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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


New Orleans Jokes

Here's some hurricane humor from my inbox. Thanks to my friend Susan for sending them my way.

St. Peter is manning the Pearly Gates when forty evacuees from New Orleans show up. 

Never having seen anyone from the Big Easy at heaven's door, St. Peter says that he will have to check with God. God instructs him to admit the ten most virtuous people from the group.

A few minutes later St. Peter returns to God breathless and says, "They're gone! They're gone!".

"What? All the New Orleans people are gone?" says God.

"No." replies St. Peter; "The Pearly Gates are gone"

Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, was asked his views on Roe vs. Wade. He said he didn't care how people got back to their houses.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 30, 2006


Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi: Before and after Katrina

Biloxi and Gulfport, MS before and after Katrina

See all 32 before and after photos of Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi

5 months after the hurricane, evidence of the storm and destruction is still evident. In Covington, where I live, there are still many roofs covered with the blue tarps, FEMA trailers are in driveways, homes are damaged and unoccupied, and debris piles are still on the streets. Linemen are still working stringing cable and collecting the downed wires. Work goes on, but there is just so much of it to do.

New Orleans gets most of the National press, but Mississippi sustained catastrophic damage as well. I received 32 photos in an email that illustrate the damage.

A juxtaposition of one photo from before the storm and one photo from after help to illustrate the extent of the devastation.

I would give the photographer credit for the work, but I do not know who he/she is.

UPDATE: Someone sent me the link for the photo source. The Sun Herald in South Mississippi published these photos. They have them arranged nicely in a Flash animation. Follow this link to see the photos and for the location descriptions.

HTML tip of the day: To remove the underline from a link, I was typing; style="text-decoration:none" in each link. I knew I could put a line of something in the CSS portion of my template, but I never looked into it until yesterday.

It is easy, of course. All you need to do is add this line between your "head" tags.

A {text-decoration: none}

It's that simple. That removes the underline from all of your links and saves you a lot of typing.

Have a nice Monday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, January 29, 2006


Getting it out of the closet

13 pairs of running shoesThis is a follow up to yesterday's post. I know I created a bit of a cliffhanger by telling folks I was going to clean out a closet. I can feel the tension building almost as thick as the fog outside. OK, I will stop torturing you. Here are the results.

The task wasn't bad at all. I cranked on some music from my rock play list and went to work. Barbara left on some errands. One of her stops was to take my pile of 15 dress shirts to the cleaners. I probably had that many there to be picked up. In the closet itself, I had another 30 or so. I thinned out 25 dress shirts leaving me, I just counted them, 24 in the closet.

That is still too many. 24 in the closet, 15 at the cleaners, and 2 from Christmas I haven't even opened yet. I have 41 nice dress shirts. I could wear one every day for 8 weeks and never repeat.

Moving on to Polo type shirts. I thinned them down from twenty some to 8. My long-sleeved T's are now down to 8. Those are harder to part with, because they came from races.

The photo above shows 13 pairs of running shoes. After 300 to 400 miles they are not good for running anymore, but perfect for knocking around, going to the river, and mowing the grass. I just don't need 13 pairs of them. I threw out a few pairs, kept a few, and boxed the rest for patients at the hospital.

I am good at acquiring things, but not so good at liquidating. The exception here is money. I have an easy time liquidating my cash reserves and it is hard as the devil to build them up.

My clothes just don't wear out and I suppose that is my standard for getting rid of them. I have a friend who keeps a certain number of pants and shirts. Every so often, when he buys a new pair of pants, he removes a pair of pants from his closet. I lack that kind of clothes discipline.

At least the bar in the closet is not bowed down any longer. I will try to keep it neat this time. Hahahaha. I know that's futile lip service. What makes matters worse is a few years ago, the closet was really bad. I took everything out of it and installed one of those closet organizer kits from The Home Depot. All that did was make it possible to cram more stuff in there.

Still, I am thankful for problems such as these. Most of us Americans have problems of excess not lack. We have too much food leading to too much weight. We have too many cars for our driveways. We have too many clothes for our closets and we have more time and money than most.

What we often lack is patience, discipline, and tolerance. AND I FOR ONE AM TIRED OF WAITING FOR IT AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! Just kidding.

It’s time to go out and put some wear on some future lawn mowing shoes I probably won't get rid of until 2053.

Have a nice Sunday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 28, 2006


Exciting Day

AM LightToday should be exciting. After I make a pot of coffee and walk the dog, I am going to clean out my closet. I need to reduce the tonnage by about half.

But you never know what a day will bring. September 11, 2001 started out like an ordinary day. I will take the mondane over that kind of excitement any time.

It was interesting in group the other day. One of the patients argued with me when I got a bit too positive. I began the group by commenting about what a nice day it was. Outiside it was sunny, blue skies, and temps in the 60's. Then I said, "Of course every day is good day in its own way." To me, every day is a nice day. A day is neutral. It is when we add own our plans to the mix that things become positive or negative.

A farmer may be turning cartwheels on a rainy day, while a guy who planned a picnic with a girl may be depressed. The person in the group was adamant and insisted that some days are BAD. Well, too each his or her own.

Depression messes with your thoughts. Many years ago I was talking to a young man who was depressed and he said something to the affect in a slow halting voice. "I wake up in the morning. . . and see the sunshine. . . I look at the blue sky and hear the birds singing. . . in the distance I hear children playing. . .then I think to myself. . . God I hate life."

I am not Polly Anna. I know there are a million ways to have a bad day, but unless I am in some dire situation, in excruciating physical pain, or deep mental anguish, I am going to call it a nice day and keep moving.

