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Monday, January 31, 2005


A Trip Back Home

I was born and raised in Kansas City. I spent last weekend in the neighborhood where I grew up. Seeing the house I lived in, driving by my old schools, and catching up with some childhood friends resulted in a real churning of the feelings. It was a pleasant experience and I think something we should do occasionally.

Wet snow clings to a tree

Click to see more photos

Some things never change and some things will never be the same. My childhood images etched into my memory are of newer homes, smaller trees, and longer distances between point A and point B. My old house and yard sure seem smaller now. The big Chinese elm in the front yard is a memory. It was a good climbing tree. I logged many hours sitting amongst its limbs contemplating adventures. As we drove that weekend, we traced ancient convenience store routes my friends and I took to the local Quik Trip for an Icee or other summer refreshment. I noticed some of the hills we used to ride sleds down. Looking at the schoolyards, I could see the ghosts of my classmates and days gone by. Friday afternoon, we passed by my old high school, Shawnee Mission Northwest, just as the kids were leaving for the day. That parking lot could tell some tales and so could I.

Even the tastes were nostalgic. Friday night was for pizza at probably the first place I ever ate pizza out. The crust is unique, a kind of cracker crust which is flakey and oh so good. Then there was the snow. About 6:00 PM, the snow began to fall and turned my childhood town into a Christmas scene worthy of Norman Rockwell. I hadn't felt snowflakes on my face in a long time. The snow is so clean and quiet. Even the locals, who have been putting up with a lot more winter than I, seemed to appreciate the beauty. I made a snowball or two and even a miniature snowman. Some skills need to be rekindled now and again.

Saturday morning, we awoke to a world of white. The snow was very wet and clung to everything, including power lines, fences, and anything that wasn't warm. I had a training run to do, snow or not. A friend of mine Mark K. ran with me. As we ran the neighborhood streets, we caught up with each other and other common friends. We both marveled at the quickness of life. But no regrets, we are both happy and have plenty yet to do. We both laughed at the irony of how we hated being forced to run the cross-country course in Jr. high and high school, but now like it so much, snow is no deterrent. As we ran, big fluffy snowflakes were still floating in the air.

Later that day, we went to my dad's 80th birthday party. He has some great friends, mostly Shriners. I enjoyed talking with some of them about their experiences in WWII. One man had been wounded while in France and rehabbed in New Orleans. The hospital he was treated at no longer exists, so I will have to look into that. The "old folks" are treasures of history who are often largely untapped. I found this man's story fascinating and encouraged him to contact the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, because they are collecting oral histories from WWII veterans.

After a visit with my friends and family, I often wonder why I wait so long between them. Time and distance rob us quietly. It is during the visits we realize what we have been missing.

Is there someone you should visit or call on the phone? Maybe a good churning of the feelings is just what you need.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, January 30, 2005


Back Home

We are back home safe and sound. It was a fun weekend, but I am too tired to write about it now. In the mean time, enjoy a few photos from the trip:

Weekend Photos at Dad's 80th Birthday

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 28, 2005


Snow in Kansas City

What luck! It is snowing the biggest beautiful snowflakes I have seen in a long time. I threw a few snowballs and made a small snowman. Photos will be posted on Monday.

Barbara's eyes lit up when the weather man said we may get 2 inches, because that is a lot to her. I am of course talking about snow accumulation. Hehehe.

If you will excuse me, I have to get back to the party.

Until the next time
John Strain


Going to Kansas City

George Strain, Sr. - My dad.Albert Collins is singing about it and I'm doing it. I'm going to Kansas City. My dad will be 80 January 31 and we are celebrating that milestone this weekend. My brother George, who lives in KC, my sister from southern Missouri, and Barbara and I will all be together for the festivities.

We have some fun planned which means good blog material. The only drawback is leaving warm Louisiana for the frozen tundra of the Kansas plains, brrrrrrr. I have to run Saturday AM only, so that won't be too bad, but when I get back home, I have an 18 miler waiting. Every party carries a price tag.

