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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Happy Mardi Gras

by Bear

Happy Mardi Gras everyone, it's me Bear. Do you like my beads? Don't ask me what I had to do to get them, heehee.

Mardi Gras is a nice easy day on the Northshore of New Orleans. Daddy is going to BBQ hamburgers and we are going to have a nice relaxing day. It is a different story in New Orleans. They have lots of parades down there and lots more people.

Speaking of parades, I wanted to tell you about a parade for dogs. The name of such a parade is Barkus. Barkus is kind of a take off on the famous Bacchus parade that rolls the Sunday before Mardi Gras.

Take your paw and click this link to see Barkus photos. There are some fine pups in this parade. Have a look see. Here are some of the pups in the parade.

Barkus Parade 2006

I better get back to the party. Come back tomorrow to see photos of my fun day at the lakefront last Sunday.

Bye for now.



Monday, February 27, 2006


According to Bear

by Bear

Feb. 25, 2006 helping Daddy in the rain
Daddy and I working to drain the yard in a hard rain

Playing fetch the tennis ball in the rain
Even though Daddy was working, he still played with me a lot

Hi everyone, it's me Bear. I have a lot to write about. So much, that I am going to post two more days in a row. Today I am going to bark talk about the big rain over the weekend and how me and Daddy fixed the yard. Tomorrow, I am going to tell you about Mardi Gras and the special parade for dogs. Then on Wednesday, I am going to show you some nice pictures from my big day at the lakefront on Sunday.

OK, Saturday morning it was raining real hard. Daddy usually takes me for my walk early in the morning so I can pee and poop, but he just kept looking out the door. He said it was too cold and raining too hard to walk. I had my legs crossed.

On one of Daddy's trips to the window, I could tell something bothered him. He said something to Mama, then things started happening. Daddy said the yard was flooding and he had to go outside to see if he could make the water flow away.

He put on a big yellow plastic thing he got at one of his races. I watched him, it was in a little package, but unfolded into a big rain coat Daddy called a pancho.

It was strange being outside in the rain. The water was about 4 inches right outside the door and the yard looked like a lake. Daddy couldn't take a lot of good pictures because he was working, but Mama took some after the water started draining.

Daddy threw the ball for me and I ran and water flew. I was drenched in about 2 seconds. Then Daddy got a hoe out of the shed and started cutting little ditches close to the big ditch in front of our yard.

Daddy realized the ditch was full and water was running over the top of our driveway instead in the big pipe under the driveway. I heard him talking to the neighbor about it. He said the city came out to fix a water leak. The hole they made, they filled in with sand. The sand washed into the big pipe under the driveway and clogged it up. Daddy was trying to unclog it.

The water was real deep. I couldn't touch bottom and had to swim. That was real fun swimming in my own yard. Daddy yelled to a car that stopped with one of his friends in it, "I am getting the BBQ grill out later and we are having a pool party."

After he used the hoe to make drains from the yard to the ditch, Daddy got some big long white pipes and he stuck them through the big pipe under the driveway. He kept ramming them in and pushing through the clog. He finally just left them in there and the water flowed through them.

Since the hurricane, the drainage has been all messed up. There are still trees and brush piles in major drainage areas. Daddy isn't happy about it. He said it has been 6 months and this should have been done by now.

I think he should write a letter to the city or something.

I wish you could have seen how deep the water was in the ditch. It was almost waste deep for Daddy and I had to swim. It was lots of fun.

We were out there a long time. Daddy got the dog shampoo and gave me a bath while I was so wet. After that, I came in and dried off and took a nice nap in the warm house.

So that was my fun Saturday.

Bye for now


Saturday, February 25, 2006


Go ahead, read something funny today

I have just the thing. Fresh from my archives a post entitled:
Blankety, blank, blank

This is a little piece I wrote about cursing or cussing. It was inspired by fellow blogger Brenda over at What's Up Down South. She wrote a hilarious post on the subject too.

Here is the link to Brenda's post:
The art of profanity

Have a great weekend

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 24, 2006



Do you remember the old westerns? One of the worst insults one cowpoke could utter (excuse the pun) to another cowpoke were the words, "You're a liar." I always thought it was a nice touch if the accuser emphasized his words by throwing a drink in the liar's face.

Of course, after that, it was on. A man had to defend his honor. Fists were not usually enough for this task and the escalation went straight to gunplay.

There are some exceptions when the hero was the one being accused and could have out drawn and or beat up the accuser, but didn't, because he had promised his dying mother he would never fight again.

The point is: Our society used to shun liars and hold truth up as a standard. That is not to say liars have not existed throughout history, but in my experience, telling the truth was the honorable thing.

Even if you did something dishonorable, telling the truth showed character. When someone admits to a mistake or a breach of their own values and is able to say it to others, then they are taking the first step to repairing the damage.

What a contrast to today. Let me just mention the word "politics," the very word is synonymous with "liar." Then there is another synonym, "media." Somehow, somewhere, objectivity was replaced with arbitrary. Truth is what you think it is. Intellectual dishonesty / lying has become mainstream.

The lying epidemic, as I see it, is socially accepted, condoned, and not punished or shunned anymore.

In a western today, to get a reaction like the one I described above, one would have to criticize another cowboy's fashion or jewelry, maybe even tell him that he is fat.

