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Monday, October 31, 2005


Seize the day and all that stuff

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.
It is a new week and we are alive. Let me say it again; It is a new week and we are alive. Enjoy your life, all of it, the work, the traffic jam, the line at the grocery store, and the bills in your mailbox.

I talk to people for a living and one thing I have noted is the things they complain about today, they will long for tomorrow. Parents complain away their children's school years, then wish they could sit on hard bleachers to watch their little athlete play a game. Retirees miss the office with all of its hassles and problems.

The secret is to enjoy it at the time, then years later, you won't have regrets because you will know you experienced it fully.

Like the sands dropping out of an hourglass, our days are fleeting. It is a shame when folks spend them complaining or waiting for something that may never come.

No one is perfect and I have wasted my share of time by procrastinating or worrying about something that might happen. Many worry and become anxious about a tomorrow or feel sad or depressed about a yesterday to the extent their today is wasted. Where we focus our attention is our choice.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Until the next time
and Happy Halloween

John Strain


Saturday, October 29, 2005


Daring to dream

My friend Scott sent me a link to a video about a guy named Matt. Matt is 28 years old and has muscular dystrophy. Life expectancy for Duchenne MD is about 30 years.

Nevertheless, Matt has a dream.
Matt's Dream

I work with people everyday, who for one reason or another, make up excuses for not doing the ordinary let alone reaching for a star. I have seen able bodied people with many worldly resources accomplish nothing with it. Then we have Matt who has every reason to lay back and accept his fate, but he does not. His dream inspires others and the result may eventually be him realizing what many would have told him was impossible.

We are only limited by our small ideas. Don't be afraid to dream. With only one-tenth of the faith Matt has think about what you could do.

Thanks Scott for this inspirational story. That is one TV station showing some good news. We live in a world where folks like Matt are plentiful. The trouble is they are more about doing something than finding a camera to pose by.

It is a beautiful weekend here; ripe for dreaming and working toward them.

Scott sent me an update on Matt:
Hey Friends,

I was under the water in the pool yesterday for 35 minutes! I felt
great once again. I would have done longer, but we were monkeying
around getting my mask positioned correctly, it kept leaking in the
beginning. But we got it worked out. Next time in the pool I would
like to hit 45 minutes and go to the deep end and see how I can
tolerate going deeper than 5 feet.

My friend and dive buddy Drew moved me around under the water all over
the pool as well. At one time in the pool I was about 5 feet under.

I was able to be rolled onto my stomach at the end of my dive session,
it was a blast. I didn't even need anyone to support my head in that

My other friend and dive buddy Frank took some great pictures and
videos, the pics are posted on my page here...


This is so much fun to be doing! Take care everyone.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
-Christopher Reeve-

-My Websites-

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, October 28, 2005


You just never know what to expect

Some of our more psychotic individuals have been talking again. I was sitting in my office on Thursday when someone knocked on my door. I yelled, "Come in." The door opened and a patient was holding a pair of sandals. He dropped them on my floor and said in a very serious voice, "I am tired of playing these games." Then he turned and walked away closing the door behind him.

Another individual was talking about Pegasus. I tried to join in and said, "Oh yes, the winged horse." The reply came in a deep raspy voice, "Yes, but I tore his wings off."

Then there is the 75-year-old lady who curses in a manner that would make a sailor blush.

Never a dull moment around the work place, I am ready for the weekend.

Saints ticket for LSU Tiger StadiumSunday, I am going to Tiger Stadium at LSU to watch the Saints and Dolphins. Watching football on a sunny autumn afternoon is quite a treat. The future of the Saints is in question, but while I can, I will enjoy our NFL team.

Have a nice weekend folks

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, October 27, 2005


An observation

The other day I was looking for a reference related to Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl spent three years in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. Most of his family, including his wife died in the camps. He is known as the father of logotherapy. He relates on experience in which all of the prisoners were ordered to completely strip. As he stood naked, he realized that even though someone could take everything away from him, down to his nakedness, he still possessed the power of choice. He could choose how he would respond and act in a given sittuation. You can read about his prison camp experience in the book, "Man's Search for Meaning."

What I was looking for is unimportant for the purposes of this post, but I continued to surf the net and blog hop. I visited Al's Blog and came across an amusing article he linked to on Ann's Blog about Sarah Jessica Parker. The gist of the article is Sarah dresses the way her two year old wants her to because it makes him happy and because, "He is the center of our lives."

In a few minutes of surfing I had gone from reading about someone with a great mind, who had contributed to our knowledge and understanding of human behavior to reading about a silly, shallow, actress who is confused about good parenting skills and self-pleasure.

The experience got me thinking about what our society holds dear, pays attention to, and ultimately honors. We give credit and attention to the shallow ones. The ones who do outrageous things, who have lots of money, who thumb their noses at the rules, and who go out of their way to be weird.

People like Viktor Frankl give away treasure. Still, society seems to rush by these treasures to grab for the "fools gold" of the celebrity de jour.

For the sake of balance, why not add some real treasure into your life. You could start by reading an interview Frankl granted at age 90.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed to be around people who gave away the treasure of their knowledge. My parents, my grandfather, teachers, and others. They will never be famous or known by millions, but that does not diminish their worth or importance.

One could become disheartened and say "Society runs after vanity and ignores what is important, woe is us." I, on the other hand, take heart. The world is full of good folks who freely give their knowledge and wisdom to those who are inclined to listen and learn. There is a lot of good news going on too, but the media will always push it to the back to show the bad stuff.

I have decided to re-read some books like Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning." I liked how I felt after reading the interview. It was like a conversation with my grandfather. It was reassuring. That reassurance is necessary when we have parents dressing in yellow clown suits just to make their two year olds happy and proudly proclaim their ignorance in the press.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Two Stories: Marital Bliss? and Huh?