Let me wish everyone an early happy weekend. Now, where did I put those airline tickets . . .

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, January 27, 2005


One Month to Go

My next marathon is one month away. This will be my seventh marathon and the third time to run the Mardi Gras Marathon. The photos below are from my first marathon and first Mardi Gras Marathon in 1981. At the time, the course went across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway; a 24.88 mile bridge. The year I ran the darn thing, the wind was blowing uncharacteristically from the south at 35 mph. I won't get into how hard it was now; I can't give the story any justice without a few beers first. People formed pace lines to break the wind. Like a moron, I led this one all the way across the bridge. No one ever tried to take the lead and do their part. My time was respectable given the horrendous weather conditions at 3 hours 35 minutes for the 26.2 miles.

This marathon will be my third in one year's time. I wish I had kept running them when I started 24 years ago, but I didn't. I have been doing well in training and I feel good. I do not have any time pressure riding on this race. I just want to remain injury free for the Boston Marathon in April.
Mardi Gras Marathon, February 1, 1981, 16 mile mark

Mardi Gras Marathon February 1, 1981 -16 Miles
Mardi Gras Marathon, February 1, 1981, Finish line


It is hard to believe I have been running marathons for 24 years. That is coincidentally the age I was when I ran the race in 1981.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, January 26, 2005


More Time

I want more time. The days are not long enough for me. If I could go without sleep, that would work, but I need at least 5 hours a night. Hmmmm. Maybe I could get back some of the time I wasted. I have blown a lot of time in front of the television, but a lot of my wasted time was not my fault. Doctor's offices have racked up many hours. Restaurants, the DMV, and entertainment have taken their share. Look at all of the time you have sat in a theatre waiting for the movie to begin.

We don't know how much time we have left to do what we want. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was shown how much time she had left. The witch gave her an hourglass. The years are rolling by as fast as those grains of sand were falling, and as I age, time becomes more precious. There is a lot I want to do, have to do, need to do, and should do. Still, I cannot use every second efficiently. Wasting time is almost necessary or life would be nothing more than trying to accomplish a string of tasks.

I do not want time just to accomplish things; I just want more of it. I like using it, spending it, and even wasting it. Maybe it is good that I know this now. Some buzz through life thinking they have all the time in the world. Then, all of a sudden, they learn their time is almost used up. The trick is to enjoy the ride and not think of life as arriving at a destination.

I am a practical person and I realize I only have so much time. Actually, I have had a lot of time already. I have seen and done a lot. I am appreciative of all of this. That said, if I were to live for another few hundred years, here are a few things I would like to do:
• Visit every country in the world and sample the local cultures. I would talk to the people, eat their food, and take part in their way of life.
• Learn to play the piano and the saxaphone.
• Learn to speak Spanish, French, and Japanese
• Write a book or two.
• Create and tend a few gardens.
• Keep running marathons.

What would you do if you had more time?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Eating Over the Sink

What I thought was normal behavior may just be normal "guy" behavior. I am referring to a penchant for eating over a sink or a trash can. It is admittedly not elegant or sophisticated, but it is practical and efficient. I mean why dirty a dish for one to three chicken legs, when you can just eat over the sink and wash the crumbs down the drain. While you're at it, wash off your mouth and hands. Grab the dishtowel and dry off, then the dining experience is complete.

I never really thought about the behavior that much. Surely my mother told me to go to the table instead of eating over the sink, I know my wife has, but it seems much ado about nothing just to eat one or two cookies. Why dirty up the table?

I once worked in an office with a girl named Celeste. We both brought our lunches. Celeste would spread out paper towels, and use a plate and silverware. It was an all out place setting complete with fresh flowers in a vase. All I did was drag the trashcan between my legs and I was ready for lunch. I was content eating my sandwich over the can. She couldn't stand it though and had to comment about my crude behavior frequently. Celeste could not understand how I could be happy eating like that.