In my job as a social worker, I get lied to all the time. Nursing homes give patient reports that soft pedal an individual's physical condition, because they are trying to get rid of them and are afraid if they were honest, we would not admit their patient.

Patients lie to me all the time from their drug and alcohol use to everything conceivable.

I was talking to a lady at a bank the other day as she was trying to track down a vehicle for repossession. She commented to me, "I get lied to all day long." Interesting side note, she said they had over 1 million dollars of vehicle loans in default since the hurricane.

Many people just left the New Orleans area and disappeared. They didn't think to contact the bank to provide a new billing address. In her efforts to locate these vehicles and others, most of what she hears is lies.

Cheating has increased in school and on college campuses. Everyone can rationalize their lying and cheating. "Everyone is doing it," seems to be enough of a justification to lie, cheat, and steal.

I am not good at lying and I blame my mother. I tried to lie as a child, but she seemed to know when I did and made my life miserable because of it. It was difficult to practice the craft with such interference and I never really perfected it – honest.

Eventually, my lying trickled off. Now when I try to lie, I feel nervous, my face turns red, and my voice gets tight. It is a little easier on the phone though, "Yeah, that's right, I mailed that check this morning."

I am not a prude, a puritan, or a Pollyanna. I don't expect everyone to get along, tell the truth, keep their hands to themselves, and obey the speed limit, but for crying out loud.

"The truth shall set you free" and "Honesty is the best policy," are truths many will never know or understand. Do you lack order and peace in your life? If you lie routinely, that may have something to do with it.

A liar has stormy relationships. A liar is like someone living on credit cards; they get what they want now, but sooner or later, the bill comes in. A liar needs a better memory than man has attained. It is hard to keep up with all of the lies.

I hate to be lied to. It is a major disrespect. It is like telling me, "I don't care about you or what you want - what I want is more important than you." We get angry when we are lied to or manipulated for a good reason. It goes against decent values.

Lying is a cancer in society. Things can appear fine on the surface, but underneath, in the engine room, trouble is brewing.

This is what I really think about this topic and I'm not lying.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, February 23, 2006


Boing boing boing . . .

Do you hear that? Listen, there it goes again. Boing, boing, boing. Yes folks, that sound you hear is the unmistakable sound of spring. I know you yankees may not hear it yet, but down hear in the bayou, it has been loud and clear.

I hope I am not getting cocky. Yesterday was in the 80's and it is nearly 70 degrees at 6:00 am as I write this. It has snowed here in Covington as late as March, but even the "cold snaps" are punctuated with mild and warm weather.

Beyond that, the smell of sweet olive is in the air; can jasmine and magnolia be far behind. The azaleas are beginning to bloom and their purple, pink, red, and white color bursts will be a welcome sight amongst all of the downed trees and debris piles, which linger from last August.

When I take Bear out for his morning walks there is a noticeable difference in the bird songs. There are more varieties and greater numbers of them in the morning chorus.

More green is popping out even if some of it is in the form of annual weeds. Soon we will be planting flowers and tomato plants. I have a lot of yard work to do. Several months of leaves await my toil to remove them to make way for the grass to grow. Then I will be walking behind the buzzing lawn mower, but don't you love the smell of freshly cut grass?

For me, spring is another way of saying "infusion of energy." I love this time of year and how it makes me feel. Possibilities, fresh starts, and energy are descriptive words for what it does to me.

Just when one season begins to drag, the next one comes along to ruffle our feathers, to make us think and feel different things. Thank the Lord for the variety He created. I sure enjoy it.

Time to pour that first cup of the day, walk the dog, and get back to running after the marathon. It is time to prepare for the next challenge.

For some reason I am thinking about Robert Herrick's sentiments in his poem To the virgins, to make much of time, especially the first line:
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

Robert Herrick, written in the 1600's

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Winds of change

When Barbara and I drove to Pensacola for the marathon, we veered off of I-10 at Gulfport, Mississippi to drive along HWY 98 and survey the damage on the Gulf Coast.

The stretch between Gulfport and Biloxi was very beautiful. The gulf waters washed over white sands. Across the highway from the beach were many old southern homes amongst the live oak trees. It was lush and green.

That description is quite a contrast from how it looks today. The storm surge virtually wiped out everything from the gulf to highway 98. On the other side of the highway, the damage is also severe.

What homes and buildings that were not completely washed away were badly damaged. The ground floors were blown through by the surging water. Many trees are down and the remaining trees are stripped bare. They look like dead sticks stuck in sand.

There is very little green. The landscape is brown and barren. You have no doubt seen photos and videos and read descriptions. Still, even six months after the hurricane, words cannot convey the feeling that one gets when you see the devastation first hand.

Barbara and her family have vacationed on the Gulf Coast for years. She says the coast now looks like the way she remembers it in the old days - undeveloped.

I have been going there since the mid 1980's. One of the places we always frequented was Fun Time USA. This is a little amusement park near Biloxi. One of the traditions we observed was to have our photo taken on the wall with Humpty Dumpty.

1990 John at age 5 with Humpty Dumpty
John poses with Humpty Dumpty (age 5, 1990)

2006, Barb at the Humpty Dumpty wall
2006, Barb at the wall - Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

As you can see, Katrina destroyed Humpty and the entire Fun Time USA park.

1990 John at age 5 with Humpty Dumpty
Where bumper boats once sailed

Change is the only thing we can count on. It is sad to see landmarks that held such happy memories destroyed.