So maybe a day with an agenda as exciting as cleaning out a closet ain't so bad. I'll take it.

Photo: Since the hurricane, I can see the sunrises. What used to be a curtain of leaves and branches blocking the early morning light is no longer there. The same can be said for the western view and the evening light. One beauty relplaces another.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 27, 2006


Bear Report

by Bear

Bear DogHappy Friday everyone, it's me Bear and I want to tell you how I've been. Dad told me he got some email from people wanting to know about my prostate problem. I am happy to report that I am doing just fine.

Tomorrow I take my last Cypro pill, yippiee. I don't like pills, so dad has to shove them down my throat. He opens my mouth and sticks the pill way at the back of my mouth. Then he holds my mouth shut and I swallow it. Yuck.

At first, dad hid the pill in some peanut butter, but I got to where I knew something was wrong. I ate the peanut butter and spit out the pill. Dad got real frustrated and said some words I couldn't understand. Mama told dad not to use those words. I think he was mad because I didn't swallow the yuckie pill.

Next, dad stuck the pill down in some sausage, but I got to where I found the pill and spit it out of the sausage too. Dad finally decided to cram each pill down my throat himself.

He told me that if I would get used to eating pills with peanut butter or sausage, mama could even give me my medicine.

I guess I should have kept eating the pill laced treats, but it's too late now.

I feel good. Dad and I have fun taking long walks and playing tennis ball. I can't wait for tomorrow, because on Saturdays I get to go on long long walks.

I hope you get to take a long walk and play tennis ball this weekend too.

Have fun.



Thursday, January 26, 2006



Post-it noteI bet it has happened to you. That is, open a file folder to get a form only to find that someone used the last one. Even worse is when the last form was the original and somebody used it.

For such offenses, work is presently going on in hell to dig pits deep enough for those people.

It has happened to me plenty. I know folks get in a hurry, but using the original is low-down; it breaks "the code."

The post-it note above is what I put on the next original I printed off and placed in the folder fully stocked with fresh forms. I also put one in my desk drawer. I guess I lost my faith in humanity - no trust.

Similar crimes are not replacing the toilet paper roll, the paper towel roll, leaving the car on empty, putting an empty milk container in the refrigerator, and leaving the bread bag unsealed.


There are lots of things that aggravate me. I could list lots of them if I tried.

On the other hand, I am most thankful that it is only minor things like these I have to worry about. Aggravations and circumstances come and go in life. There will be times approaching overwhelming, but not now; and not for me.

Since that is the way things are, I won't be smug. I won't brag or delude myself by thinking it is because of something I have done or not done. I won't fret and worry when things will change.

I will accept things for what they are and be thankful. When the storms of life come for me - and they will come - I hope I can respond the same way; with acceptance and an awareness of what is good.

Here's to rolling with the punches life throws our way. Here's to life.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Reading your mind

Think of a number between 1 and 10

Now multiply that number by 9

You should have a two digit number. Add those two digits together.

Take that number and subtract 5 from it.

Now we will assign a letter of the alphabet to your number. If your number is one then it is A, if your number is 2 then the letter is B, if your number is 3 then your letter is C, and so on.

OK, think of a country that starts with your letter.

Now take the last letter of that country and think of an animal that begins with the letter.

Take the last letter of your animal and think of a color.

OK, are you ready for me to read your mind?

Are you thinking of an Orange Kangaroo from Denmark?

I thought so.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


It's the action that counts

If it is the thought that counts I would be liable for some pretty bad things and responsible for some very nice things. My thoughts are all over the place, but my actions are what count.

I thought about sending Christmas cards. I thought about taking something to a patient at the hospital over the weekend - it was his birthday. I thought about anonymously slipping some money to a fellow employee who could use some help. Good thoughts, but no action.

I wish I were half as good as I think about being.

At least compassion and goodness are not the only thoughts I respond to with inaction. I let go of a lot of angry thoughts as well. That is a good thing.

Note to self. When you have a good thought / intention; follow through. Pick up the phone, spend the money, say what is on your mind, fill the need, and go the extra mile.

Anyone can think a good thought, but it is the action that counts.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 23, 2006


Half cocked

My newspaper did not come Saturday. I wondered if it had anything to do with the envelope that came in the paper a week or so ago with a piece of paper announcing I had a new delivery person. Surely they wouldn't cut me off.

Then Sunday, I got half of a paper. Sometimes they throw the paper in two pieces so maybe the second half was on the way. Then when I walked Bear, I saw other people had the whole paper. This made two days in a row without a paper.

I thought about how I have lived here 15 years and have subscribed to the newspaper the entire time. Now, some clown is going to cut me off with some sort of hardball tactic to get payment.

The note said nothing about how much I owed or when I needed to send the money. The longer I walked Bear, the madder I got. I was ready for the guy. If he gave me any trouble about not paying, I was going to tell him how I have been a good customer for 15 years and that if he was going to be such a tight ass, I would cancel the paper. Then I would call the newspaper and let them know what a bad carrier he was.

Yes sir, I was ready to unload.

I called the man up and he answered the phone. Then a little girl picked up the phone, "Hellooooo." He told her to hang up, "Put the phone down honey." Then another littler girl picked up the phone, "Helloooooooo." I guess picking up the phone was still fun for them. After about a minute, he got his daughters off of the phone and we were talking.

I told him who I was and where I lived. I said I hadn't gotten the paper for two days and that I wondered if I had been cut off. He told me I wasn't cut off, but he gets confused on our street. It seems that he is throwing the papers from a recorded tape.