This past Sunday, I was watching football. I had a bag of hot Cajun peanuts, a fresh beer, and a trashcan between my legs. No one was home to criticize me. As I ate the peanuts, the hot spice began to work its magic. My nose was running and I started sneezing. The trashcan paid off, because I could just lean forward and sneeze into it. No muss no fuss. I was aware that this behavior would not be appropriate if anyone else were around, but they weren't.

Unscientific surveys of a few women at work confirmed my suspicions that the above-described behavior is a guy thing. To their disdain, their husbands also eat over the sink and trash can.

I do not necessarily prefer eating over the sink or trash can as opposed to the table, but sometimes it just feels right. When is it right? Well, that too is a guy thing.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 24, 2005


Writers Write

I like this phrase. It is basic and simple. What does a writer do? A writer writes. What of purpose and responsibility? Does a writer have an obligation to write about certain things and in certain ways? Good questions.

Read what William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize for literature acceptance speech December 10, 1950. You can either read the text or listen to the speech in mp3 format. I did both. Take the time to do this, it is thought provoking. I was taken with how timely his advice for that day still resonates for this day. It inspired me. I am interested to see what some of you think.

The main link for this site is: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speechbank.htm

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, January 23, 2005


COMPUSA: Another Recipient of the Customer Disservice Award

That's right folks, COMPUSA has earned one of my customer disservice awards, which is a nice way of saying, "F COMPUSA." (Sorry Mom about using the "F" word, but sometimes it is the only word adequate to express my depth of feeling.) When companies practice exceptional customer service, I recognize it. I proudly display logo links for Canon and Belkin on this site for their "above and beyond the call of duty customer service." COMPUSA, however, has risen to the top of my customer dissatisfaction list and here is why:

We are a MAC family. My son John has an iBook and attends LSU. One of his classes, ISDS is, what amounts to, training for Microsoft Office 2003. If you are going into business, you must know your way around Microsoft Office and Windows XP. He has software for the class that does not run on the MAC. Therefore, he needs the use of a PC.

• He could use his roommate's PC, but that would probably be a problem, because they are in the same class. I can see time conflicts on the horizon, especially the night before a test.

• We could buy him a PC. That solution works in function, but I don't like the cost factor.

• We could buy Microsoft Virtual PC for the MAC bundled with Windows XP for about $249 and John could run Windows XP and his class software on his MAC. This is the way to go.

He, of course, needed the software installed ASAP, since the class is underway. After some investigating I found out I could either order the software online and get it Monday for $239 total or drive to New Orleans and get it at COMPUSA for $249 plus tax. I decided to pay the extra money so I could get it all installed and working properly before John headed back to Baton Rouge Sunday evening after work.

Before driving the hour to New Orleans, I wanted to make sure COMPUSA had the software in stock. I called and of course was launched into voice mail hell. The flat, monotone, impersonal voice tried to navigate me through their customer service nether world. Finally, I got to the part about checking for PRODUCT AVAILABILITY AT A PARTICULAR STORE. "Thar she blows" I said and pushed in the product number and my zip code as instructed by the voice which sounded as if it were attached to a narcoleptic Dracula. The voice confirmed that the Metairie COMPUSA did in fact have the software.

Barbara and I had some other errands to run so we took care of that before making the trek to New Orleans. We figured, while we were over there, we could eat at one of our favorite restaurants. We got to COMPUSA at 6:00 PM. Next door was a Dress Barn so Barbara went in there while I browsed around in COMPUSA. I could not find the software on my own so I had to do the thing most men hate to do. I had to ask for help, damn. The clerk looked in the same spot I had just looked. I began thinking, "Uh oh." Then he walked off. Then he came back and told me someone was looking for it. Then he came back and said, "We don't have it in stock." Honestly, I was not surprised. I knew the narcoleptic Dracula voice may have been pulling my leg so he could derive some sort of twisted satisfaction. I said, "Are you sure? Because I called and the narcolepsic Dracula guy said you had one." The clerk told me, "That item is an online only product." All of a sudden his voice was starting to sound like narcoleptic Dracula. I could feel my heart pound harder and my breathing increase. All of the clerks were starting to look alike and sound alike. I was in the middle of a bad horror movie. I mustered a complaint, "The narcoleptic Dracula said you had this product in this store and I drove all the way from Covington to get it." The clerk's response was, "Sorry."

