Monday, December 28, 2009

Decisions Regarding Snow

We don't get a White Christmas very often. When we do, it can be very special. This year we did get some snow on Christmas eve. Just a couple of inches, but it was accompanied by very strong winds and very cold temperatures. There were some drifts of 8 inches or more and places where the snow didn't even cover the ground or streets because it just blew somewhere else. It did however make for a nice scene on Christmas day. As I left for work on Monday I was faced with our street looking like this. Not a good day to ride, no matter how badly I wanted to.
The main streets were relatively clear, but even after a couple of days there were patches of ice and snow on the main streets.
Max was again forced to spend another day (or two) in the garage. He is not happy about it.
So even though the weather conditions do not make it good for riding, there are other alternatives.
Mom in her fuzzy Crocs, I in my slippers, curled up in a blanket, fireplace going and watching a movie on the television.
Things could be worse.
On Christmas day, this varmint appeared. More to come on this development.
Crocs in Kansas?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Faces of Children at Christmas

OK, so I can be a bit sentimental. And this post is not really about scooters or motorcycles, although I rode to this event and it was the first day I was able to ride for almost two weeks. It turned out to be a great day. First, because I was able to ride. Second, because I was able to get some great pictures of some very wonderful children. I just couldn't resist posting some of these photos. But there were at least some sort of scooters at the facility where these pictures were taken.

The civic club I belong to raised some money to help pay for some Christmas presents for some kids at a local Pre-School. Many of the kids come from homes that you might say are a bit dis-advantaged.

They held a Christmas party on December 17th for the kids and yes, Santa was to be in attendance.

The excitement grew in the room as Santa made his way down the hallway to the room where the presents were to be given out.

And then Santa was finally there and opened up his pack of goodies.

It is the expressions on the kids faces that got to me.

This little girl was very shy, but just look at the grin on her face. Each class was brought in separately to see Santa. They would line up at the side of the room while the class before them was finishing up with Santa. I heard on a couple of occasions that they needed to be very good while standing in line, because Santa was there, and he still had the ability to work on his list of good children. Once they got in the room, they wouild all sit down in front of Santa and wait for their names to be called. This class had a rather loud round of applause for Santa. Am I next? Everybody got a gift. The smiles were very contageous. The gifts varied to each class, but partially consisted of shoes, backpacks, books, hats and mittens. The Santa was very funny. The kids liked him immediately. As soon as everybody got their presents, the unwrapping would commence. This little guy was very happy. A few times they couldn't wait to start unwrapping.

I love the smile on this girl's face. I wonder if the little boy was wondering if he was on the "good" list. He most definately was!
This very cute little girl was keeping a firm hand on her new shoes. She was very proud of them. The employees of the local "Old Chicago" restaurants held a fund raiser to be able to buy the shoes.
And finally, I think this is my favorite photo. It was hard to decide, but I think I liked the little bit different expressions each of them had on their faces as they looked at Santa.
What a Great Day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Native American Spirituality for the Holidays