Did you notice, the crane in the background behind Barbara? An army of folks are picking up the pieces and rebuilding. We ain't taking it laying down.

Sadness? Yes it is all around. There are many opportunities to feel bad and good reasons to do so. But when those feelings subside, I see the cranes in the background - symbols of man's endurance and tenacity.

That is what we must do; all of us; whether you were in a hurricane or not. I am talking about getting knocked down. When you get knocked down, you are faced with two choices. You can either stay down or get back up.

Here's to those who got knocked down by Katrina and are trying to get back up. Here's to those who have helped all of us get off the deck. It is a long process, but it is proceeding.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I’m everything and I’m nothing: Thoughts on the concept of the self

Integration and balance are words that do not describe much these days. Partisan, polarized, and extremist are more accurate. When I think of metaphors for describing one’s concept of self, the scales of justice come to mind.

Balance is achieved by having equal amounts of weight on each side of the scales. Keep in mind a pound of feathers and a pound of lead are equal in weight, but not in mass and appearance. Equality is not sameness, yet a balance can be achieved.

When I think about myself, I think in terms of “I am nothing: and “I am everything.” The integration of these two phrases is important to develop a healthy sense of self.

I am nothing
These words are blasphemy to some self-esteemists out there, but hear me out. To have a healthy sense of self one needs humility. A lack of humility is illustrated in the “spoiled brat” or the “arrogant SOB” who act as if they are the only ones who matter.

These folks want special treatment and they expect rules should bend to them instead of the other way around.

In Alcoholics Anonymous a famous slogan is, “I used to bemoan the fact I had no shoes; and then I saw a man who had no feet.” The man with no shoes was not bad. Nor was he bad for wanting shoes. However, when he saw the man with no feet, he felt gratitude for his shoeless feet. The only thing that changed for him was his perspective.

Things may not be perfect, they may even be bad, but they can always be worse. The world is full of people, more than 6 billion. I am but one. Do I deserve more than an orphan in India? Do I deserve less than Donald Trump?

In seminary, I learned the concept of God’s holiness. His perfection separates man from Him, but his love brings man close to Him. Next to God we are nothing, but because of His love for us, we are something.

Humility is being aware that you are nothing. Gratitude grows from humility. I have a relatively happy life. I have a house, car, family, friends, and good health. I have worked for these things, but my work and efforts do not constitute a guarantee. There is no universal law that says hard workers will always be happy.

Some have lived better lives and have worked harder, yet their lives have been one tragedy after another. On the other hand, some haven’t done anything at all to earn a happy life. They haven’t worked or sacrificed, yet they seem to have so much.

Humility is another way of saying, “But for the grace of God go I.”

To say, “I am nothing,” is not necessarily a statement of low self-esteem. It is, in many ways, an accurate fact.

I as an individual am insignificant in relation to time. In a hundred years or less, my life and memory will be swept away.

I as an individual am insignificant in terms of importance. If I were kidnapped by terrorists, the government would not negotiate with them to save my life.

The better we understand how insignificant we are and how close to nothing we are, the more grateful we become. Our awareness of insignificance should trigger great joy. We are alive now. We get to see the sunrise and the sunset of another day. All that you cherish is here for you to enjoy; today. There is no promise of how long this time will be. It is measured out differently to everyone.

When I say, “I am nothing,” I am summoning gratitude by realizing my gifts and the things for which I have to be thankful. It leaves me feeling humble. Humility puts me in the proper frame of mind to be a good citizen, a good neighbor, and ultimately a good man. I am more willing to help, to be tolerant, and to reach out when I am humble, than when I am feeling sorry for myself and slighted or when I am feeling smug and arrogant.

I am everything
The other tenet one needs for a healthy self-concept is to believe they are everything.

This concept has been distorted as well. Some Christian groups use faulty logic to justify gluttony and greed. Their argument goes something like this:

I am God’s child. God is the creator of the universe; He is a king. Therefore, I am a child of the king. A king’s child does not wear ragged clothes or drive a dumpy car. A child of the king has the best of the best. I deserve to have good things because I am a king’s kid.

Let’s examine what I believe is a healthier way of understanding this concept.

Have you ever looked at someone and admired their beauty, sense of humor, athletic skill, ability to speak, or cooking talent? It is natural to look at others and admire them for something they are or for something they can do.

Have you ever looked at a child and felt love for them just because they exist? This too is a natural feeling.

Can you look at yourself the same way? Can you recognize and admire your own talents? Can you love yourself just because you exist? Sadly, this seems more difficult. We are often taught such thoughts are selfish or vain.

Instead of loving themselves, people wait for someone else to do it. The trouble is, parents, teachers, spouses, and friends may never do it. They may never recognize your uniqueness or your talents. They may not sense how important something is to you and offer you encouragement and support.

This only comes from within. We must nurture ourselves. Along the way, some will notice and offer kind words. Others will admire what you do, but admiration from without is only icing on the cake of your already held opinion about yourself.

The poet said: “Plant your own garden instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” If you wait for another to guess what you want in life or to figure out just what to say to you to fulfill your dreams, you will most likely have a long wait.

When we only dream things that others will approve we give away something more precious than gold. Many of the things we desire come as byproducts. Love, admiration, and respect are granted to those who follow their own heart and travel their own path.

You are important and deserving of anything anyone else is. Yes you are insignificant by number and importance, but so is everyone else. Believe in yourself. Take your shot. Give it your best. Dare to grasp what your mind can conceive.