These hurricane stories are getting better and better:
Newlyweds split as wife jailed, husband hospitalized
New Orleans couple married during evacuation to DeSoto shelter.

October 21, 2005
by Vickie Welborn

MANSFIELD -- A New Orleans couple who were married last month at a DeSoto Parish shelter for hurricane evacuees are separated -- he's in the hospital with a stab wound and she's in jail charged with attempted second-degree murder.

A.J. Cooper said he doesn't know what prompted his new bride, Angel Parker, to stab him in the chest. Their marriage of just over a month had been trouble-free until Wednesday morning, he said.

"We were at home, me and my wife. We had drunk a few beers and then all of the sudden she got mad about something and she grabbed a knife and juked me in the chest. That's about all I remember," Cooper said on Thursday afternoon from his bed at LSU Hospital in Shreveport.

He is being treated for a punctured lung.

Read the rest of the article here

Cindy Sheehan plans to chain herself to the White House fence:
Sheehan article

By Sher Zieve – Cindy Sheehan announced Monday that she plans to deliver another anti-war speech and then chain herself to the White House fence. Sheehan said: "I'm going to tie myself to the fence and refuse to leave until they agree to bring our troops home."
Sheehan added that she plans to be arrested and stated: "When I get out, I'll go back and do the same thing."
I say, if she chains herself to the fence, we just leave her there. Problem solved. My guess is that when she was a little kid and threatened to hold her breath, her parents panicked and gave her what she wanted. Contrast Cindy's whining protesting with a more dignified and justified Rosa Parks below. Another guess of mine is that the son she mourns is spinning in his grave because of her behavior that dishonors his service.

It is a strange world we live in.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

A tired, 42 year old woman in 1955 refuses to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, and is arrested and tried. This action led to a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, and an eventual Supreme Court ruling in November 1956 that segregation on transportation is unconstitutional.
What made you decide on December 1, 1955, not to get up from your seat?

That particular day that I decided was not the first time I had trouble with that particular driver. He evicted me before, because I would not go around to the back door after I was already onto the bus. The evening that I boarded the bus, and noticed that he was the same driver, I decided to get on anyway. I did not sit at the very front of the bus; I took a seat with a man who was next to the window -- the first seat that was allowed for "colored" people to sit in. We were not disturbed until we reached the third stop after I boarded the bus. At this point a few white people boarded the bus, and one white man was left standing. When the driver noticed him standing, he spoke to us (the man and two women across the aisle) and told us to let the man have the seat. The other three all stood up. But the driver saw me still sitting there. He said would I stand up, and I said, "No, I will not." Then he said, "I'll have you arrested." And I told him he could do that. So he didn't move the bus any further. Several black people left the bus.

Two policemen got on the bus in a couple of minutes. The driver told the police that I would not stand up. The policeman walked down and asked me why I didn't stand up, and I said I didn't think I should stand up. "Why do you push us around?" I asked him. And he said, "I don't know. But the law is the law and you are under arrest." As soon as he said that I stood up, the three of us left the bus together.

One of them picked up my purse, the other picked up my shopping bag. And we left the bus together. It was the first time I'd had that particular thing happen. I was determined that I let it be known that I did not want to be treated in this manner. The policemen had their squad car waiting, they gave me my purse and bag, and they opened the back door of the police car for me to enter.

Read the entire interview here.
Rest in peace Rosa Parks.

Civil Rights Video

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, October 24, 2005



Roy, Ben, and John with freshly shaved heads
Barb and I stopped in to see John in Baton Rouge on our way back from Texas. We had a nice visit, watched a little football, and then headed home.

An hour or so later, I got a phone call. It was John telling me he had shaved his head. I never know what words are going to come out of my cell phone. Money changed hands to get John to do it. After he shaved his head, Roy decided he would follow suit.

So in honor of Ben going to the Navy Tuesday AM two of his buddies have military haircuts. It's a guy thing.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, October 22, 2005


31 miles the hard way

Resting after the Rocky Raccoon 50K
The Rocky Raccoon 50K was quite an experience. I covered the double loop 15.5 mile course in 5 hours and 25 seconds. I fell 6 times and nearly fell about 4 times. I stubbed my toes, twisted my ankles, bruised the ball of my right foot, and got a nice blister on my left foot. I had plenty of energy and only walked a couple of times for about one minute. I ran almost the whole thing.

A trail run is a lot different from a road marathon. There were ruts, drop offs, zillions of roots, rocks, hills, and constant turns. There were very few straight stretches. I was running through the woods like a chase scene in the fugative. I do not usually use my poor eyesight as an excuse, but this event requires good vision. I could not negotiate the subtle changes in elevation, or see the roots well enough to run smoothly. I was jarring my back landing straight legged and stubbing my toe on roots sometimes sending me sprawling headlong. The first time I fell was about the 10 mile mark. I had just started up a hill and my left foot hit a root. I sailed off to the left plowing a furrough in the pine needles. The runner behind me just passed me by as I was making it to a standing position. My instinct was to keep running. The runner's disinterest was if to say, "welcome to trail running kid."

War wounds on my left knee from 6 falls
The trail was narrow and most of the time it was single file. I was getting discouraged. I was telling myself that I made a mistake. I was good at marathons, but this kind of event was out of my league because I couldn't see well enough. I was planning on stopping after the first loop. I told myself I would turn in my number to a race official then finish the distance on the road.

Then I thought about Ellen. She is in a race for her very life and has not quit. I am sure there are all sorts of things that are not fair in her race. Then I thought about Ben. What kind of example would I be for him when he is going through hell at BUD/S? I thought about how I would write about it on the blog and I couldn't think of how to do it without feeling like a quitter.