The day before Thanksgiving I had a few errands to run and of course, I took the scooter. The sky had threatened to rain a bit, but didn't, and the temperature was in the low 40's. The sun eventually came out and it was a beautiful day to ride. One of my errands was to attend a civic club meeting at lunchtime. The club I belong to normally meets on Fridays, and we weren't going to meet this week because of the holiday. So, as we have done in past years, we meet with another club on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The guest speaker that day was a Native American Storyteller. He has for many years told stories using oral traditions passed down through many generations. I assumed he would talk about the first Thanksgiving with the pilgrims from a native American standpoint. And that is part of what his talk was about, but there was a little more to it than just that. Native Americans have a very interesting, unique, and in my opinion, a very wonderful sense of spirituality. They have a keen intuition about our planet and all of its inhabitants. Life, in all its forms, is very sacred to them. The Storyteller started off by talking about the animal kingdom. Of course all the animals had the ability to talk with each other. The animals were having a meeting and discussing, of all things, water rights. Some of the animals were a bit perturbed because the beavers had put up a dam on the river and blocked some water flow.
The fish downstream said they could not swim as easily because of the dam. Other animals wanted to use some of the water for irrigation purposes. The discussion went on and on, but eventually some progress was made and compromises were made to everybody's satisfaction.
During this discussion, however, a small argument developed between a Grizzly Bear and a Turtle. The Grizzly was bragging about how fast he could run. The Turtle was boasting about how fast he could swim. Then they said they could outdo each other and eventually challenged each other to a race.
Now, you can imagine that this is similar to the fable about the tortoise and the hare, and it is, but with a twist. They had a bit of a problem in deciding about how to do the race, because it was beginning to be wintertime and the river had frozen over. How could you tell how fast the turtle was going underneath the ice?
They solved the problem by cutting some holes in the ice at regular intervals. The turtle could pop his head up through these holes and let the others know where he was. The Grizzly would just run along the bank of the river. To make the story short, the Grizzly obviously had a huge advantage, but was lazy and overconfident. He would stop occasionally to scratch his back against a tree. Or goof off when he felt like it. The turtle made slow but smooth progress down the river. You could occasionally see the turtle's head popping up in the holes. The turtle eventually got to be ahead of the Grizzly and eventually the turtle won the race. There was much surprise that the turtle had won, but much rejoicing also. The turtle was carried off on the shoulders of some of the other animals and a little party ensued. Eventually the celebration died down and the turtle made his way home and was greeted by the rest of his family. The family members gave each other high fives and hugs and laughed out loud, for they all knew one thing. They had all been in the river that morning, each of them assigned to a particular hole in the ice, and each had poked his head out of the hole at an appointed time. The Grizzly never stood a chance of winning the race. Now there are many potential morals to the story such as outsmarting your opponent, perseverence, etc, but the Storyteller's point was how important it was for families to stick together and support each other. At the holiday time of year as families get together for celebrations, this is a fun story to recall no matter what tradition or background your family comes from. And that diversity of backgrounds was part of his point. The early Thanksgiving celebration was not so much a celebration of a harvest, as much as it was maybe a celebration of diversity: the ability of two so different peoples to be able to get together and celebrate something very meaningful to both of them. He ended his discussion with a reminder that families are important to everybody. He emphasized that we are all human beings regardless of our religion, skin color or other potentially divisive way of identification. There is common ground between us all. I wish everybody a happy and joyous holiday season regardless of how you choose to celebrate it.
Stay Warm And Ride Safe!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Commuting Curiosities and Phenomena 12/17/09 and 12/18/09

A lot of my riding is just my normal commute to and from work. I tend to take a mostly similar route each day and on most days nothing remarkable occurs. Occasionally, though, I may see or experience something that may be worthy of at least a brief blog article. 12/17/09 and 12/18/09 Our garage is pretty big, not huge, but able to be filled up with 2 Subarus, Max the scooter, a table saw, various tool cabinets and a bunch of other "stuff". We try and think ahead in the parking arrangements. If it looks like I will ride the next day, then Max gets parked behind the Canadian Subaru for easy and quick exit in the morning. Conversely, if I don't think I will ride the next day, Max will be parked in front of the cars. For almost the last 2 weeks Max was forced to reside, somewhat forlornly, in front of the cars. The reasons were partly due to an ice storm we had here. That was followed by some very cold temperatures with lows in the single digits, and a few other days where appointments or other family obligations required the use of the cars. But on Thursday, the weather had improved and I moved the car out so that I could get the scooter out, and I was back on the road, riding this time rather than driving a car. I had to go first to a charity Christmas party at a local pre-school so was forced to take a much longer route to work that day. I did not complain. I will have some fantastic pictures up on the blog on Christmas morning for that event. That Christmas party, plus the ability to ride, made for a great day. I am always in a better mood when I can ride. In the afternoon, the temperatures were close to 50 degrees and the ride home was lots of fun. I frequently wait until 5:45 or so to leave the office, mainly to avoid the heavy traffic. On this day, though, I left right at 5:00 and had to fight a lot of traffic. One cage driver pulled a little stunt on me, for which I later flipped him the finger, but even that was sort of fun. My wife and I arrived home at about the same time. She left her car in the driveway as I approached. Because the forecast was for a chance of snow flurries and or sleet overnight, we decided to go ahead and park Max in front of the cars again, thinking that tomorrow might not be a good day for riding. The snow flurries that had been predicted ended up happening a little to the north and east of us and I awoke the next morning to a beautiful sunrise and even though it was chilly, about 28 degrees, it was a good day to ride. I had to back the Canadian Subaru out of the garage to get Max back out, but this was a very temporary hassle knowing the reward to be able to ride would well override the hassle of moving the vehicles. One thing though, I certainly don't see many other motorcyclists or scooterists out there on the streets in these temperatures. The ability to ride, though, makes me feel alive. It may be a bit hard to explain this to some people, but most of you readers will know exactly what I am talking about. It sure feels good to be riding again! Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Makes you a bit mad