To see your self as nothing is actually viewing yourself in an objective perspective. This view of self should foster humility and gratitude resulting in tolerance, open mindedness, and service to others.

To see your self as everything is another perspective in which you admire your uniqueness. You seek to advance your own dreams, wishes, and desires with your God given gifts and hard work, but not at the expense of others.

The integration and balance of these concepts result in a love for self and others.

As Dennis Miller says, “This is just my opinion, I may be wrong.”

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, February 20, 2006


Pensacola Marathon 2006

Bear knows he can't go
Bear was sad because he couldn't go

Just finished Pensacola Marathon 2006
Click the photo to go to the Pensacola News Journal coverage

The Pensacola Marathon 2006 / my 23rd wedding anniversary was nice.

The start of the race was at 6:30 am. The temperature was 40 degrees and the north wind was whipping around 15 mph. It worked out well for me, because Barb drove me to the starting line about 3 minutes before the gun. She went back to the hotel to wait for me to finish. Often times, she will take a long walk as I am running, but not in this weather.

I was not expecting hills, but the course was pretty hilly. Even though I train on the flat, I do exercises to help the "hills muscles." I do like some hills, because they break up the monotony of the course and spread the work among the muscles.

The wheelchair participants had some trouble with the hills. Some wheelchairs are powered by the driver turning the large wheels by hand. Other chairs have a crank in front of the driver. It is a bicycle pedal for the hands. The long ups really took their toll on the 5 or 6 guys in the event. However, on the downhill, it was like NASCAR.

The first part of the race ran along Pensacola Bay. I kept looking to my right to take it in. It was cloudy and the water was gray and churning. I remember one scene. The foreground was a dark sky, but in the background, where the clouds were thinner, the morning sun was poking through. The rays shone through and made the water in the distance a bright white. That light reflected up to illuminate the clouds. It was upside down, because the affect was that the light was coming from the ground. Very pretty.

One incident occurred about a mile into the race. As I was running along, I noticed a banana peel in the road. I thought to myself, what kind of moron is already eating bananas and then I heard a skidding noise followed by a thump and some expletives. A runner behind me must not have seen the peel and it brought him down.

Another unique feature of the course were US Marines standing at every cross street. They kept traffic from interfering with the race. Many of them would offer encouragement as runners passed them. Some were enthusiastic. "Come on, don't stop, I don't even see any pain yet." Some offered applause, but most were the stereotypic stoic marine. Some remained silent, some would offer support, "Good job sir," or "Outstanding sir." Whatever they said, they affixed sir to the end of the phrase. I liked it.

I ran the whole way again and felt pretty good with the exception of my right foot. I have been battling plantar fasciitis - a real pain in the heel.

Just before I finished, the sun poked through and it warmed up a bit. I had to cross a big bridge twice in the last 6 miles, which is a good challenge for tired legs, but the last two miles were flat as a pancake.

I crossed the line at 3:35:15 (8:12 pace).

I placed 39th out of 258 and 8th in my age group.

Now it is time to get in shape for the Boston Marathon April 17th.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 17, 2006


Marathon Weekend

Pensacola sunriseThis is what the sunrise was like at last year's Pensacola Marathon. Sometimes the beauty of nature is so striking, that I have run 10 or 15 miles before I realize I am doing anything.

Pensacola is a place of such distractions. The course will offer bay vistas throughout the 26.2 miles. I am looking forward to it.

Barbara and I will leave on Saturday AM and drive the 3.5 hours to Pensacola. Once there, we will hit the race expo, get my race packet, check into the hotel, and sightsee. Sunday, the race begins at 6:30 AM. I should be finished around 10:00 AM. Then it is back to the hotel, pack up, and leave.

It is an ambitious itinerary, but it should be fun. Sunday is our 23rd wedding anniversary. Let's see; on one hand we have 23 years of marriage and on the other hand, we have a marathon. Choose your metaphor.

The Pensacola marathon will be my last race before the Boston Marathon April 17. I have had a pretty good season so far.

October 22 50K
December 5 Marathon
January 14 Marathon
February 5 Marathon
February 19 Marathon

The last three are in a 5-week period. I really love running marathons and I am grateful I am holding up physically. Knock on wood.

I hope you have fun plans for your weekend.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, February 16, 2006


Unexpected connections

Driving Blind: Stories of one guy doing something dangerous just to avoid embarrassment

In September of 2003 I wrote a post I entitled, Driving Blind. In it, I discussed a couple of times I drove cars and even a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico. That may not sound like much, but since I am legally blind and can't get a drivers license, it adds a little excitement to the scenario.

One of the sections I called "Rain Boy." It was about working at Red Lobster in Kansas City and pulling rain duty. Rain duty was embarrassing because I had to wear a big yellow rain suit and hold the umbrella for guests entering and exiting the restaurant. You’ll have to read the rest to see how I turned a simple thing into a dangerous thing.


Yesterday, I got an email from the daughter of the restaurant manager I mentioned in the post. She told me how much she had laughed reading the story and how nice it was to have a fond remembrance of her father. He died a few years ago.

You just never know. I am constantly amazed by the connections blogging and the Internet make possible.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 15, 2006



Ford Torino

Is it just me or is this what you think of when they talk about Torino? Where do the Olympics come in?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Another hurricane Katrina post

Must see hurricane Katrina video

Maybe you are sick of hearing about hurricane Katrina. I know I am and many people who have been affected by that storm are tired of it too. The fact remains that many individual's lives are still as messed up now, almost six months later, as the day Katrina struck.