A blister
So I started talking to myself again. I told myself it is a beautiful day and all I have to do is slow down. Who cares what my time is as long as I finish the race? There were a lot of people behind me and I would still place well. About that time, a runner in front of me fell down hard. Just as he hit the ground I heard him say mother f!%$#r. It cracked me up the way he said it especially since I could identify with the sentiment. I asked him if he was OK and he said, "Yeah, I'll walk it off. . .those f*%#ing roots." He said the roots seem to get bigger as the day goes on and even bigger in the dark.

That guy falling made up my mind. With only 2 miles left in the first lap, I knew I wasn't the only one skidding across the forest floor. I still laugh when I see him flying through the air and voicing his discontent. I like to hear a good cursing out by a true artist. See Big Dick's Place for examples.

I was amazed how I was holding up. I was jumping over things, pushing off in different directions with my feet, tripping, stumbling, and sometimes hitting the deck, but the miles ticked by. I came upon a guy and ran with him for about 10 miles. His name was Andy and he had been at the Superdome in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina doing his duty as a National Guardsman. I told Andy about my vision problem and he tried to help me with warnings, but it is almost impossible, because there are so many places to twist anlkes and fall.

The last mile was a slow grade much of the way on a broken up asphault path. I fell twice on that darn thing. I was still clipping along at a decent pace and eventually I stumbled across the finish line. Yes Ellen, Barb videoed the event, but she needs a lot of work on her cinamatography skills.

I walked some, then sat down. I tightened up like Dick's hat band and I am walking like a guy who ran 31 miles the hard way. I am so glad I did not quit, but there for a minute, I was close. That is what I like about running. It will take you to your limit and you can see if you pass the test or not. If I had failed the test, I would be motivated to redeem myself, but I don't have to do that this time. I just have to enjoy the sweet feeling of achievement.

I think I will liimp over to my ice chest and crack open a brew.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, October 21, 2005


The eve of becoming an ultra runner

The lake at Huntsville State Park, Huntsville, Texas
I am sitting here posting over a dialup connection in a Motel 6 just south of Huntsville, Texas on I-45. Barbara is already asleep and I need to head that way myself. I have some work to do in the morning at 0700. After I run a couple of loops around the lake in the above picture, I will have logged 50K or 31 miles. I can then add the title "ultra runner" to my resume. I know, that and $500 will buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

This run is different because it is a trail run. I will have to contend with holes, rocks, roots, and ruts. It is truly a run through the pine woods of east Texas. I am looking forward to it. The scenery here is beautiful. As we drove from Covington to Texas, we got to see the damage Hurricane Rita caused. More snapped trees and new electrical poles mark where she made her mischief.

We had to travel the Hardy Toll Road north of Houston. Before we knew what was going on, we ran the first toll booth. We drove around it as if we had the electronic tag. Barb and I figured the cops would pull us over, but no lights or sirens. Then at the next toll booth, she pulled into the "exact change only" lane. We didn't have exact change. She tried backing out, but another car came up behind us. The operator a few lanes over, raised the gate and we proceeded. It finally occurred to me that our photo was probably snapped and next summer I would get a nice bill to pay the fine and penalty in the mail. So I got on the net and found the website that said violators get three chances before a bill is sent for the toll and a $10 fine. I guess we are in the clear. I may email them and offer to pay the toll to avert any action on their part.

OK bedtime. I will let you all know how it went.

Until the next time
John Strain


Godspeed Ben Dillon

Josh, Ben, and John at LSU days before Ben goes to Navy boot camp
Ben is the man in the middle. Early next week he leaves for the Great Lakes to begin Naval basic training. Right after boot camp, Ben will go straight to Navy SEAL training or BUD/S.

Are you motivated to succeed? Are you determined to persevere? Are you ready to accelerate your life? Consider a career in Naval Special Warfare (NSW). We seek smart, fit, hardworking young men from all backgrounds to join our team of SEAL operators. It is a career that offers unmatched challenges, adventure and job satisfaction to motivated candidates. To start your adventure, select your status.
Ben has wanted to be a Navy SEAL for a long time. He has studied and trained to prepare himself both mentally and physically. Soon his adventure will begin.

I am very proud of Ben. It is because young men like him who answer "the call," that our country is free. I am proud to say that I get choked up during the playing of the Star spangled Banner. I have difficulty reciting the pledge to the flag without my voice cracking, and when I think about the honor, dedication, and determination our young men exhibit when they join the armed forces, I stand in reverent awe.

A great country is made up of great individuals. They honor themselves and us with the sacrifice of their service. They provide a safe haven for us so we can worry about being late to flute practice or if a baseball game is going to be rained out. They stand in a long line of honorable men who believed their life was not too much to give for their countrymen.

To say "Thank you" seems inadequate for such devotion and sacrifice, but what words could convey our thoughts fully?

I have known Ben for a long time. He is one of the good friends my son John has. They have been good influences on each other. Ben is quiet and humble, but tough as nails. He will need to be to make it through the fire the SEAL instructors will put him through. Ben says 1 in 5 who tryout for SEALS, go on to became one. My money is on Ben. I tend to think if he does not make it, it will only be because he died in the process. I do not see him quitting.
After helping clean up Hurricane Katrina debris, John and Ben take a break

We are a fortunate people. I know for a fact that one person who will be standing watch on our behalf is honorable and dedicated. He goes off to the Navy in a few days, no doubt full of questions and concerns about what lies before him. He also goes with the love and prayers of those who know him.

Godspeed Ben Dillon.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, October 20, 2005


Greed, selfishness, disrespect, squandered opportunities, and Tom Benson

Saints owner Tom BensonThe New Orleans Saints are 38 years old. They have won one playoff game. Their first winning season did not occur until their 21st year. More often than not, Saint's fans are disappointed, yet they still fill the Superdome enthusiastically, selling it out the last 36 straight times. The team is a source of civic pride and it is one of the things that make New Orleans a special city.