Long story short, he ran another newspaper right out and apologized. Me, my face turned into a jackass for a moment and I said a few eeeeaaawww's like on the cartoons.

It is funny how you can build things up in your mind. It is important to remain calm and give the other party the benefit of the doubt. Let them actually do what you are accusing them of doing.

It reminds me of the guy who had a flat tire out in the country in the middle of the night. He opened the trunk and discovered he had no jack. Scratching his head with his finger, he remembered there was a farm house a mile or so back down the road.

The man set off walking to the house to ask for a jack. As he walked, he figured the people in the house would not be thrilled about being awoken so late at night. They might even be mad. But what was he to do? It wasn't his fault he had a flat tire. They should be more willing to help folks in need anyway. He had thoughts like these until he got to the house.

He knocked on the door a few times until finally a light came on and a sleepy eyed man opened the door. "Yes, may I help you," said the farm house resident. The man replied, "I didn't want to borrow your damn jack anyway." He then turned and walked away.

Monday is a day a lot of folks go off half-cocked. A word to the wise is sufficient.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 21, 2006


I bookmarked this site

The Story Bin

This website contains my kind of writing. I use a lot of this stuff in groups to get discussions going. It is the wholesome stuff I believe built this country and made it great. It is the kind of stuff that makes us great.

You may not become rich and famous by applying these truths and principles, but your chances of becoming happy will be greatly enhanced.

Here is one selection. Does this remind you of your own mother?
Mean Moms
Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them:

I loved you enough to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.

I loved you enough to insist that you save your money and buy a bike for yourself even though we could afford to buy one for you.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to make you go pay for the bubble gum you had taken and tell the clerk, "I stole this yesterday and want to pay for it."

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that should have taken 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents aren't perfect.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say NO when I knew you would hate me for it.

Those were the most difficult battles of all. I'm glad I won them, because in the end you won, too. And someday when your children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates parents, you will tell them:

Was your Mom mean? I know mine was. We had the meanest mother in the whole world! While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, eggs, and toast. When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, we had to eat sandwiches. And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from what other kids had, too.

Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were convicts in a prison. She had to know who our friends were, and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for an hour or less. We were ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the Child Labor Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, empty the trash and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for us to do.

She always insisted on us telling the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By the time we were teenagers, she could read our minds.

Then, life was really tough! Mother wouldn't let our friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them. While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13, we had to wait until we were 16.
Because of our mother we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced.

None of us have ever been caught shoplifting, vandalizing other's property or ever arrested for any crime. It was all her fault.
Now that we have left home, we are all educated, honest adults. We are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mom was.
I think that is what's wrong with the world today. It just doesn't have enough mean moms.

Check out The Story Bin yourself.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 20, 2006


Of chocolate and Sneetches

You can't teach a sneetch
Text of the Sneetches

Link to the book by Dr. Seuss

T-Shirt website: I'm Not Chocolate Dot Com

T-Shirt website: Mayor Wonka Dot Com

Dr. Seuss was a prophet and I love America.

Let's review.

Martin Luther King Day provided the backdrop for politicians to pander to black audiences. The constant here is "politicians pander shamelessly." Of course we know about Mayor Nagin's "chocolate city" comments. Hillary Clinton referenced the "plantation" to her black audience.

The talk shows went wild. Republicans attacked with "gotcha," Democrats fired back with "no sir," and the water coolers actively echoed it all.

Almost overnight websites sprung up to cash in. Maybe a little too quick. My job places me with real paranoid people and maybe it's contagious, but what if?

What if old Ray had this all planned? What if this is one of his schemes to bring money into New Orleans? That would make him pretty smart and self-sacrificing. He had those websites ready because he knew if he said the chocolate stuff, people would be all upset, then they would joke about it, and maybe even spend money on it. Yip, pretty smart.

I have to admit and you can scroll down and read for yourself, but I jumped all over his "chocolate" statements. I, of course, took the high road. I felt the same way about what Hillary said, but someone out there saw it as an opportunity to cash in.

I love this country.

That is why I will never be rich. I look at events and think and write down my opinion. I try to encourage better, nicer behavior. But other people see the opportunity to gain financially. Sometimes I wish I could do that. I admire their business sense and I admire their ability to let the BS wash over them and flow out green.

Dr. Seuss summed all of this up in his story about the Sneetches. I loved that book as a little boy, but as a man, I can appreciate its message.

Read the full text version. I have the link at the top of this post.

Basically, there were two kinds of Sneetches. Some had stars on their bellies and some did not. There was prejudice - like with blacks and whites. A huckster comes to town with a machine that puts stars on bellies. They are all alike. Then he adjusts the machine to take the stars off of the bellies. They are diffeerent again.

This goes on and on until the Sneetches forget if they had stars on their bellies or if they did not. The huckster drives away with all of the money and the Sneetches are confused. You just can't teach a Sneetch.

But I am an optimist. Even though we are all Sneetches ourselves, I believe we can learn, the question is will we. Well, will we?

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, January 19, 2006


I know

We all hold beliefs. They encompass our opinions and attitudes about race, religion, nationality, and everything about everything. Are they true? How do you know?

Some of your beliefs were handed down to you from your parents, relatives, and others who impressed you as you grew. Before you could think and form opinions; opinions were given to you.

Other beliefs are a result of experiences you had. Maybe you were traumatized, maybe you were deprived, and maybe your experiences were neutral. Things you experienced at age 6 may still haunt you today.

Your education exposed you to things. Where you went to school, who taught you, and what you studied has shaped you. You were grouped with a certain kind of person because of those parameters.