I know the rest of the country does not quite understand the impact to the area. When I was at the marathon expo for the Mardi Gras Marathon, a guy from Memphis asked me seriously, if the water was safe to drink. He had brought about 25 bottles to last him while in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world saw a lot of the bad stuff about New Orleans. Looting, politicians acting like buffoons, and cops deserting their posts.

Although these things happened, they are not the larger experience. Many individuals are still without homes. All of the help has lost momentum and individuals are left with damaged property, insurance runarounds, and empty promises from governments.

The local government cannot tell people if they can or cannot rebuild. They are not sure what the flood zones will be and at what elevations people will need to rebuild their homes.

Please watch this video. It is about St. Bernard Parish which is just east of New Orleans. Imagine a whole county being wiped off of the map. Then you will begin to understand what happened in St. Bernard.

The hurricane was something nature did. Its impact was worse because of what man did, but it continues to victimize because of many factors from ignorance to incompetence.

One news story showed a woman who received a FEMA trailer in December, but was not given a key. This is not uncommon. Out of desperation, the lady was tempted to get a locksmith to get into the trailer. She was informed that that would be tampering with government property. So the trailer sits in her yard all hooked up, and she remains locked out.

Many stories of red tape and bureaucratic snafus abound. It is just a shame that in this day and age, six months after the disaster, things on the ground here are more like a Chinese fire drill than they are an organized relief effort.

The best work getting done is by volunteer groups. The government efforts are laughable. Unless the military does it, the government effort is useless.

No one knows the answer to the problem in government, but worse, they don't even know who does know the answer. In the meantime, a FEMA trailer sits in a driveway without a key. Sheesh.

I know the folks in Florida understand. They are dealing with similar struggles from hurricanes that happened in 2004.

If you are so inclined, remember these folks in your prayers. They can sure use them.

Until the next time and Happy Valentine's Day
John Strain


Monday, February 13, 2006


I've been sick

I'm still here, but I have been fighting a cold. I'll be back tomorrow.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 10, 2006


Restoration Beer

On occasion I will partake of the barley and hopps. One of my favorite beers comes from a local brewery named "Abita Beer." I really like their dark beer by the name of Turbo Dog. With a name like Turbo Dog, I had to try it.


Abita Springs is a little town about 6 miles from Covington and is the home of Abita Beer. They have created a special brew they call "Restoration Ale." The tag line is, "Helping rebuild the Big Easy one beer at a time." Abita Brewery donates $1 per six-pack to a hurricane relief fund.

I just bought my first six-pack because I want to be a part of the rebuilding effort. I plan to help a lot. I figure the weekend is a good opportunity to raise $2 or $3 for the effort. I am such a champ.

Have some fun and browse their website. Learn about the Fleur-de-lis.

It's the weekend. Why not help restore New Orleans with me.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, February 09, 2006



Last night Barbara and I went to one of those "all you can eat" pizza restaurants. Walking through the door was like taking a left turn into a Gulliver's Travels movie set. Lilliputians were everywhere. Actually it was kids eat free night and a local elementary school was having an event to boot.

My first inclination was to turn around and leave; no run. Knee high kids full of energy were running, jumping, bounding, and screaming in all directions. Another movie image that comes to mind is the bar scene in Gremlins.

Barbara and I looked at each other. I suppose both of us were waiting on the other to say, "Let's get outta here," but we just stood there in a haze hypnotized by all of the stimulation. Eventually we moved to the hostess stand zombie like drawn into the light and unable to veer away from certain destruction. (I may have just mixed metaphors, oh well, it was those darn kids.)

The typical response might be to complain about the parents and how they cannot control their children. "Why when we were parents of a young child, we would not let our son run around like that." I had a different response though. I thought they were cute. I thought they were funny. I chuckled inside as I watched the parents try to control all of that energy and enthusiasm. Their efforts were futile.

No matter how many times he was drug away, a little blonde headed boy kept appearing in the central area of the restaurant. As people entered the restaurant and went to and fro, between the pizza and their table, they had to navigate past this 4 or 5-year-old gyrating, twirling, human top.

At one moment he was trying to throw a napkin over a room divider and another instant, he was hanging on the divider rope by the hostess stand like make shift monkey bars. I never saw him walk anywhere; it was always full speed ahead.

Some parents had to settle disputes. Loud unintelligible crying wafted from a few tables over, then the parent's intervention, "Is that his?." A little voice replied, "No it's mine - he lost his." The crying continued. The parent continued, "Well, share it with him." Little voice reluctant reply, "Oh--kaayy." The crying tailed off. Henry Kissinger would have been proud.

On one of my trips back to the table with a plate full of pizza, I was following a little girl. When we got to the two-step riser leading to our section, she stopped and jumped with both feet up each step. A kid cannot just walk up steps like everyone else, that is too ordinary. A kid is looking for the fun way.

Barbara and I were treated to good pizza and unexpected smiles. Just think, I almost turned around at the door.

Parents, teachers, and other adults work to change this childish behavior. "Don't run in public," "Use your inside voice," and "walk up the stairs like a lady." Sometimes we kill the enthusiasm and energy by mistake.