We love our Saints and we sometimes hate our Saints, but we support our Saints. The team's owner, Tom Benson, must be campaigning to replace Scrooge as the most coldhearted, clueless, businessman, ever to grace a city.

In addition to undying fan support, the State of Louisiana has built the Saints a 6.2 million dollar state-of-the-art training center, another $187 million dollars from the state, and Superdome renovations. Louisiana has experienced the familiar big league blackmail sports teams are perpetrating these days. "We will move team X if you don't open the coffers and pour a mountain of money our way." I suppose one way of looking at it is that football is a business and where an owner wants to locate a team is his business. That is certainly the way Tom Benson looks at it.

Two days ago, he fired his top administrator Arnie Fielkow. Mr. Fielkow was an outspoken advocate to keep the team in Louisiana. He brokered the deal to have the Saints play some home games at nearby Tiger Stadium on the LSU campus instead of Mr. Benson's desire to play them all in far away San Antonio. Clearly there were philosophical differences. Fielkow saw an opportunity for the team to take a leadership role in repairing New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He understood the rallying power a team has and he wanted to use it.

Mr. Benson, on the other hand, driven by God knows what, most likely greed, selfishness, and a lack of gratitude, fired one of his only voices of reason. Tom Benson apparently needs "yes men" not good advisors.

Now the Texas politicians and Tom Benson are swapping spit and basking in the afterglow of deal making. In the New Orleans area we are experiencing anger and sadness all at the same time. Part of us wants to tell Benson to take his team and put them "you know where," but the other part of us wants to keep our NFL team.

The mayor of New Orleans invited Tom Benson to take a hike, then called on the NFL to let us keep our logo and put it on an expansion team, but in true Ray Nagin form, his public statements will only distance New Orleans from any possible cooperation with the NFL. He should be talking to them in private and toning down the public rhetoric.

In the end, it's just football, but what gets me is the glimpse we get into Tom Benson's character. Think of the opportunity this man has to make a lot of people happy, but is content to throw it away. He is a rich man. A lot of his money was earned selling cars in New Orleans. At a time when so much of New Orleans is gone and may never return, Benson proposes to take something else away. Maybe he wants to be known as the ultimate, "kick'em while they're down" guy.

There is such a thing as killing the "goose that lays the golden eggs." Major league sports will someday destroy themselves. Players and owners do things that cause shock and anger among fans almost routinely now. There are strikes, assaults, arrests, steroids, rogue owners, and higher and higher ticket prices. Someday, the anger of the fans will turn to indifference. At some point, the fans won't care anymore and the little empires of greed will crumble. I sure hope I live to see it.

As for Mr. Benson, his latest greedy antics remind me of some scripture:
Luke 12:16-21 (New King James Version)
New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Saints news article from Bayou Buzz

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Why do dogs do that?

When I walk Bear, he frequently scratches the ground with all fours. Dirt flies and he kicks up quite a dust cloud. This is amusing to me and I figured it had something to do with being a "tough guy," but I never really knew. So I did some Googling and came up with the following explanation:
Many dogs--nearly all males, neutered or not, and even some females--will
scratch the dirt with their hind legs after they urinate. some will even use their
front legs at the same time, backing up in order to leave a longer track.
This makes perfect sense to the dog but to us it seems odd.

The dog's pads sweat, leaving a strong scent for the next dog who comes
along to take note of. By scraping the earth, a dog says to whomever comes by nest.
"I am a big, tough dog, someone to be noticed and reckoned with. Here is my scent
urine) and here, next to that is the size of my footprints." By making vigorous
scratches in the earth, your dog shows his vitality and, presumably his size.
Barbara says when I am out running in the morning, Bear whines and howls until I come back. I guess he has some codependency issues he is dealing with. Anyway, I looked up the howling behavior on the net and it is a way of calling the pack together. Bear is calling out to me and expressing loneliness. I have seen him howling on the webcam. Poor dog.

Right now, he is lying by the couch asleep, but if I make a move toward the door, he will be dancing around with sparkling eyes.

This weekend, I will be in Huntsville, Texas running the Rocky Raccoon 50K. Bear will spend the weekend at the vet. He isn't going to like that.

It's a dog's life.

Fun link of the day, compliments of my brother - neat stuff: Birthday Calculator

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, October 17, 2005


Holy Toledo

Once again the world was treated to live pictures of rioting, violence, and arson. Toledo, Ohio was the venue.

I sat down in front of the TV to watch the LSU game on Saturday. Everything was in its place; a cold beer and a bowl of chips. I flipped over to FOX before the game and watched IT all unfold. I saw morons running wild. They were running in and out of a building. The doors had been kicked in and the windows had been broken out. Moments later, the building was set ablaze.


That depends on who is talking.

Some would say because some Neo-Nazis planned a march in a black neighborhood. Others say it is because outside agitators came in to gin up the anger and racial tension to incite the violence. I heard the police were responsible because they did not move in soon enough to stop the mob.

I say those three explanations are bullsh*t. The people responsible for throwing rocks at an ambulance, running wild, and destroying a building are the people who did it.

If you do not like someone's free speech, you are not authorized to commit a crime. I think in grade school my teacher called that two wrongs don't make a right. Only in this case, it was not even two wrongs.

Personal responsibility is a forgotten concept. It is almost automatic to look elsewhere for a cause of some problem other than the person(s) that did it.

One place this philosophy of blame shifting is most evident is the courts. Defense attorneys and “slip and fall” lawyers have been using the law to shift blame for years. We have all heard of the outrageous cases:

• The bartender is responsible when a drunk driver kills someone in a car wreck.

• McDonalds is responsible when an idiot places hot coffee between their legs and burns their crotch.