That was that. I left the store, pulled Barbara out of the dress barn and began releasing my dissatisfaction by skillfully stringing together curse words and promising to blog about the injustice. I am making good on that threat right now, muahahahahah. That will show them. Dump their stock folks, because when this post gets out, it is going to nose dive.

In New Orleans we see disappointment as an opportunity to have a party, so Barbara and I had a nice Mexican dinner and a visit to the Krispy Kreme Donut Shop, who are on my exceptional customer service list. Keep those free, hot, melt in your mouth, donuts coming folks. The evening was not a total loss. I came home and ordered the software online from MacMall for the $239. I will have it Monday.

End of story.

Here's to those of you, know matter who you work for, who deliver customer service that exceeds expectations, unfortunately you are in a small group.

PS - I shouldn't have bragged about the weather yesterday. Today it is 30 degrees with winds from the north at 17. I get to run my 12 miles in the refrigerator today.

This just in: Thank you Andie Pandie for this link. Apparently, I am not the only one COMPUSA has victimized.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 22, 2005


An Overheard Conversation

Good morning from 63 degree 94% humidity Louisiana. It is hard to improve on a Saturday morning. I am sipping fresh coffee and waiting for a little more daylight before taking a nice easy 7-mile run. I have an easy running schedule this week. My long run tomorrow is only 12 miles. The build up will begin though for the February 27 marathon. All systems are go.

Friday night we tried a new restaurant; Glockner's Seafood in Lacombe, LA. Our traditional Friday night seafood joint, St. Roch's, closed. Since then we have been reeling, St. Roch's was our Cheers, where everybody knew our name. Glockner's seems promising. One of the St. Roch's chefs is employed there so the food is good. The restaurant has character. It is a small place all alone on a little finger of land surrounded by a canal and Lake Pontchartrain. Louisiana is full of places like this and most of them are good. They are the neighborhood seafood restaurant. The furnishings are not lavish, the people are friendly, and the seafood is plentiful and good.

Friday morning I was at the gym and overheard the conversation of two deer hunters:
Deer hunter One: Yer average eight-point buck is two years old. Now some of em are bigger, b'tcher average one is two.
Deer hunter two: Now the bigger eight-points are older aren't they?
Deer hunter one: The bigger ones might be a little older, b'tcher average eight-point is two.
Deer hunter two: I guess it depends on when they wer born.
Who can argue with that logic?

Time to stretch and head out the door. Have a nice weekend folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 21, 2005



CondimentsI have been deluged with requests to write a post about the condiments I prefer. Not really, but I have written about almost everything else, so why not write about condiments?

Condiments are taken for granted. They do not get much respect. The spotlight is on the meat. Men stand around the grill drinking beer and talking as they dote over the hamburgers, steaks, and chicken. Some even conduct a formal procession carrying the meat from the grill to the serving table. When those first bites are taken around the table, noone says, "Ooohhh, that is the best mustard and ketchup blend I have ever tasted." They say, "Oooohhh, this hamburger is soooo good."

Condiments may not get much respect, but they are certainly noticed if absent. "What, no mayo? How the hell am I supposed to eat this burger?" "Hey, where's ya'lls Tabasco Sauce?" "Are we out of parmesan cheese?" These are all common statements when various condiments are not available.

I often forego adding condiments to burgers or hot dogs out of sheer laziness. Impatience and hunger outweigh my desire for mustard and ketchup at times.

Here are some of the ways I use condiments:
Hamburgers: Mustard (hot mustard if available), ketchup or BBQ sauce, no mayo, but I can eat it.
Hot Dogs: Mustard, ketchup, and chili (in this case, chili is a condiment).
Fried egg sandwich: Mustard.
Scrambled eggs and grits: Tabasco sauce.
Pizza: Hot peppers and parmesan cheese.