Kids have fun and we adults could take a lesson. We shouldn't be childish but we can be child like. When is the last time you were wide eyed at something as simple as two steps in a restaurant or a rope by a hostess stand?

We live in the same world and the kids have energy, wonder, and joy. Adults often let these things go just because of some bills and a little job stress. If you ask me, stress and pressure are even more reasons for energy, wonder, and joy.

Do you want to hear the good news? It is up to you. What you think and feel and how you react is mostly up to you.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Middle Ground

In counseling conflict, I try to find middle ground. Usually there is something about which both sides can agree. It may take a little time to find this real estate, but that is the aim.

If the middle ground is not discovered, the conflict goes on. In the case of marriage, the result is divorce.

If by some means both sides can find agreement, though not getting everything they want, the conflict, for the time is resolved.

Since 9/11 America has been put on notice that there is no middle ground. There are only demands and wishes for our nation's death and destruction.

To make matters worse, the western media and many of our politicians support a double standard.

Look at how scandalous the Abu-Grabe events were portrayed. There were calls for hearings, trials, and all sorts of pronouncements. In contrast, video taped beheadings were out of the news in a day or two. If a Martian were to look at the news coverage for both events, he/she/it would conclude that it is a higher crime to point at a naked guy’s weenie and laugh than it is to cut off someone’s head with a knife.

When a national news magazine author falsely wrote about the Koran being put in toilets, the Muslim world erupted and people died in the rioting. The author basically retracted the claim and said something to the effect of, "My bad."

Now the latest incident, a Danish newspaper publishes a cartoon which is considered offensive. The response is rioting, embassy assaulting, and killing.

What does the world press do in response? They lecture people about sensitivity and tell them to be more careful. Now if someone calls for the destruction of Israel or refers to President Bush as a Nazi, war criminal, and a terrorist beyond that of Osama Bin Laden; then that is an exercise of free speech.

How do the Muslim leaders respond to the cartoons and Abu-Grabe? They tell us Westerners how we should be more sensitive. I am not hearing these same leaders telling their people to protest peacefully or to stop the senseless killing.

We can either stand up for our rights or lose them to those who see no middle ground. This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about fundamental beliefs.

Do you believe in the right to free speech?
Do you believe in freedom?
Are you willing to fight to keep it?

President Bush should back Denmark. Whether one agrees or not with the cartoonist is not the point. The cartoonist has the right to exercise his opinion. Those who try to suppress him through violence are the ones in the wrong.

Let’s say Jesse Jackson made a cartoon about NASCAR and the Klan got upset and started burning crosses in the yards of black people. Would the press lecture Jesse on sensitivity? Would 3rd grade teachers make little black kids wear capes and hoods so they could understand the Klan culture. I don’t think so.

Right now there is no middle ground. If you think there is, you are standing alone in an open field awaiting a bullet from someone who thinks God wants him to kill you and your way of life.

Think about this issue from your beliefs point of view and try not to insinuate politics into it. This is bigger than politics, because it threatens all of us in the west.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 07, 2006



I had jury duty yesterday and Wednesday I go back to serve as an alternate on a trial. I had a lot of time to think. I spent most of the day sitting around, getting up, ambling around nowhere in particular, and then sitting in another location. Here are a few of my observations.

• Here in St. Tammany Parish, we have a first rate justice system: Our court house justice center is brand new and state of the art. The people I contacted were polite, competent, and professional.

• Our country has a pretty good justice system: OJ and Robert Blake not withstanding, we have a pretty good system in this country to decide justice.

It is one of those things I have not given a lot of thought to, because I have not had any dealings with court except to have a few drinks with a friend who is an attorney.

The US justice system comes right out of the constitution. Participating in jury duty is as patriotic as saying the pledge of allegiance or voting. I felt that sense of pride in my chest when I was sworn and I was keenly aware of being a part of something that was started by our founding fathers.

It is fashionable to ridicule our court system and it is not without flaws, but I will take it over the alternatives. "Innocent until proven guilty" and "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," are concepts not enjoyed by many in the world.

• Justice costs a lot of money: I was in a jury pool with more than 300 potential jurors for the week's criminal trial docket for four judges.

Each juror is paid $25 per day. In my particular trial, they pulled 36 of us. Although only 7 were selected, all of us will spend probably 2 days as jurors.

I need to be vague here, but the trial involves an alleged damage of about $500. The jurors for the trial will cost the parish $1,800. Then there is the public defender, bailiffs, two people in court from the DA's office, and witnesses.

A judge hears the case, a courtroom is used, and a lot of people rearrange their week because of a $500 incident.

This is just one little trial. In the course of a year, it must really add up. This justice machine is clicking and whirring all over the country in little towns and in big cities.

Is it worth it? All of the money being spent on justice, is it worth it? I think that it is.

Elected representation, freedom of the press, free speech, and innocent until proven guilty are some pretty nice concepts. These concepts came to be through the shedding of blood and it is blood and money that will sustain them.

I am glad I get to do my small part.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, February 05, 2006


Mardi Gras Marathon 2006

Photos from the Times-Picayune

Mardi Gras Marathon 2006 Photos

Net time: 3:34:01 (32 second offset, that is how long it took me to get to the starting line.)
Finished 83rd of 698

Mardi Gras Marathon 2006 - finishedChills. That's what I had this morning just before the start of the 2006 Mardi Gras Marathon. Announcements on the loudspeaker were typical for the start of a marathon, and then the speaker said there were runners from all 50 states and 18 countries. He talked about the Katrina rebuilding efforts and thanked everyone for participating in the event. All proceeds from the marathon will go to the hurricane relief efforts.