• A homeowner is responsible when a burglar falls through his ceiling and hurts his back.

• Cigarette companies are to blame for people smoking.

• Fast food chains need to pay for making people fat.

• Schools are to blame when students do not learn.

Folks have been conditioned to expect a million dollars or more anytime they are inconvenienced or experience something bad. Even in Hurricane Katrina, I can see how people are trying to get their payoff.

If you are personally responsible you understand insurance, make good decisions about evacuating and so forth. If you are not personally responsible, you read your policy after the fact and expect your insurance company to make an exception for your stupidity. You blame someone for not feeding you when you ignore evacuation orders. (I am referring to people who could have left the city, but chose to stay, not those who had no way out.)

The blame game and responsibility shifting is evident in ridiculous warning labels. People have become so lazy and irresponsible, they buy a complicated piece of equipment, not read the instructions, and expect everything to somehow work fine.

People go to court and proclaim their ignorance to get a check.

"Your honor, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to stick the curling iron up my nose, there wasn't a warning label. I want a million dollars now because I look like Rudolph and it's not my fault."

"Your honor, how was I supposed to know to shut off the lawnmower before reaching underneath it. Now I have to learn to tie my shoes with one hand."

"The dog ate my homework," was a humorous way of saying it's not my fault when you really know it is. Today, I suppose we would put the dog to sleep and give Johnny tutors and another month to get his work done.

There is no hope for us as a people if we continue to blame something or someone for everything that goes wrong. Folks pass on the blame, then they feel justified in not changing their behavior, which caused the problem in the first place. In Toledo, it is easy to justify burning down a building if you think a Nazi march is to blame. Even ministers defend and explain away the illegal behavior that took place in Toledo. They need a refresher course at seminary.

An anger builds in people who blame others. If they really believe someone else is to blame, they turn into a victim. The good thing about accepting responsibility for your lot in life is you remain in control. "If I caused the mess OR if I am responsible for cleaning up the mess, I can do something about it." Taking responsibility is empowering.

Society and government have been bad parents. I had friends whose parents never held them responsible for their behavior. They always blamed the other kids if there was a dispute, and the teacher if they got a bad grade. This parental philosophy made them spoiled brats.

Those who are not personally responsible are all over the news with their bad behavior and their accomplices are the politicians, lawyers, and high profile idiots who condone it just because it helps make their political point.

It is simple really, we need to get back to basics. When a football team is losing, they go back to blocking and tackling. When a society gets out of whack, its citizens need to look no further than their own behavior.

Could you imagine the things we could do if we not only took personal responsibility, but we embraced other radical concepts like helping others, and giving to society; not just taking? It could happen; one decision at a time.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, October 14, 2005


Patrick got a job

Patrick has been a patient of ours a couple of times. He is a gentle man and lived with his sister. I was his social worker and he always expressed a desire to get a job and work. Helping people get jobs is beyond what I can normally get done. Most of what I do for discharge, is make sure the patients have a place to live, a future appointment with a psychiatrist, and medication to get them to the appointment.

I was lucky enough to get Patrick in a group home called Carroll Street which is connected to the Lake House program I wrote about a week or so ago. Lake House was put out of business temporarily by hurricane Katrina and I made an appeal for money and goods to help get them back on their feet.

Carroll Street was a good fit for Patrick. He is easy going and gets along well with other people. Lake House is where he went during the daytime to socialize and receive other help. Lake House has been closed since Katrina, but Cheryl, the director, is still working with the Carroll Street Group Home residents.

You may remember me asking for help right after hurricane Katrina to get medication for those having problems contacting their doctors. I wrote about it here. It was Patrick we helped then and it kept him out of the hospital.

The Lake House director Cheryl Cosse called me Thursday afternoon to tell me some good news. First of all, she was pleased to have received some donations that were referred through this blog. Then she told me that Patrick got a job. They took him around to different places and he finally got hired at a local restaurant. He was as happy as an executive moving to the corner office.

This is what Lake House and Carroll Street do. They help people. Sometimes they help someone realize a dream, sometimes they help people get through the day, and sometimes they just provide a familiar friendly place to be.

For those of you who have contributed to Lake House, my most sincere thanks. If you would like to help them out, you may send your donation to:

Lake House
1912 Jefferson Street
Mandeville, LA 70448

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, October 13, 2005



The goings on here in Louisiana have exposed some things. I am talking about people. When life is good and there are no challenges, most folks appear the same, but turn up the heat by adding some challenge and difficulty and you will see what is at a person's core.

Those with character and principle don't change. They are the same whether they are at peace or in the midst of difficulty.

What I have observed is many politicians are shallow. Instead of leadership and innovation, they blame and whine. Many remained politicians throughout the hurricane, proving they have almost completely eradicated all of their humanity. I am mainly referring to Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Blanco. I liked Nagin before the hurricane, now my opinion is he is not very bright and his lack of insight will allow his arrogance to damage the future of New Orleans.

What I have observed is the military folks are the cream of the crop. They lead with confidence, common sense, and knowledge. I am impressed with Admiral Thad Allen and Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. These guys know what they are doing and they are getting results.

Maybe we should make our politicians go to boot camp before they take office. We would benefit if we did. I don't think Louisiana is unique. God help us if a nuclear terrorist attack happens or something big like the recent hurricanes, because our leaders are inept (generally speaking).

I think Governor Blanco is a nice lady and probably means well, but I think she lacks substance in the way of intelligence and innovation. It only takes a disaster to expose the weak links. The next election is our first chance to make sure we have capable, competent leaders. Voters better look at the resumes of prospective politicians and elect the best qualified.

We are in a heck of a mess, but we have the power to fix it, one vote at a time.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Please, make it stop

Is it me or are the news shows talking about the 2008 Presidential election a bit early? George W. Bush still has three years in his term and the news is dominated with stories about Hillary, Condi, and Rudy.