Who you spent time with growing up has influenced you. Your discussions about life were bounced off of them and they responded to your statements uniquely.

There are hundreds of variables contributing to who we are and what we think, but that is only part of what forms our beliefs. This is only the foundation on which our adult beliefs are formed.

We continue to absorb information as adults. Our sources vary and each individual ascribes different weight to each conduit of data. This data is filtered through the foundational structure. A man living in Louisiana who grew up in the midwest may have one perspective and a woman in California, born and raised will have another perspective.

Each newspaper article you read, every news program you watch, books, and movies all seep through our many filters to form our opinion(s).

What do you believe? Are you pessimistic about people? Do you think the United States is going to hell in a hand basket? Are you angry, sad, depressed, scared, frustrated, anxious, and/or apathetic? Are you suspicious of folks? Do you lack trust and hope? Why? What information makes you feel that way? How do you know that your beliefs are true? Because if these beliefs are not true, maybe you could trust, have hope, be optimistic, less angry, and happy.

Here is my advice on how to sift through information and ascribe weight to it:
1. Take the bad news you read in the newspaper and see on TV with a grain of salt. Anytime I have had first hand knowledge about something that hit the papers or television, it was usually misreported. Before you get all emotional, verify the facts. There is such a push with news agencies to be first, they don't worry so much about being accurate.

2. Know your own triggers and pet peeves and don't react to them. Some of our ingrained prejudices and opinions are prone to explode with just a bit of news. We jump to conclusions, rant and rave, and get all upset almost instantly. Don't react so quickly. Take your time, think more and feel less. You can always fly off the handle later if that is what you really want to do.

3. Seek to experience things first hand. It is better to experience the mountain top view than it is to hear someone describe it. Some people like to embellish and stir the pot. Don't take the bait.

4. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Allow them to interpret themselves. Personally, I hate to be told what I meant. Someone can tell me how they understood what I said, but they can not tell me what I was thinking and what my intentions were.

5. Be as open to good news as you are to bad news. Have you ever told someone good news about someone and they didn't believe you? Now think about how people react when you say something bad about someone. Usually, it is accepted straight away.

Good news example:
Person 1: "Hey did you hear about Donna, she is going to have a baby."
Person 2: "I wonder if she knows who the father is?"

Bad news example:
Person 1: "Poor Bill got fired, did you hear?"
Person 2: "Yeah, he probably deserved it."

I was watching the Today Show Wednesday and there was a story about this guy. He is walking to New York from San Diego. He started out to lose weight, but along the way, he has been changed - spiritually.

He talked about meeting good people and being surprised by the goodness of folks along the way. He experienced the kindness of strangers many times.

Another person learned the same thing about America when he walked across the country. Peter Jenkins wrote several books about his experiences and they changed him for the better.

If you think people are jerks and they are only out for themselves, I would contend that maybe you need to get out more. Certainly there are assholes out there, but don't judge the entire human race because someone cuts you off in traffic.

The good folks don't get the press, but they are there. I see them at races. I bump into them when I am walking Bear. I work with them and take care of them in my job. My mother reminded me of something Abraham Lincoln once said. He commented about some individual and said, "I don't like him, I must get to know him better." That is true. if we don't like someone, there is a good chance we probably don't know them very well. I have had poor opinions of folks only to learn admiration and respect for them after learning more about them.

We all just need a little more understanding. It would do us all some good.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Bear goes to the vet

ProstateHi everyone, it's me Bear. I spent the day at the vet on Tuesday. It all started when mom found some blood on the floor where I sleep. Daddy thought I cut my foot, but a check of my paws showed nothing wrong.

The next morning, mom found more drops of blood on the floor. This time dad looked in my butt, then he rolled me over on my back and looked at my belly. When I heard mom and dad say uh oh, I knew they found something.

They said I had blood dripping out of my weenie. I got excited when daddy put my blanket in the back seat of the car. I like to take rides, but it wasn't a fun ride today. We went to the vet. Nothing good ever happens at the vet.

I got left at the vets office and Mr. Rusty did all kinds of things to me. I had my bladder x rayed, I got stuck with a needle, and the vet stuck his finger in my butt. It's funny, ever since he did that, I have had a strange urge to watch Brokeback Mountain.

Anyway, the vet said I had benign prostatic hyperplasia. That means my prostate got big. I have to take antibiotics. Mr. Rusty gave me a shot too.

My dad was reading the patient information sheet the vet gave him and this line appears in it: "The best treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia is castration." I'm too young for all of this. I want to have puppies someday. Sigh.

Dad said he would do everything he could to save my nads. I hope I don't have to go under the knife.

So if you would, fold your paws and say a prayer that I get to keep my doghood. It would mean a lot to me.

Until the next time


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


New Orleans will again be a chocolate city

Ray Nagin
I am still digesting what Ray Nagin the Mayor of New Orleans said in a Martin Luther King Day speech.

Why don't you listen to him in his own words.

Ray Nagin's speech

Nagin quotes:
"God is mad at America."

"We are in Iraq under false pretenses."

"This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. . .it's the way God wants it to be."

Ray Nagin's words are in sharp contrast to the teachings of Martin Luther King, who called for a person to be judged ". . .not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

We are a polarized society. One's label is more important than the contents of their soul. If I, a white man criticize a black man; chances are I would be branded a racist. Never mind if the criticism is valid. This works the other way around too.

Are we a people so ignorant, we only listen to someone if they are black, white, Democrat, or Republican? Instead of exchanging ideas, we hurl accusations of racism. There is no debate only name-calling.