I have been told this is weird: Dipping a grilled cheese sandwich in ketchup. I don't know why I get grief over this. Folks put ketchup on a cheese burger and a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in ketchup is the same thing, minus the meat.

Raw Oysters: Cracker, oyster, mixture of ketchup, horse radish, and Tabasco.
Popcorn: Salt, no butter.
Ice Cream: Chocolate syrup.

I like hot and spicy and I love BBQ sauce. Down here in the south, Tabasco sauce sits on most folk's tables along with the salt and pepper.

This could go on and on. What is your favorite condiment? Do you do anything weird with condiments (get your mind out of the gutter, I mean on your food).

Happy Friday,
John Strain


Thursday, January 20, 2005


What's in a Heart?

One aspect of human nature is to doubt the good in people, but to automatically believe the worst until there is proof to the contrary.
Jim: Did you hear about Bill? He was awarded a full ride scholarship because of his good grades.
Sam: Ya sure, I'll bet his old man is paying. Bill's not that smart.

Jim: Did you hear about Bill? He was suspended for cheating.
Sam: That doesn't surprise me one bit; how else could he make such good grades?
We have all done it. As a matter of fact, we have to work not to do it. We make judgments and form opinions all the time about what we think is in someone's heart.

Have you ever been misunderstood or accused of something you did not do? Have you told the truth to someone, only to have them look in disbelief, then tell you why you really did it and what you were really thinking? It is not a good feeling is it? It is extremely arrogant to presume to know what is really going on in someone's heart.

Darrell Wrinkles was the school bully in sixth grade. He had orange hair, pink skin, and was very fat. He was bigger than most kids at school and he took advantage of the size difference. He was made fun of, mostly behind his back. He did not have any friends and he lived with his mother. In those days, divorce was unusual. I thought I knew the heart of Darrell Wrinkles. He was mean and did not like people, I deduced, but I was wrong.

One day Darrell and I found some common ground; we both had a pet white rabbit. Once he found out, Darrell began to act different toward me. We talked about our rabbits and one day he invited me to come to his house on the way home from school to see his pet - Bugs. Reluctantly, I agreed and walked with Darrell to his house. He was a different person one on one than when he was in a group. Individually, he was more like a regular kid.

His mother was very nice and gave us some Kool Aid and cookies. She seemed happy Darrell had a friend with him. I spent some time there then went home. After that day, Darrell ceased to be the school bully to me. I had misread Darrell's heart. What I thought was meanness was really his way of expressing his own frustrations and hurt. Darrell may have been a bully, but the rest of us inflicted more pain on him than we will probably ever know.

Another human attribute is to polarize things or think in terms of "all" or "nothing." Look at how pundits talk about our politicians. They describe people who are either diety or satanic. I am sure George Bush and John Kerry have their faults, but they no doubt possess redeeming qualities as well.

Have you ever not liked someone, but after spending some time with them changed your mind? It is far easier to hate someone you do not know than to hate someone you do know.

In my line of work, I sometimes meet people who have done bad things like murder and child molestation. I am often amazed at how normal and even likable these folks can be. I suppose there are people who are nearly 100% evil, but most folks are a mixture of good and not-so-good.

If you cannot integrate the good and the bad in the same person, then you will most likely accept or reject an entire race, religion, and gender based on your good or bad experiences with it.

The woman on the bad side of an abusive relationship may reject all men. A crime victim may conclude that all young black men are muggers. Discrimination is useful when we are trying to distinguish good mushrooms from the poisin kind or if we are a parts inspector at an auto plant, but if we overgeneralize, discrimination is a liability.

The end result of these two human aspects, believing the worst while rejecting the good and all or nothing thinking, is lonliness. These behaviors are relationship killers. To correct these human aspects, one must simply be more realistic and objective. We must move from our emotions to our thinking. We must exercise restraint and patience before setting our opinions in cement. Get to know people. Place yourself in their shoes before you exercise your extreme arrogance and presume to know what makes them tick better than they do themselves.

It is difficult to improve on "The Golden Rule." Treat people the way you would like them to treat you.