For crying out loud. There is lots of good news stories out there. The earthquake, hurricanes, and cops beating people in New Orleans to mention but a few.

Maybe I am more aware now, but I think things have changed. It used to be after an election, things died down and folks accepted the results. Nowadays, folks stay divided. You hear people say things like, "That's not my president." This is the behavior of spoiled brats and Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty. Grow up people.

There is no more drama. All you need to know is what party affiliation an individual has and you know what they are going to say. Each side is fed their talking points and they are spewed on the morning news shows by pundits of every ilk.

When I went to college, we were required to attend what was called convocation. Convocation was about a 30 minute speech or sermon by some professor, minister, or distinguished guest. I learned a lot at those services. My thinking and understanding was challenged. I didn't agree with everyone I heard, but I listened and I considered their argument respectfully. I long for that today. I certainly do not look for such stimulation on television unless I am watching the learning channel.

Things are so shamelessly politically motivated it isn't even funny. People keep screaming free speech, but we are less likely to hear anything outside the bounds of political correctness. Free speech entitles a group of people to slander anyone who thinks of running for political office. Free speech is OK unless you want to talk about God.

There is more shouting than discussing. Shouting has replaced conversation. Listening is a forgotten art. The phrase: Seek to understand then to be understood is rarely practiced.

Those of us who blog know that someone's politics is only one facet of a many faceted jewel. I read blogs who are 180 degrees away from my political views and some of them read me. Just because we disagree about politics does not mean we don't love dogs, family, nature, and a good laugh. I think the news shows foster the belief that people who believe “X” are evil. That is a scary proposition.

It is time we paid more attention to the word "united" in United States. Our enemy is not each other, but a false perception that a political belief makes someone unworthy of fellowship.

23 years ago today, I proposed to Barbara, boy did she get taken. Ha. If you want to read the story, click THIS.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Fun with Digital Stuff and Photoshop Elements 2.0

Bear running

1. Shoot video with Canon S2 IS
2. Import video into Quicktime
3. Select the desired sequence and export movie to image sequence
4. Import images (31 in this case) into Photoshop Elements
5. Create new file. In this case 350x300 down from 640x480
6. Copy, paste, and position each of the 31 photos creating a 31 layer document.
7. Choose "save for web" select animated GIF
8. Save

This may look like a lot of mumbo jumbo, but it is the kind of thing I enjoy doing. The result is a small "video" file. One never knows when a small video file will come in handy. Before doing it this way, I tried several other methods - most were unsatisfactory, but I learned from each failed attempt.

Click the thumbnail for a larger version of the GIF. It amounts to a 1MB download. Give it a chance to load.

When I showed Barbara the animation, she said, "Is this what you were working on all day yesterday?" I can sit in front of the computer for hours trying to solve a problem or create something I have floating around in my head. To me it is a puzzle to solve. I love it, yet for others, it would be the most boring torture they could imagine.

I guess it takes all kinds.

What turns your crank?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, October 10, 2005


Rolling the dice

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin wants to establish a gambling district on Canal Street to jump start the economy. The one land based casino Harrah's has an exclusive contract that would have to be renegotiated. The term renegotiate in this sense means go back on your word.

Personally, I think hitching your wagon to gambling is a bad idea. Gambling has not proven to be that lucrative in New Orleans as it is. Then with a police force teetering on implosion, a school system on life support, residents trying to rebuild, and other businesses working to reopen, a casino almost sounds obscene.

My main objection is that with the city devastated and in need of rebuilding, we have an opportunity to do something special. I do not know what that is, but gambling seems like a lazy man's answer to the problem.

Mayor Nagin would do well to assemble a panel of experts and see what they have to say instead of leading the charge into the same old same old.

If New Orleans is ever going to be more than a place to see tits and get drunk, we will need better ideas than casinos.

Go back to the drawing board Ray and get some help instead of trying to do an end run around folks with common sense.

One idea I think has promise is doing something along the lines of what happened in Indianapolis. The counties got together and hatched a regional plan. The parts worked together and the result was good. We could do that here. I believe this is necessary to attract businesses and manufacturing. It would be good to get a variety of industries here along with tourism.

We are standing at the crossroads and Ray Nagin wants us to get on his school busses he was saving and drive down the road of “More of the same.” I wonder what is his rush and why not take the “Road less traveled.”

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, October 08, 2005


Another Autumn

this is an audio post - click to play

Another Autumn
Another Autumn I get to see
With azure sky and welcome breeze
Foreboding moon and falling leaves
Silhouettes of spooky trees.

Scarecrows and pumpkins
Corn stocks dried
Cranberries and apples
Treats or tricks tried.

Bittersweet memories conjured by smell
The distant tolling of a lonely church bell
Blustery days and cool crisp nights
Awakening senses my soul takes flight.

Gratitude bursting; offering praise
For this treasure of beauty in all of its ways
Another autumn I get to see
And I will drink it in most definitely.

-John Strain October 8, 2005

Until the next time
John Strain


Yippee it's Saturday

Happy dogOh boy, it's Saturday and my family will be home all day. Dad will play with me more and I will get extra walks. I love the weekends. Then on Sunday, Dad throws me chips and other snacks he eats while sitting in front of the TV. Sometimes he gets real happy when he watches TV on Sunday afternoon and other times he gets real mad and says bad words. Mom just sits on the couch reading the paper and shaking her head. I think he is watching football games or something.

I also heard Dad saying he was going to clean out the shed today. It is full of stuff and he says bad words every time he goes in there because he can't find what he's looking for. Also, things fall down and he says more bad words.

I like it when Dad works outside because I get to hang around and watch. It feels real good outside today. It is cool and no humidity. Dad says when he runs his 25 miles tomorrow it will be a lot easier.