Until we can focus on content and behavior over and above race, religion, and political party, we are doomed to quibble and trifle about things which amount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The problems of this country are problems of character. No one group has the market cornered on bad behavior or for that matter, truth.

Some blacks will defend Mayor Nagin solely because he is black and they don't like whites criticizing blacks.

Corporate crooks get off with light jail sentences in dorm like prisons. Sure they stole a lot of money, but they did not use a gun.

Priests who abuse children slip away behind the veil.

Crooked politicians, celebrities, and people with money escape the fate a common person would endure for the same offense. The injustices go on and on.

Until we demand more of ourselves and those around us, we will continue to reap the fruit of greed and sloth. Injustice will reign.

Today in New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin dishonored Martin Luther King by invoking his name to endorse his own small, ignorant, racist ideas. Instead of seeking to unify the people with his speech, he chose to insert a racial wedge and hammer away at it with a post mal.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, January 15, 2006


Mississippi Marathon 2006

Mississippi Marathon 2006
It was a beautiful day in Clinton, Mississippi for the 2006 Mississippi Marathon. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and the temperature was 39 degrees. As far as marathon weather goes, it doesn't get any better.

A beautiful setting for a marathon, running through the rolling rural hills on the Natchez Trace, a 444 mile asphalt ribbon dissecting the pastures and woodlands of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.

I have been starting my races too fast and paying the price at the end. I was determined to run slower in the beginning and I did. It is nice when you find a group to run with. It helps pass the time and you make new friends. The guys I was running with were from Springfield, Missouri, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Marathons are conventions for runners. People come from all over the country for a common purpose - to run. Marathon training is something you do by yourself, so the actual event is a welcome change. I learn things by talking to other runners. We swap stories about races we have run, injuries we have had, hotels we have stayed in, and all sorts of topics.

I try to encourage and receive encouragement. One thing about runners, they love to talk about running. A marathon provides the perfect venue. If you see someone struggling, you encourage them or try to lighten things up. We have all been there. I have experienced the meltdowns and the triumphs.

I like seeing the different kinds of people. There are the first time marathoners who are wondering if they can make it. The old veterans who walk around with a kind of swagger. They know they will finish, but maybe they are after a certain finishing time. All ages are present from the children just learning to walk to the old folks in walkers. Families are there to support their runner. It may be a mom, dad, or spouse. While the runners are on the course, the families and friends mingle and have their own convention session.

The marathon event is a place of happiness and support Yet folks still wonder why anyone would like to run. Those from the outside see the physical exertion of running and it does not make sense to them, but if they could experience the other things that come with the physical exertion, it might make a difference.

I am talking about taking yourself to the edge. Certain things about yourself can only be learned on the edge. Running also has a deep spiritual connection. Runners learn a new appreciation for their body and new ways to enjoy their body. Running is a good way to experience nature. I like to feel the subtle differences in the day-to-day changing of the weather and the seasons. Each sunrise is new and unique, the birdsongs are never monotonous, and I never know what I might see around the next bend in the road.

The 2006 Mississippi Marathon was one of my most enjoyable marathons ever. I felt good and ran well. My time was 3:31:47. I was first in my age group. I ran the whole way except for stopping to pee at mile 8.

Afterwards, I sat in the sun talking to folks and soaking up the good feelings of accomplishment and community. I watched a little girl in a pink coat play with her mother. She had the uneven stumbling gait of someone who just learned to walk. It was a good day and a January Saturday I will always cherish.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 14, 2006


Marathon Day

According to my sidebar, I have a marathon to run today. I guess that is why I woke up in a Days Inn this morning. No coffee in the rooms or in the lobby, so I walked to a nearby Waffle House. While I sat there waiting for my two coffees to go, an older gentlemen wearing a John Deere cap sat next to me at the bar. It is a little cool for us here, 39 degrees, so he commented. "How about this weather. . . I thought I had a hard on when I woke up, but it turns out it was just an icicle." Not to be out done, I replied, "Ya, I know, this morning I was walking my dog and I had to break him off of a fire hydrant." I left him laughing.

Weather is perfect for running. It reminds me of what Crazy Horse told his fellow Sioux the day they rode out to slaughter Custer and his men, "Come on men, it's a good day to die." I don't reckon I will die today, but I feel the same enthusiasm Crazy Horse inspired.

I hope you have a nice Saturday wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, January 13, 2006


Put 'em in a box

It is human nature to label things, organize them, and put them in a box. I am referring to more than office supplies in a desk, and nuts and bolts in the workshop. We label people too. I suppose doing so makes life seem more ordered. Then we can hold beliefs in our heads like, "Men are always thinking about sex; All women like to shop; People in the south have pickup trucks fitted with gun racks; and Cops like donuts."

Another word for this collection of beliefs is prejudice. A prejudice is what happens when we pay more attention to our belief about something than we pay attention to that something. A prejudice or a label has some truth in it. They result from our experiences and observations. The beliefs may serve us well in some circumstances, but they may cause harm in other situations.

A prejudice is a continuum with political correctness on one end asserting there is no truth in it at all and bigotry and ignorance on the other end claiming the prejudice is the gospel truth.

We tend to gravitate to people who hold similar sets of beliefs / prejudices. Those with different sets of beliefs are fuel for our ridicule, suspicion, anger, and hate. We avoid those folks and our ideas about them stay unchallenged.

I am sure that in your life there have been times when you were forced to get to know someone with a different set of beliefs and it wasn't your idea. Maybe it was at school, work, or the armed forces. I see it in the hospital all the time. People are thrown in together and are seemingly incompatible, but become friends. Their beliefs may move toward each other, but even if the beliefs do not change, a respect develops where there was none.