What's in a heart? It is revealed a little at a time. One bad behavior does not make one bad anymore than one good behavior makes one good. It is over time, through a person's words and deeds, that the contents of their heart is revealed.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Law of the Jungle

Pack of wolvesEvery now and then I run across the source of something familiar to me. It just happened again. The familiar of which I speak is a phrase: "The strength of the wolf is in the pack." That phrase is often used as a metaphor in team sports. A local high school has it printed on their basketball court. They are the Wolves of St. Paul's School. When my son attended basketball camps at the University of Kansas, that phrase was used and the boys were often compelled to yell it in unison.

This evening, I was browsing around reading poetry. Wow, that sounds intellectual, anyway, one of my favorite poets is Rudyard Kipling and in the Jungle Book, he writes of the "Law of the jungle."
Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. -Source
I admire Mr. Kipling even more now that I know he penned this phrase.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 17, 2005


Juno 2005

Barb, John, LJ, and Ashley at the 2005 Juno Ball
For quite some time now, Barbara and I have attended the Juno Ball. This has become a Mardi Gras tradition and a lot of fun. This year, John and his girlfriend Ashley came along too. The Mardi Gras season is in full swing. This year the holiday is early, February 5.

Usually, at a Mardi Gras ball, one partakes of the food and drink. Since I had to run 16 miles Sunday morning, my challenge was to practice the rare art of moderation. Everything worked out fine. By 8:30 Sunday AM, I was pounding the pavement feeling good. Boy was I glad I controlled myself the night before.

I am a bit bummed over the fact I won't be in town during the Olympia parade. Again, Olympia is an annual event. The parade route is near our house and we usually have a party. Not this year. Instead, I will be in Kansas City celebrating my father's 80th birthday. At least I am missing the parade for a good cause.

Here's to a good week.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 15, 2005


Saturday Morning Brain Teaser

You have one minute to find the difference in the two photos before the answer is automatically posted. Once you actually know the answer it is surprisingly easy to spot but the way the photos sit next to eachother make the inital discovery nearly impossible. Good Luck!

Click here to view the photos

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 14, 2005


Robert Frost: Nothing Gold Can Stay

this is an audio post - click to play

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost Website

It is January and no better time to read a poem by a man named "Frost." The poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" tells me, first of all, there is gold. Secondly, that it does not last. Now we could whine and complain because the gold is temporary or we could experience the gold and enjoy it while it is here. I choose the latter and I hope you do as well.

The gold is all around us. If you slow down and look, you may be surprised at how plentiful it is. This weekend enjoy the gold of life for as our poet Robert Frost reminds us, "Nothing gold can stay."

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, January 13, 2005


The Internet

Every now and then I ponder the wonders of the Internet. How I lived without it, I have no idea. As I age and my memory begins to fail me, I can quickly find the answer to: Who was that actor who played in that movie, or where is Sri Lanka? The Internet is the ultimate solver of bar bets. Google is like the computer in Star Trek only without the talking.

Computers were just coming out as I finished my formal education. The Internet was not the research tool it is now. When I think of all the time I spent in libraries going through the stacks, card catalogs, and searching for books I am amazed. Even after all of that work, it might not even turn up a decent source for a research paper. Conversely, the Internet provides very specific stuff and lots of it.

I even hear a person can find pictures of naked women on the Internet, but since I'm married, I wouldn't know about that. Hehe. Think of it. Movies, music, funnies, spirituality, shopping, news, weather, anything can be found on the internet and we have access to it.

Let's hope the government keeps their party pooping mitts off of it. Sure I get lots of spam promising me big boobs, a long penis, a head full of hair, plentiful pain meds, easy weight loss, and easy money, but nothing is perfect. I have also gotten back to writing and have met a lot of nice people in the process.

So I give two thumbs up to the Internet. It has become as necessary as indoor plumbing and salt on French fries.