Well it is time to go chase my tennis ball again, I think I am getting a bath later too, but I like water.

Bye for now,


Friday, October 07, 2005


I think I feel a pulse

New Orleans is coming back to life, albeit slowly. This morning at the Sheraton Hotel, Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, Admiral Allen, FEMA reps, and folks from the SBA addressed 1500 New Orleans business owners. The purpose of the event was to inform people about what is happening in government to assist businesses in their efforts to reopen.

They said that Katrina wiped out 360,000 jobs in the area, but at the same time, businesses lack employees. Workers have been scattered out across the nation. So the people here have a great chance at finding a job. The awarded contracts thus far have gone to Louisiana businesses in 44% of the cases.

Burger King is offering a $6,000 signing bonus. I don't know the details, but I am sure people don't get the money until they work a year. Still, businesses need help and they are paying better wages to get it. Of course, costs will go up. I am waiting for the $5.00 Whopper to cover those signing bonuses.

I watched part of the conference on television and was shocked at some of Mayor Nagin's comments. I have searched for the exact quotes or even a story about his comments, but it is not being reported. Mayor Nagin was speaking like a preacher delivering a sermon. He was lecturing on race saying folks should get used to living by or working with people who do not look like them. Myself, I do not like elected officials preaching to me, especially about morals. Usually a politician needs to listen to such sermons, not deliver them. So he continued the sermon. He began talking about how folks from Louisiana should get the majority of the work. Then he said this, "We don't want to see the city fill up with Mexican workers." After a few more comments, he said, "A few Mexican workers are OK, but we want our people to get the jobs."

I am reporting this, because no one else has. It is evidence of a racial double standard. A black mayor can make such a statement and nothing happens. Imagine a white mayor making such a comment. There would be demands for a resignation, and an apology. The major news outlets would make it the lead story.

All skin color aside, public officials should not make general statements about entire races. Until we demand correct behavior from EVERYBODY a double standard will continue. In my book equality works both ways; opportunity and responsibility. I also believe that if someone is responsible, they increase their opportunities.

So businesses are beginning to reopen, traffic jams are taking place, and politicians are arguing with each other. It's a start.

I remain optimistic. I believe in the happy ending. Problems are only minor inconveniences. They will be overcome by some body. The fate of New Orleans is still a story unfolding and no one really knows what will happen. With the help of our neighbors, the American taxpayer, and local citizens, New Orleans will be back.

Strange fact: I just heard on the news that 51 carbon minoxide deaths have been reported from people running generators in their house. These folks are worthy of a Darwin Award.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, October 06, 2005



Click here to read the heart warming story behind the above photograph.

Does your heart need more warming?:
"I feel happy. I got my dog back," said Sarah, who then planted a big kiss on her dog.
Click here to read about Sarah reuniting with her dog.

Prisoners helping pets Prisoners helping pets On the right is a photo of an inmate in a Louisiana prison helping take care of a pet displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Noah's Wish Photo Page

Watch Humane Society call center video

National Geographic Photos of pets affected by Hurricane Katrina

If you want to read more stories, Google the words; pets, reunited, hurricane, Katrina. There are many stories about people getting their pet back.

What once was lost, now is found.

May those still looking for their pet find them soon.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Sometimes it takes a hurricane before you get that new mailbox

Mailbox sitting on a trash can
Have you ever been fired from a job and thought your life was ruined? My guess is that in time you said, "Getting fired was one of the best things that ever happened to me." In fact, you probably didn't even like the job, but you couldn't muster the energy to search for another one. You may have believed there were no other jobs, or there were no jobs close to home, or there were no jobs that would pay you as much. Then you discovered that new job. Do you remember the rush of creativity and hope you felt? Do you remember how you actually looked forward to go to work again? You met some of your best friends at the new job, didn't you?

Life is that way. The years have a way of beating us down and we lose our ability to see hope and possibilities. It is a form of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness experiments went something like this:
A cat is placed in a metal cage. An electrical charge is introduced shocking the cat. In response to the shock, the cat goes nuts and jumps, but the cage is completely sealed and he cannot escape. At some point, the cat gives up knowing he cannot escape.

The researchers then take the top off of the cage and apply the electrical shock again. The cat does not jump out even though he can, because he has already accepted there is no escape.

Learned helplessness blinds us to new circumstances that open up new possibilities.
Hurricane Katrina has freed a lot of cats. I have seen several stories of refugees who have been liberated. One guy met someone in a hotel from Minnesota who gave him a job. Those who are down and out make better news stories for the mainstream media, but many people are starting new lives liberated from their steel cage pulsing with electricity.
Mailbox sitting on a trash can

I was thinking today as I often do while walking my pal Bear. Each day, more debris is collected and things are getting cleaned up. What the hurricane did in in a matter of hours is slowly, but surely being corrected. The question then is this: Which power is greater? The storm that wrought such damage in hours; or the resolve of millions of individuals to fix what the hurricane broke? No question, nature has the edge when it comes down to sheer power, but her tantrums can be overcome by the collective efforts of people with grit and determination.

Hurricane Katrina killed almost 1,000 people. The debris in New Orleans would fill up 200 football fields lined up end to end and stacked 50 feet high. Towns and their economies are temporarily closed down, but a reaction more powerful than Katrina has begun to stir. I can see it as if it is already done. Our strength as a people is limitless if we set out to achieve a common purpose armed with love and the willingness to work selflessly. God smiles on such efforts.

We are far from helpless. On the contrary, we are capable of greatness. We are only limited by what we dare to believe.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


The Blind Man

It was a hot summer day and two nuns were painting a room in the convent.

As there was no air conditioning the heat soon became unbearable. The first nun said that they should remove their clothes so that they would be cooler.