After a Boy Scout Troop presented the colors an a capella female voice began to sing the National Anthem. The sound reverberated off of the buildings and surrounded us. Nearly 4,000 runners stood silently, some with tears in their eyes, others with hands and hats over their hearts. I always like this part of a race. In a few minutes we will be embarking on a 26.2-mile adventure, but at this moment we are united as Americans.

I took in what my senses gave me. The music, the smell of Ben-Gay, the high wispy clouds in the early morning sky, and the chilly breeze. After the music was over, the crowd came to life. We cheered and applauded the singer’s effort and we cheered because of what the song means. The singer was a local celebrity who was on American Idol last year - Lindsay Cardinale.

The weather was perfect for running, 45 degrees, sunny, and a light breeze. I felt good and ran well - for me. I was a bit slower than my last marathon in Mississippi, but anytime I am under 3:35:00, I'm happy.

Take a look at the photos by clicking on the link above. CNN and CBS had national news teams to cover the event. Almost anything in New Orleans is news these days.

Running along, I noticed water lines on houses. It is strange to be running and look over and realize the water would be over your head if you had been in that spot 5 months ago.

Next on the agenda is to take Bear out to play tennis ball and go for another walk. Later on we are going to a friend’s house for a Super Bowl party.

Next marathon for me is Pensacola in two weeks. February also happens to be my 23rd wedding anniversary. Barbara is a real sport.

Happy Super Sunday folks

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, February 04, 2006


Packit pickup day

2006 Mardi Gras Marathon Course Map

Today is packet pickup day for tomorrow's Mardi Gras Marathon. We will make a quick trip to the Big Easy to get it. Click the map for a larger version. The mile markers on the map also display the floodwater depth at that particular point. It will feel strange running where you are reminded water was once 8 feet deep.

I always like the packet pickup event. People are typically friendly and happy. There is excitement in the air and it is a festive environment.

This will be my fourth Mardi Gras Marathon. I ran across the Causeway in 1981. Then I ran in 1998, 2005, and tomorrow.

There are usually things to buy, but they also give you a nice goodie bag full of samples of everything from blister treatments to energy bars.

Weather tomorrow should be perfect. We start at 7:00 AM. Temps should be about 40 degrees with clear skies. The early start means I will have to be up by 4 AM to wake up and do my pre race ritual.

We should head to New Orleans about 5 AM. That will give me about one hour before the race to warm up, find a place to pee and line up at the start. I will have to wear extra clothes that I will shed just before the gun goes off.

Those items are placed in a bag and handed off to Barbara just before the start of the race. Running generates a lot of heat. The attire one needs for running is insufficient for standing around in the cold. On a normal day, I just walk out of the house and start running, but at a race one must prepare for 15 minutes of not running and enduring the elements.

It is always a relief to get on your way.

I hope your Super Bowl weekend is super.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 03, 2006


Bear Report: February 3, 2006

By Bear
Bear looking cute

Hi everyone, it's me Bear. Dad made me put this picture of myself on this post, but I don't like it. Dad says it is cute and he doesn't use the word cute a lot, because it doesn't sound manly - whatever that means.

I think it's like I would rather have people think I am tough, like a German Shepard or a Rottweiler. This picture doesn't do that. I hope my friends don't see it or they might tease me.

I do tough things. After I pee, I scratch the ground with all four paws. Dirt and grass fly all over the place. Mom and dad laugh, but I am being tough. One of my favorite times to scratch is when another dog is in a fence barking at me. I just saunter up to something in his territory, take a nice long pee with my leg high in the air, then I farm his yard with my scratching. He gets so mad, but all he can do is run in circles or jump up on top of his doghouse.

Maybe I shouldn't tease them, but it is so much fun.

I saw a cartoon once in one of my dog magazines. Some mutts were standing around a computer. The dog standing was telling the one sitting at the keyboard, "Tell her you're a Rottweiler and that you have a job as a guard dog . . ." I thought that was funny. He was really a shaggy, fat, mutt. Hehehe.

I guess we all wish for something else. More muscles, less fat, more hair, more walks, less mailmen. Sigh.

It is foggy here today. I guess that means daddy will take his camera on the walk. He likes taking pictures of everything. He says he is going to New Orleans to run in a marathon this weekend. I wish I could go like when I went to Baton Rouge.

He will be back later and then we are going to watch a Super Bowl. I don't know why humans want to look at a big bowl. Will it be full of food? Daddy says we will have lots of food to eat for the Super Bowl. Maybe that's it. It would take a super bowl to hold all of that food. Hmmm.

On Monday, daddy says he isn't going to work, because he has to go to jury duty. Daddy says that he has to help decide if someone was bad or not. I think it is for things worse than not sitting or staying. This sounds like the kind of bad like poo pooing in the house or chewing up the furniture.

It's time for my walk. I am going to see if the fenced barking dog is outside this morning. Hehehehe. I hope he is and I am going to take a big long drink before I leave the house.

Bye for now,


Thursday, February 02, 2006


It's a miracle

It's a miracle you know. No, not the fact that you are reading my words, although that in itself is pretty special. Think about it. I am in Louisiana and sitting in front of a machine on which I push buttons. Those key presses appear on a screen. When the lines and squiggles are just the way I want them, I push another button and my gibberish is converted into electronic pulses.