Download the entire Internet here

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 11, 2005



Hands of tsunami refugees reach out for food.
Tsunami Photos from the New York Times

These are the hands of tsunami refugees in India reaching out for food. We all have hands. I am thankful that I do not need to reach out so desperately and helplessly. Instead, out of compassion, I can reach out to help. The death toll for the tsunamis has risen to more than 160,000 people. I cannot fathom such loss. The destruction I see on television is viewed from a comfortable chair in a warm home with plenty of food in the pantry.

The world is responding. People are giving, but the destruction and devistation is so vast.

Do not forget these people. Share some of your money. Pray for them. The hand of God reaches these suffering souls through our own willing hands.

But for the grace of God go I . . .

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 10, 2005


Southern Snow

Bags of leavesI have read a lot of posts from my northern friends who have been dealing with snow. Driving is treacherous and shoveling the drive is a pain in the arse. People might think us southerners have it made with our mild winters, but we have our own vexing substances that fall from the sky. Leaves and pine straw to be specific are the thorns in my side. Were it not for them, I would have more free time on the weekends.

This weekend's haul was nearly 30 bags of leaves. Thanks to Ben, one of my son's friends, I had a little help. It will be like this until May. Every weekend, I will be raking up the little devils. They pile up so quickly. I have tried any number of ways to collect them. There is no good way, unless I were to pay someone to do it and spare myself from the ordeal altogether. On the other hand, I do a lot of thinking while I am engaged in the mindless toil of raking and bagging. I do enjoy being outdoors and getting additional exercise. Now that I think of it, raking leaves is a blast. It is so much fun, I would be happy to let you experience the joy. Drop me a comment or email and maybe we can make some arrangements. I really do not mind sharing the fun, because I know how enriching it would be for you.

That is our snow. Like yours, it will stop in the spring, but then it will be onto the growing grass. I can hardly wait. No rest for the weary.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 08, 2005


Bill Rodgers - Relentless

Bill Rodgers Winning the 1979 Boston Marathon

Bill Rodgers has always been one of my heroes.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 07, 2005


Let Me Buy You A Beer

Mackeson XXX StoutI suppose this is a safe offer, because everyone who reads this blog is not nearby. Nevertheless, I would love to buy you a nice cold beer of your choice after work today (Friday). Let me suggest Mackeson XXX Stout. Don't let the stout part scare you off, this is a smooth beer with a chocolate taste to it.
The stout has very dark, black color to it, typical of English stouts. The body is very full, with low carbonation. At initial pour, the head has a light tan color, and is thick, but the head does not last long. The bouquet is hoppy, somewhat burnt in nature, with a strong mossy presence.

Mackeson XXX has a good balance between the chocolate sweetness and the bitterness of the mash. It coats the mouth with flavor, and leaves a taste reminiscent of black licorice. While the alcohol content, which is a relatively low 3.75% won’t stop you from enjoying more then a couple, the fullness and lastingness of it’s flavor just might. Mackeson XXX Stout is a very enjoyable beer, indeed. -Source
Barbara bought me a "Beers of the world" box for Christmas. It is an assortment of 10 beers. This is a nice way to sample beers and find new ones. The Mackeson is one I will be searching for at the store.

I hope to see you this evening at the Tap Room right after work. I will be the guy sitting at the bar drinking a pint of Mackeson. I will be more than happy to buy you a round. It seems a fitting treat since this is the first Friday I have been required to work in three weeks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, January 05, 2005


The Next Thing

I have learned that I need "a next thing" to keep me motivated to run, lift weights, and watch what I eat. If I do not have a future race to put pressure on me, I tend to get lazy. I believe they call that accountability. My next thing is the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans February 27, 2005.
2005 Mardi Gras Marathon
This marathon is good because I do not have to travel. I first ran it in 1981. At the time, the route was over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The Causeway is the longest bridge in the world, 24.88 miles.

The marathon course now is entirely in the city of New Orleans. It begins and ends at the Louisiana Superdome.

