learn something that day. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

As an adult, our family was out eating at a restaurant. John was about seven years old. He always checked out the restroom in restaurants without fail. Barbara and I were still eating when John returned from the restroom with a request. "Dad, can I have fifty cents for the machine in the bathroom, " he said. He was a sucker for vending machines. I launched into my father mode. "Son, you don't need anything from that machine. That is for when you are a big boy, even bigger, a man." He dropped it and I thought little more of it other than the humor of it all. I had to visit the WC myself, so I headed in there. Exiting, I noticed the machine he must have referenced earlier - it was a cologne machine. What a laugh. All of the cologne brands required leisure suits unbuttoned to the navel and thick gold chains with hub cap sized medallions. Haven't you been in the restroom at a restaurant and seeing one of those machines you think something like, thank God, a cologne machine, my musk oil needs refreshing.

That's it, and it all started with a little $2 gag gift given from one friend of mine to another. So just add water and you can have an instant meal and even an instant boyfriend, just don't expect too much.

Bathroom Graffiti
More bathroom graffiti
Even more bathroom graffiti

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, August 02, 2004


What Do You Expect?

Monday is the morning of the grumpy employee. The weekend is over and the reality of five more days of work is etched on the faces of those who realize it the most. Monday's are less frivolous and there is much less laughter in the work place. By contrast, Friday is often light hearted. There is a palpable energy. Good humor and happiness permeate the office. It is all about expectations.

What you expect has a lot to do with what you think, feel, and ultimately get. Disappointment can be traced to expectations set too high. The "knight on a white horse" is a set up for disappointment in a relationship. Dreams of the World Series disappoints all baseball fans save two teams and ultimately only one. This year, I had high expectations for the Kansas City Royals. They were picked to win their division. Sadly, they have not met those expectations and Royals fans are more depressed than usual.

One can set expectations too low. If you do not expect anything of your children, they will live up to it. Studies have shown students living up or down to the expectations of their teacher. Therefore, expecting something out of someone, whether a mate, child, coworker, student, or team mate has a positive impact. However, if you expect too much, it can cause people to give up, revolt, or simply become apathetic.

For those of you who have that certain person who always gets under your skin, you can alter your expectations and lessen the impact. I usually ask someone, "how many years has your brother been doing this (fill in the blank)?" If the answer is "many years," my next question is, "then why do you act surprised when it happens again?" One should expect the behavior to continue, prepare for it, or avoid it altogether.

The next time you are down, angry, or stressed, examine your expectations related to the emotion. My guess is you expected something to happen and it did not OR you expected something would not happen and it did.

Today is Monday. We have five days until Saturday, but only four until Friday and Friday's are always happy. Expect not to be feeling on top of the world, but expect you will survive and steel yourself to be part of the solution today. Throw around a few smiles and compliments. I never wear a new shirt on a Monday. Nobody ever notices. They are too pissed it is Monday. On the other hand, on Wednesday or Thursday, everybody notices.

What you feel has a lot to do with what you expect. Don't be passive and take the feelings lying down. Work on those expectations and change how you feel.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, August 01, 2004


Bass Ackwards

Normally, I like to get my yard work finished on Saturday, drink a cold brew in the afternoon and contemplate the rest of the weekend. Yesterday, after my run, I sat at the computer and goofed around, since I had all day to get the yard done. Just about the time I was going to go outside, it started raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock. It rained all day. At the time, it was nice, because I just kept playing around on the computer. Notice the little tweaks to my sidebar. It hardly seems worth the better part of a day when you look at it, but at the time, it seemed worth it.

Today, I ran 10 miles at a 7:48 pace. Total time 1:18:07. Saturday I ran 3 miles at a 7:16 pace and my fastest mile was 7:00. So my times are improving and I give a lot of credit to my coach, Mad Dog Mike Schreiber. Right now, I weigh 177 which is down from 195 June 1 and from 214 September 2003. Along the same lines, my cholesterol is down from 223 in September 2003 to 164 last week. I have about 4 months until my next marathon and everything is right on schedule.

Canon LogoI need to package up my scanner and camera and mail them to Canon. I learned the hub was the culprit and it has a lifetime warranty. So far, I am very impressed and pleased with the way Canon is working with me. If it keeps going like this, I will have to put their logo on my website or something. They are restoring some of my lost faith in the overall customer service of today. On the other end of the spectrum is Cingular. I called yesterday for some info and talked to a woman who was so flat and unfriendly. I would ask a question and she would say nothing. I would try to rephrase the question figuring she did not know how to respond. I think she was being passive aggressive. Some people love to not know the answer to your question. I could go on about the lousy service of Cingular, but I need to let my blood pressure normalize.

I barely saw the blue moon last night. There won't be another one until 2007 according to my sister over at Down a Country Road. A blue moon is defined as the second full moon in the same calendar month. She wrote a nice description about it.

Two weeks from yesterday, we are going to have a garage sale. I would rather take a beating than have a garage sale, but we have to declutter. Barbara has watched some show on HGTV or something where a crew comes to a house and helps them declutter. One of the techniques is to make three piles of your things. One is toss, another is keep, and the last is sell. I will have to think about how nice it will be to get rid of all of the accumulated crap for motivation. The thing I hate is having people show up when you are trying to put things out. If I say the garage sale begins at 8:00 AM, people show up at 6:00 AM. I think what bothers me is they let their desire to get something override the value of respecting someone's wishes. It is like eating out of the pot that is sitting on the stove instead of waiting for the table to be set. And they eat out of the pot because they want the best cut of meat. Screw everyone else. Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed drives people to act like animals. Come to think of it so does, anger, sex, and alcohol.

Enough blabbering, I have to get behind the lawn mower before the afternoon rains roll in.

Have a nice Sunday and don't forget to go over to What's Up Down South and wish Miss Brenda a Happy 50th Birthday.

Until the next time
John Strain