It may make things easier to put people in a box, but it also makes them a lot more boring. If we ascribe a set of beliefs to everyone in a group, we miss the rich diversity of individuals.

Snowflakes have a lot in common, but each one is unique.

If we hold runaway prejudices, we are limiting ourselves. We limit our possibility of intimacy. We limit possibility itself. On the other hand, to challenge our preconceived notions is to stretch our minds and our understanding. We become tolerant, forgiving, and respectful of others. We experience serendipity and are rewarded with unexpected joy.

A group of people is neither all good nor all bad. The same thing can be said for an individual. I have done some wonderful selfless things and I have also done some incredibly selfish things. If someone were to presume to know me by virtue of seeing me at one of my low moments, I would be misjudged. Therefore, it is only fair for me to give someone a chance or two, because maybe my bad experience with them is an anomaly.

It is much easier and less stressful to let God do the judging. Instead, cut people a break, give them another chance, and look for the good in them. You can do this without being gullible and putting yourself at risk. These behaviors will expose you to grace.

Challenge your beliefs and resist labeling and packaging people. We'll all be in a box soon enough as it is.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, January 12, 2006


Fix your own printer dot com

You need to know about this website; it could you save time, money, and your printer from an early grave.

fixyourownprinter.com is a great resource. It has helped me on two occasions and could have a third time, if I had used them.

The first time I used fixyourownprinter.com, I had an old laser writer that didn't work. I stumbled onto the site and went through a funnel of sorts to diagnose the problem. First you select your printer, and then you click a link that is your problem. Presto, they have a repair kit for the exact problem complete with video instructions.

I ordered the repair kit for $20 or so if memory serves me correctly and it did the trick. It was fun, I had that laser printer in a million pieces, but it was not a difficult repair.

Fast forward. A year or two ago, I had an EPSON photo printer that was printing spotty. I finally took it in for repair and the cost of a fix rivaled that of a new printer. I was not happy, because the printer had had little use. Actually, that was what they said was the problem. The print heads clog without use.

It seemed to me cleaning print heads should not be a big deal, but I just blew off the printer. I never picked it up. I bought another EPSON printer, a C86. This one had far fewer bells and whistles, but did the job. Just before Christmas, I ran out of black ink. When I ordered and installed new ink, it didn't print at all.

I called the company and their witty tech support folks read me what was on their site's troubleshooting section. Basically, you clean the heads three times in a row with the printer utility. If that does not work, then you are screwed. They can take your order for a new printer. When I told them that this is the second EPSON printer to do this to me, they were not inspired to offer me a deeper discount. My anger grew.

That put me in a quandary. I had just purchased $100 worth of ink. I didn't want to buy another EPSON since this is the second printer to die of clogged print heads, but I didn't want to waste $100 worth of ink.

Enter fixyourownprinter.com. For $10 they have a repair kit complete with cleaning solution and syringe. I haven't gotten it yet, but I have my fingers crossed. I had thought about using alcohol. Not to drink, but to clean the print heads with. Anyway, on the fixyourownprinter.com website, it says not to use alcohol or Windex because they will ruin the print heads.

Printers used to cost several hundred dollars and the ink ribbons lasted a long time. Now printers are cheap and you pay $30 for about 300 pages of print. Can you say "rip off" boys and girls.

Well, this concludes today's public service announcement. If you have printer problems and you are remotely handy with a screwdriver, you can fix your own printer for a lot less than having someone else do it, or by buying a new one.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I didn't know it was bad

by Bear

BustedThis is a picture of me by the stress ball I tore up. My dad's sister Becky sent him a Lambert's Throwed Roll stress ball for Christmas. It looked so much like a hot roll, I tried to eat it. When dad found all of the pieces on the rug, he got mad. At that moment, I think he really needed a stress ball.

I tried to tell him I was sorry, but he kept saying, "Bad dog." Then he got the idea to take my picture and make a blog post out of it. That's what I call making dog biscuits out of a dead horse.

I had fun over the holidays. My dad was off of work. He took me to the river to swim. He took me on long walks and he was home so I wasn't lonely. Now the house is back to normal and I am spending more time by myself.

I overheard mom and dad saying I had to spend the night at the vet on Friday, because dad is running in a race in Mississippi. Sigh.

It's a dog’s life.

Until the next time


Tuesday, January 10, 2006


The coldest I've ever been

Many of you know I started out to be a minister. I studied a ministerial student curriculum in college and earned a masters degree from seminary. I worked as a minister for a couple of years before returning to school to work on my counseling license.

Three of us in college made up a group a local minister had taken under his wing to teach some of the finer points of being a pastor. We talked about things like dealing with difficult church members, conducting business meetings, officiating at weddings and funerals, and how to perform baptisms.

Now the Southern Baptists believe the method of baptism should be immersion. Other faiths may sprinkle or pour water over the baptizee. Church history is full of debate about the proper mode of baptism. Most folks agree that baptism is to be a public statement of an individual that he/she has decided to follow Christ. It is a lot more than that, but it is not a ticket to heaven.

Therefore, folks who argue the mode of baptism, generally do it in a good-natured way. It is like the Methodist minister and the Baptist minister discussing this very subject.

Methodist: If someone were to walk into the water waste deep, would they be baptized?

Baptist: No.

Methodist: How about if you walked into the water shoulder deep, would one be baptized then?

Baptist: No.

Methodist: OK, suppose you walked into the water neck deep, would you be baptized then?

Baptist: Nope.

Methodist: Let's say you walked into the water and were completely under water except for the very top of your head, would that constitute baptism?