This marathon does not carry the pressure of the last one. I don't have anything to prove. The only pressure will be the pressure I put on myself.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 04, 2005


A Fresh Start

There is something hopeful about a new year. It is as though a book closes and another one opens. As the seconds drain out of the old year, a brand new one awaits full with hope and promise. Our attitudes are refreshed and renewed. The things that plagued us during the year and felt so heavy in December; now seem conquerable in January. We have another year. The sun came up again after all. Maybe there is reason to hope. Take another step. Try a little harder. Rethink a strategy. Can you see it now? There are other ways to skin the proverbial cat.

Take heart, look up, hang in there, give it hell, just don't quit. It is amazing the progress you can make with focused attention and effort. Problems do not stand a chance against such assaults. Our phenomenal power is often untapped because we lack effort and belief. Great things are not achieved because great things are not attempted. Do not be afraid to reach for the stars. Do not be afraid of failure. Instead, fear paralysis and inaction.

What you believe in your heart can be achieved with your own tenacious effort and God's grace.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, January 02, 2005


One Last Look Back at 2004

As we close the book on another year, I have looked back to compile a list of my more notable experiences and memories from 2004. A blog is a living scrapbook of sorts. It was fun going through the archives and remembering the things I felt were important enough to write about. It was a year with the usual mixed bag of good times and sad, but they all work together to make a full life.
My mother begins blogging. Essentially Esther is born.
Spent an evening in the ER when John sprained his ankle.
Went to the Parish Inauguration to watch my friend Marty sworn in as Parish Councilman.
My cousin Dale begins a blog Kokomo's Korner is launched.
I buzzed my hair off and have kept it that way since.
I started writing a book, Lamron, a story about a man with schizophrenia.
Captain Kangaroo died, January 23.
Someone in the UK purchased $5,000.00 worth of doorknobs on my credit card.
Barbara and I attended the Juno Mardi Gras Ball.

Janet Jackson exposed her right breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.
I displayed my own right breast to the world Feb. 5.
We enjoyed the Olympia Parade, which goes, near our house.
Barbara and I celebrated our 21st anniversary.
Mardi Gras 04

I celebrated my 47th birthday.
We went to California to run in the Napa Valley Marathon and toured wine country and San Francisco.
Mom, Rocky, Becky, and George came to celebrate Becky's 50th.
Mom gave me her piano.

We attended the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. I ran a 10K in the AM.
Cory Hall and two other teens die in a car wreck; they were friends of my son.
I went to my annual retreat at Manresa in Convent, LA.
John's 19th birthday.
I began building a workstation in a corner of my house.
We took a trip to Destin, FL to have a time share pitch.

I hired a coach online to help me qualify for the Boston Marathon.
I went on the cottage cheese and peaches diet to get down to my running weight.
Outback food poisoned me.

We found an apartment for John in Baton Rouge when he transfers schools in the fall.
Ronald Reagan died.

Ran a 4 mile race on July 4.
Went to Orange Beach on the Florida / Alabama line. The area would be hit hard by a hurricane a few months later.
I spent the month watching Lance Armstrong win the Tour De France for a record sixth time.
I fried my digital camera and scanner by hooking up the wrong power source to them.

We had a garage sale. We de-cluttered and made money.
John moves to Baton Rouge to begin his second year of collage at LSU.
Summer Olympics.

The workstation was finally completed.
Hurricanes were all over the place, but especially Florida.
Barb's 46th birthday.
I ran a 21:03 5K and placed 4th overall.
I met Riri in New Orleans, a fellow blogger.

Training hard for the marathon in December, resulted in a pulled hamstring. Most of the month was spent nursing myself back to health.

Justin McLeese was killed fighting in Falujah. He was one of my son's friends. We attended his funeral.
John and I went to Venice, LA with Big Roy and Little Roy on a fishing trip.
We totaled our car the day before Thanksgiving.
I got a Christmas card from the President of the United States.
A fight in the NBA spills over into the stands.

I made my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon by running the Baton Rouge Marathon under 3:30:00.
I register for and am accepted into the Boston Marathon April 18, 2005.
We bought another car.
Here's to a great 2005
Until the next time
John Strain