The pulses travel over wires and air and instantaneously appear on your screen, in your country, in your home, and on your machine. You stare at the squiggles and know what I thought and felt. If you like what you read, hate what you read, or feel the need to respond to my offering, you push some of your own buttons and soon I will know what you think about what I thought.

Yes that is pretty special and some may consider all of that a miracle, but all of that is man made. The miracle of which I speak is not made of man. Man cannot begin to comprehend the complexities of this miracle.

The miracle is you and me and us. Have you considered what is involved to sense? We do it so effortlessly it seems simple, but how do you see and hear and feel and smell and taste?

Man can make devices that can detect motion and mimic sight, but they are far cries from the human eye. Hard wired to our brains, the eye senses light with amazing sensitivity. It is with our eyes we see the subtle changes in a face and we know if we are loved or if we have amused another. We know what fear and sadness look like.

Think of the beauty you have seen; the rippling muscles on a horse in full gallop, a rainbow rooted in mountain mist, the hypnotic movement of a corn field in tassle, or the sight of your infant child in sleep.

Our eyes treat us to some amazing sights.

What is that you hear? How do your ears work? Can man make such a device? Our ears alert us to danger and translate sound into feelings of poignancy and awe.

Think of the things you have heard; your parents calling you by your pet name, a gentle rain, a whisper in the dark, strains of music that send chills down your spine, the roar of a crowd, a waterfall, the fluttering wings of a butterfly, the sound of your own heart in the pillow.

Do the math. Consider your other senses like taste, touch, and smell. What of the pleasures they bring us?

Then there are our thoughts. Our bodies manipulate chemicals to create electricity, which in turn powers our hearts and fires synapses. Our brains are collections of billions of cells formed in a unique pattern to make you the way you are. We are unique, special, yes - a miracle.

Our thoughts summon our limbs to move. Have you studied the complexeties of movement? Have you ever realized how your muscles, bones, tendons, and joints work in concert to move us.

Walking is spectacular enough, but we can run, dance, jump, and move in ways far beyond our comprehension. If you ask the athlete how he jumps so high, he says, "I just do it." We can all jump and run. We have all danced and walked.

We can know. We can think and ponder the abstract. We can look at ourselves objectively. We can dream things up and make them happen. Our thoughts are amazing. Being able to think is part of the miracle.

Our thoughts are not imprisoned in our minds. We can express the thoughts through language. We can talk, yell, scream, debate, encourage, convince, and cajole. We can write our thoughts. Our words can be expressed in ways to communicate with folks in other countries through translations.

It is all a miracle. What we sense, that we think and communicate, and that we even live. Our bodies are machines fueled by plants and animals. Blood flows through our veins, organs perform various tasks, and we move through life in a rhythm. We sleep, we wake, we work, we play, we laugh, we love, we cry, and we grow.

Life is a miracle and we are alive. We are special, and unique, we are wonderfully made. What a gift and we receive it freely and without obligation.

Take time to consider and savor your gift; your miracle.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The Short Month

Candy HeartsFebruary is the short month, but not in personal significance. I ran my first marathon in February and 23 years ago on the 19th I was married.

This year I plan to run two marathons in February only 2 weeks apart. By ultramarathon standards it's not that big of a deal, but personally, it will be another milestone. That means I will have run 3 marathons in 5 weeks.

January 14, Mississippi
February 5, New Orleans
February 19, Pensacola

I think it is a nice touch that the last marathon will be run on my 23rd anniversary. Don't worry ladies, Barbara is fine with this. She likes going to different places and enjoys a few hours alone while I am navigating the 26.2 mile course.

Speaking of February, I grew up in Kansas City and my memories are of cold and snow. Baseball season was just over the horizon, but winter still had us firmly in her grip.

I remember the bulletin boards at school of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Cutting down the cherry tree, throwing the silver dollar across the Potomac, and the phrase; "I cannot tell a lie." Even though the stories have been shown to be more myth than facts, they were stories that reflected good values. I learned that the early leaders of our country were good men.

I remember the Valentine's Day party too. We had to bring a Valentine to everyone in the class - the teacher made us. This was a difficult thing for a boy. Keep in mind the little plastic covered box of Valentines with which one had to work; not enough variety or the right lines to express my sentiments. There were always a couple of girls in the class I detested and I could not give them a Valentine that mentioned the word "love" or that could be interpreted as me liking them. Then there were the desirable girls in the class. I wanted to give them one that expressed my true feelings of lust love for them, but not too obviously. The boy’s cards did not require as much thought, but one still had to avoid anything too gushy and the word "love." Violations of the above rule resulted in ridicule and accusations that you were queer. It was quite an incubator for little homophobes.

So you see, a simple thing like a Valentine's Day party could be quite stressful. I remember reading my cards as well. I say they were cards, they were really cutouts from a perforated page. I would look to see if the person just signed the card in assembly line fashion or if they wrote a personal note. Much scrutiny and interpretation went into this endeavor. Perhaps the science of forensics came from such a catalyst.

Now that I live in Louisiana, February is blooming azaleas, fragrant sweet olives, and Mardi Gras.

Each month has its charm and even though February is the least as measured by time, it is rich in memories and remembrances of the heart.

Until the next time
John Strain