The holidays frequently bring out the good and bad in people. Our little scooter club had recently taken part in a toy run sponsored by the Marine Corps and the Salvation Army. I had a recent post with a lot of pictures. Over 3,000 motorcyclists participated. Last weekend we found out that the warehouse that the toys were being stored in was burglarized and over 1,000 toys were stolen. Damn! The thieves concentrated on electronics, but also took a little bit of everything. Most of the toys were ready for delivery. Hard to believe that someone could actually do something like that. Are times really that hard? Or are some people just unbelievable assholes. But the good also comes out in people when there are needs. The news hit the papers on Monday morning and by the end of that same day numerous people had stepped up and donated money and more toys. Almost all has been replaced by now and needy children will still have a gift this Christmas.
Here's hoping the Grinch doesn't hit your town.
If he does, please escort him off the planet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Holiday Humor

Just some odds and ends we have seen at the office this year Someone's neighbor?
Dog Problems
My psychiatrist
The Holdup
Self explanatory
For Conch
The true nature of Santa
Fierce Rabbits
Bad Hearing
The accident
High Times at the North Pole
Bicycles, the universal gift?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fat Albert

No, not the Bill Cosby character. It's actually a tree. An Evergreen in our front yard. An absolutely perfectly shaped tree for decorating with Christmas lights.

We planted the tree in the same year we bought this house, 1996. It was 6 feet tall when we planted it. Easy to decorate with lights. Took about 15 minutes, if that, and most of that time was figuring out how to run an extension cord from the garage.

Problem now is, the darn tree keeps growing. Well over 20 feet tall now. It takes a little more time to put up the lights on it. It also takes more lights each year.

We store the lights in a box in the garage and get them out on the weekend of Thanksgiving.
This year we bought another stringer of 100 lights (C7 bulbs) and replaced most of the incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. We now have a total of 400 lights on this tree. The colors are green, blue and purple, a combination of colors we have decided that we like. Some of the green ones flash on and off.
The process of swapping out the old incandescent bulbs with the new LED bulbs was helped by some assistance from some of our animals. We do not normally do a lot of outside decorating during the holiday season, but this particular tree is special for us. Given the perfect shape of the tree, it would almost be a shame not to decorate it a little bit during the holiday season.
Well, maybe 400 lights is considered a lot to some people. Our neighbors hope that an airplane does not mistake the beacon of lights for a runway. The LED lights are brighter than I thought they would be.
But we do not decorate our house near as much as some people. But it is nice to see the lights with the use of a timer from 6:00 am to 8:00 am and then again from 5:00 pm to midnight every day. The lights will stay up at least until the 2nd of January.
Amateur photographer that I am, I have seldom been able to take a good picture of the tree at night when it was lit. This year I made the bold attempt to play more with the manual settings on the camera and the use of a tripod to get a better picture.
I am not totally pleased with the results, but these remaining pictures are better than the ones I have taken before. I promise to get better.
Just a little family tradition we have to celebrate the season.