Baptist: No. Even if you walk in the water with just the tip of your head showing, you're still not baptized.

Methodist: Well, that's the part WE baptize.
So, Baptists immerse. Most Baptist churches have a baptistery so that baptisms can be done during a worship service. In the old days and in present day in some smaller churches, baptisms were / are performed in a local creek or river. It was a good idea to walk down the aisle and get saved in nice weather. Otherwise, you might find yourself being baptized in an icy cold stream in January. I know what that feels like too.

Our little group in discussing baptism decided it would be a good idea to actually practice performing baptisms. It was January in Missouri and unseasonably frigid. We assembled at a little church out in the country.

We stood on the church steps as our mentor fumbled with the keys to the door. The ground was covered with crunchy snow magnifying the moonlight making the night quite luminous. We were freezing and ready to retreat to the warmth of the little church.

Low budget country churches do not run their heaters all the time. Inside was not much warmer than the snow covered steps outside. We flipped on some lights as we wound our way around to the baptistery.

The baptistery was homemade out of metal. I remember it was painted the aqua of a swimming pool, but more importantly, the heater did not work. The water was ice cold.

What started out to be a lesson in how to properly baptize a repentant sinner, turned into a typical male weenie-measuring contest. I wasn't going to say the water was too cold and neither were Chris and Steve.

We decided each of us would baptize the other two. Therefore, you had to be in the water long enough to baptize two people and be baptized by the other two would be ministers.

Clad with a swimming suit, I tested the water with my foot and it immediately went numb. After some deliberation, I decided to just get in all at once. I take band aids off the same way. No pulling a little at a time, you just give it a quick yank.

So I took the plunge and found myself in the middle of the baptistery in waste deep water. I remember Steve and Chris saying, "Look how red he is." They were right. I guess all of the blood in my legs retreated to my torso. I was red, but more than anything else, I was freezing.

Water that cold hurts and it really messes with your breathing. The rest of the time is only a blur in my memory. I guess it is like the interruptions in the White House tapes. Maybe they fell into cold water too. What I do remember is jumping in and out of the water to baptize or be baptized. Being plunged beneath the water of that temperature was enough to make me defect to the Methodists.

When we finished, I remember my flesh was so clammy, it was difficult to dress. I was cold. No, I was colder than that. Once back at my dorm, I got under the covers and just shivered. I thought I would never warm up, but eventually, that next July, I returned to normal.

There have been times in my life, in which I wondered if people had any idea what I had to go through to provide a service. I am talking about getting up at 2:30 am to deliver the newspaper and freezing to death to learn how to properly baptize someone.

That night I was born again and again and again. I have never been so cold. It happened about this time of year, but here in Louisiana, it was almost 80 degrees today. I guess over time, things balance out.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, January 09, 2006


Ricocheting Thoughts

Ben graduates from Navy boot campThis is a picture of Ben. I wrote about him last October going off to Navy boot camp and eventually BUD/S (SEAL Training). He is staying in the Great Lakes facility until July, then to San Diego for BUD/S. Good luck Ben, so far so good.

I am sitting here with a nice hot cup of coffee. I am drinking it out of my USS Constitution mug I bought while in Boston last year. I am looking forward to a repeat visit this April.

I have quite a collection of coffee mugs. When I go somewhere, they are the souvenir of choice. They make my coffee time, not only the feeding of an addiction, but also a walk down pleasant memory lane.

Just an observation, I haven't heard any charges of racism in relation to the Sago mine accident.

Speaking of racism, there are plenty of charges here in the Big Easy. Read this for a well written explanation of the issues being debated.

The problem is that the local politicians are not being honest with the people. A couple of studies and recommendations from outside experts recommend the city of New Orleans be rebuilt on a smaller footprint. The reason being, there is not enough money to keep the city at its present level without population. It would resemble squatters living in a sparsely populated moonscape. The city officials though, have been telling people what they want to hear. They say the entire city will be rebuilt all at once. BS - it will not and cannot happen, but those in charge lack the balls to be honest.

The former mayor of the city is here now giving speeches about how he would have handled the situation better and he is fanning the flames of discontent. I am sure the present administration would like to see him leave.

If things are to be done correctly, folks will have to check their emotions at the door and make decisions based on facts, tried and true methods, and fairness. Therefore, I believe we are doomed. Just kidding. No I wasn't. Yes I was.

Have a nice Monday. I need to get out the door with Bear for his morning walk and morning session of throw the tennis ball.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, January 07, 2006


How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?

Psalm 137:1-4
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?
The children of Israel had been warned by the prophets for many years to turn from their sin; or else. Or else they would be conquered and carried off into captivity. They didn't listen. They didn't heed the words of the prophets and the prophecies came to be.

In 586 BC the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. The people were taken back to Babylon into slavery and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This psalm was written conveying the deep anguish the people felt. They were in a foreign land, slaves, tormented, and being told to sing a song of the homeland. The writer posed the rhetorical question: "How do you sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"

For years the prophets told the people of New Orleans that a hurricane could wreak great havoc on the city if steps were not taken to protect it. Some listened, but the majority of the politicians danced and made daisy chains as the hurricanes spun close but never hitting the city directly.

Then Katrina came and the city was laid to waste. The people cried and those in charge pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves.

More than a thousand died. Thousands lost everything they owned. It was a sad time and many wondered if it would ever again be fun in the "City that care forgot". People from the city were carried off to foreign lands like Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis and they cried, "How can we do the Second line in a foreign land."