The second said what if someone should come?

The first said we'll lock the door and then we will be safe. So they lock the door and continue painting when there is a knock on the door.

The first nun asks who it is and the reply comes back "It is the blind man."

The two nuns confer and decide that the blind man can't see anything and let him in, at which time the man says "Nice tits sisters, where do you want these blinds?"
Yesterday, Barb, Bear, and I drove to Baton Rouge to help John hang some blinds at his apartment. We left at 6:00 PM and made the one-hour drive in three-hours. Traffic was unbelievable and we have know idea what the holdup was. We sat at a stand still forever.

There is a little town called Holden between Hammond and Baton Rouge. For some reason, traffic was stopped in both directions of I-12 at that spot. Traffic has been increasingly worse in St. Tammany Parish because displaced people from harder hit parishes are moving in. This sort of traffic problem is sure to become more commonplace. Waaaaaaaaaaaa! C'est la Vie!

After getting John started on the blinds, we headed back around 10:30 pm and arrived home near midnight. Bear is a good traveler. He especially likes it when we go through fast food windows and people pass us food. He loves tater tots from Sonic and Cheetos from Circle K.

This is a light week of running (50 miles) compared to 82 miles last week. Running 13 to 18 miles through the week requires me to get up at 4:00 or 4:30 am. When I only have 5 to 10 miles to run, I can sleep until 5:00 am. Of course when I get up at 5:00 am I feel like half the day is over. Just kidding.

That's all from here. The blinds are up, but the traffic sucks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, October 03, 2005


When the going gets tough the tough get going

Sometimes events shape our lives. The Great Depression and World War II affected our entire country. People's lives were forever changed because of these external circumstances. Each generation and every individual will experience life-changing events. Hurricane Katrina is only the latest in a never ending stream. Millions of individuals in her path are now living different lives. Some of these people are in shelters, some are in different states, some are living in damaged homes, some have lost jobs while others are still working.

Individuals, friends, families, and governments are working to fix the problems, but this will take a long time. These times test our mettle. Will we curl up in a ball and cry or will we stand up on our hind legs and face the beast. Some folks may do both. Life changing events are usually difficult, but IF we move through them, we find we are stronger, and we have a greater sense of respect for nature, God, others, and self.

Every night on the news, I see people returning to damaged homes. At first they are shocked and most cry. They are not crying because they have lost material things, but because the evidence of their existence is gone. Their things tell a story and those things are gone. Think about your own house, look around at your stuff. When I look at my couch, I can remember good times watching football games with my son. The rocking chair by the TV was a bitch to get in our little car when Barb's mom gave it to us one Christmas. My father helped me make the bookshelf in the corner. Every room holds memories. These people feel this loss and it takes time to heal.

Even through the tears most of these people say they will begin again, they will rebuild. History shows us that our "human spirit" is quite capable of surviving and recovering from almost any kind of tragedy. Our spirit can overcome, IF we allow it to. The first marathon I ran in 1981 was across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. One of the finishers that day was a man with no feet. He ran with round horse hoof looking shoes. He could have easily said, "I can't run a marathon because I have no feet." Instead, he said, "I want to run a marathon."

We do what we want to do. If you give yourself to a task, chances are you will one day achieve it. The most important part is what is in you. It is the same way with the hurricane recovery. Those that want to go on will and they will help others.

The way we move on is to change our focus. At some point we must stop dwelling on the problem and work on a solution. When we begin to work and move, others are drawn to us and a kind of momentum takes place. Let's say your car runs out of gas. You could sit inside the car with your lip poked out hoping someone will stop and help you; or you could start pushing your car down the road. My guess is, more people would join you pushing the car than would offer to help you if you just sat in the car.

FEMA and the Red Cross can give help. The government will give some more, but the greatest resource any of us possess is our will to survive and to overcome. Whatever situation we find ourselves in - it is OUR situation. We must own it because no one else will.

This crisis holds many opportunities, but like an Easter egg hunt; the eggs must be sought out. Opportunities rarely find you.

It is a new week, put that spirit within you to work. Before a great thing can be achieved, a great thing must be attempted.

What lies behind us,
and what lies before us,
are small matters,
compared to what lies within us.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, October 01, 2005


Somewhere just south of "normal"

Things should be back together today as far as my yard is concerned. I have a big leaf pile in the alley that needs moved to the street. After that little chore, a long awaited weed eating, mowing, and blowing will return my grounds to normal. There are two less trees, some bare spots in the grass, tire tracks, and a pile of debris on the street. My shed roof still needs to be fixed, and weeds have been having their way in the outer beds. Their day will come, muahahahaha.

Running is almost back to normal. This week’s mileage will be near 90 miles. Tomorrow, I run a 20+. That is run 20 miles, then run 40 minutes in a 2 minute / 1 minute run / walk pattern. The 31-mile race in Huntsville, TX is on and is three weeks from today. Yesterday I made my reservations at the Motel 6 (39.99) nothing but the best lodging when I travel.

Bear must have taken his tennis ball with him on a walk and dropped it again, because it is nowhere to be found. I broke out a new one and he is getting used to the higher bounce of a new ball. You see we all have to adjust to things. He is laying here waiting for me to make a move to the door before he goes into his hyper-gyrations. That dog just loves to chase a ball and walk. If those things are in his life, he is a happy pup. We could take a lesson.

Barbara has been working at our church which has been functioning as a distribution center. They made a little video about the hurricane and you can view it here.

Saturday is officially on, my next task is to make a cup of coffee, then the dog, then the yard. After the run tomorrow, I can recover in front of the tube watching the Saints and Chiefs. I hope they improve their performances this week.

I downloaded the new Cheryl Crow album from the Apple Music Store. It is pretty good, I have it on now.

Until the next time
John Strain