January 6th was Twelfth Night in New Orleans; the traditional start of the Mardi Gras season. This is when the practice of eating King Cakes commences. A slow build up of Mardi Gras balls, parades, and activity grows until Fat Tuesday itself.

There has been some controversy about Mardi Gras this year. Those in other cities feel it is an expression of insensitivity to their plight. How can New Orleans party when they are living in an Atlanta hotel? Not everyone in New Orleans was wiped out by Katrina and they are ready for a party. Tourists would like to return and the city fathers and businessmen would like to see money flow in again.

So how do you sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? I say you sing it loud and clear. You sing it from the depths of your soul. You sing in a way to tell the world you are alive and your faith is far from being shaken. Your song should let everyone know you are strong and your mission is undeterred. Don't hang your harp on a willow tree. Don't throw your boa in a corner, and for heaven's sake do not hang your head.

Life goes on. We work a little and we play a little and eventually things get better.

(Be sure to click on the "boa" link.)

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, January 05, 2006


Of blogs and relationships

Today I was shocked when I visited the blog of Sherry aka Texas Lady. I hadn't been there since the 18th of December. I had left a comment on a post she had written about her life finally coming together and she felt in control.

Sherry had lost a total of 305 pounds since her gastric bypass surgery. I met her on the Internet when she emailed me to ask me what an MMPI was. She had to take the test but did not tell me why.

As we emailed back and forth and linked each other's blogs, it became a typical blog friend relationship.

You get to know folks pretty well through blog writing. We share our thoughts, feelings, emotions, our past, our present, our dreams, and our families with anyone who cares to read the words we write.

So when I went to Sherry's blog today and learned of her death December 23rd, it was the same feeling you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night to herald bad news.

I still can't believe it. She went through so much; from a wheelchair and the inability to walk, to surgery, losing weight, and recreating herself.

Sherry was a Christian and she often spoke of her faith in her posts and emails. Now she is with God.

God bless you Sherry and may your family find peace in the midst of their grief.

The Internet and blogs have been the objects of fear, suspicion, and ridicule where relationships are concerned. My friends and family warned me when I started my blog. "You'd better be careful or you'll have some ax murderer on your trail." I suppose that is the big fear. There are psychos scouring the net looking for people to victimize. Truth be known, there are psychos next-door, down the street, and sitting next to you at work. So if a psycho wants to “get” me, I don’t think my blog makes me any more vulnerable.

I think you can learn a lot about a person by reading their blog. If the individual writes daily, it is hard for them to keep their true thoughts, feelings, and beliefs a secret. If they comment on blogs, it is even more difficult to conceal their true self.

I have met two folks from my blogroll and talked to another on the phone. I consider them friends and would have no hesitation asking for or giving help if need be. That goes for just about everyone on my blogroll. I only qualify that last statement so I don't "have to" help you. I like a little wiggle room.

I have thought about what would happen to my blog if I died. Who would post the news? Who would handle all of the morning news show interview requests? Just kidding on the last statement. Maybe I should write my last post and put a link on the sidebar entitled, "In case of John's death CLICK THIS." I will have to give it some thought.

The fact is. You can get pretty close to someone you've never met. It is real stuff and not a second-class relationship just because it is on the Internet.

I am still shocked and saddened about Sherry, but were it not for the Internet, I never would have known she existed in the first place.

Don't mistake my infrequent visit/comment activity to your site as indifference. If you are on the blogroll, I consider you a friend. One regret I have is that all of the friends I have made over the years are impossible to keep in my life. When we say goodbye, we promise to keep in touch. We may for a time, but the contacts become fewer as the years come and go. Even so, I often think of these friends, from the days I was knee high to a grasshopper until now.

Some day we will all be together, hopefully, and what a time that will be.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thoughts are percolating; please stand by


Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Boston in April

I am confirmed for the 110th Boston Marathon. Hotel? Check. Plane tickets? Check. This Easter will be enjoyed in Boston.

Confirmed to the 110th Boston Marathon

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Deprivation and Satisfaction

Life is full of paradoxes. Sunday, I ran 20 miles. The 78 degree temperature made the jaunt a bit unpleasant. After i tortured myself, I was standing in the shower feeling really good in contrast to how I felt only a few moments earlier. The phrase came to me, "Do you want to know how to make a hot shower feel better? Answer: Run 20 miles first."

We could say the same thing about weekends. Do you want to know how to enjoy your weekend? Answer: Work Monday through Friday. Satisfaction is on the other side of the coin from deprivation.

This is why rich people or folks who are privileged sometimes get depressed or disillusioned. They lack deprivation. Poor folks and those less privileged don't have to worry about deprivation, because it is built in to the plight of their lives.

Think about it. Ice water tastes best on a hot day when you are parched. Food tastes best when you are hungry. Rest is much better when you are physically tired.

When I had marketing responsibilities at one of the hospitals I worked for, we often ate out. At first it was fun going to fine restaurants and just signing the check like some kind of big shot. The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel is one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans. One week I ate there three times. It dawned on me how such a treat had become boring. Now it has been so long since I've eaten there I would enjoy it again.

Over indulgence has its penalty. Food loses its taste, fun loses its joy, and time off becomes boring. Fortunately, there is a cure. Starvation, work, and hard work. Simple isn't it?

So before you break that diet you swore to midnight on Saturday, blow off going to the gym, reach for the cigarette you said you wouldn't smoke, just remember; deprivation that you control yields satisfaction.

So go for it. Accomplish that goal, and start that new good habit. Use short periods of deprivation to make your rewards satisfying. Too much deprivation though will result in you giving up; so don't go overboard.

Good luck on those New Years Resolutions.

Until the next time
John Strain