Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Long and the Short of It

October 31, 2013

Did you ever have children who wanted matching halloween costumes?  Was there a nine year age gap?  

This is how Davis and Erin solved the problem.

I was never very good with family photography and videography was an art never discovered.  I do wish I had a video of these two walking down the road doing their penguin waddle.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


October 27, 2013

When I go through old photos of Erin, I'm hard pressed to find any with her alone--maybe the occasional school pic or a candid working on a homework project.  More often they look like these:

Trick or treating as POTUS:

Group Chemo--we very rarely traveled to the hospital alone, though this was definitely a bigger than normal group.

Impromptu swimming at the Burchills, with Ayesha borrowing a suit from Erin.

Watching the Aggie Soccer team, en masse (what better way to keep warm than to travel in a pack)?

Heading out for a hike--always use the buddy system.

Even to the point of having your brother silk-screen matching branded shirts for everyone.

And we all know it takes a team to build a robot.

More than anything I can think of, Erin wanted her friends to get along--to love and support each other.  And it wasn't just a "Pollyanna-ish" desire for everything to be bright and shiny.  She would work on understanding the source of problems or hard feelings among her friend.  She would have them talk it out.  She would make peace.  She would get people together and find their common interests.  

It is with that inspiration that I started working with some like-minded folks a couple of years ago.  This summer we launched the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, a collaborative network of organizations and individuals supporting and serving the childhood cancer community.

We had our initial member drive with 55 organizations and 15 individuals joining so far.  We had elected our initial board of directors this month, and Friday the board elected me as the President.

You can not imagine how humbling this entire experience has been and continues to be.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


October 22, 2013

For the first seventeen days of October, I didn't pay attention to much.  I got wrapped up, first in the government shutdown and standoff, and then, as the 17th approached, the possibility of a debt default.  Although I didn't have immediate personal consequences from the closure, I had friends that did.  I also worried about families that I knew of who had children trying (unsuccessfully) to enroll in clinical trials.  After I read about a single dad cafeteria worker at one of the Smithsonian Museums wondering if his landlord would wait on the $350 rent for the one-room he shared with his son, I added non-governmental contract workers who would not receive back pay to my list of people who were taking it on the chin because of the hold up.

When I finally looked up in the aftermath of the almost botched fiasco (with me still not having rainbow-tinted thoughts concerning the junior Senator from my state or for that matter anyone from the  particular caucus from my state every last one of whom voted "No" that night),  I noticed that the world continued on even as I had abandoned my role as close and keen observer.  

The mid-month rains helped raise the lake level enough that I could actually notice. We now look like we live in a natural wetland (though not really a lake yet), with water flowing through and around the field grass that had grown up on the lake bed after the big frac.  FYI, the shore birds really like this situation and have flocked to the lake, like, well, like flocks of birds.

The weather patterns have not been so kind in Australia where fires and (apparently) megafires (whatever that means) are raging.  The Tjoelkers are okay as of this morning.  Here is Elaine's self report (with my editorial add ons in parentheses):
The fires are in Springwood and Winmalee. Schools are closed and there has been an advisory to evacuate before noon tomorrow or plan to stay. We are leaving to spend the day at the Uni in Richmond (Between their house in Linden and Sydney. This is where Mark works) and then stay with Susan (for you local Presbys, this is Susan Phalen) over night if we can't get back. The fires are on the other side of the highway, nearer to the aquatic center (this is where Walter worked out when we were visiting, which just goes to show how close it really is), and we are not directly in danger. We are each packing duffle bags tomorrow and a few favorite things, but I fully expect to return to my laundry pile and dirty dishes You can google Rural fire service NSW (Here: I've done it for you: I zoomed in until I could actually see Linden on the map following along the A32), but it may still be hard to tell what's going on. Anyway, this has been going on since last Thursday - I am ready for rain!

We're still short of rain in the Brazos Valley, but I'm willing to share with New South Wales if you can figure out a way to get it there.

Not everything in the world has risen to the level of world economic cataclysm or devastating and unprecedented wildfires.  I have also taken in some less eventful news.

In the last few days, I have noticed several links to this story coming across my news feed:

"Mammals Urinate for 21 Seconds"

I was absolutely certain this was a hoax.  I mean, really?  The only time this happens to me is if I get the Spaten at the Irish Pub on Friday evening or if I wait for the commercial break during an EPL game.   Apparently, it is not a hoax.  It is true-ish.  It doesn't apply to human or mammals smaller than cats (think viscosity and surface tension as the game wreckers).  However, thanks to this observational breakthrough--that elephants on down the line to dogs and goats pee for the same duration and that duration is 21 seconds--we can now redesign water towers to make them more efficient.

And one final thing that has recently edged its way into my perceptual space:  marching band butt.

The observation was that I don't have it any more.  

When I was in the high school band, I could march for an hour playing a trombone and never miss a step or a note or run out of breath.  That high stepping action was the norm.  And I think it contributed mightily to a firm and perky set of gluts.  

Now, I can barely march a hundred yards (even if I leave my trombone at home) without needing a short break.  

Not that you will see me doing this.  

But I did put two and two together conceptually the other day, and decided that while walking is good for me, and I do about 15-20 miles a week, it does not give the old seater the tone that marching band did.  So, I have added marching to the morning walk (when it is too dark for the neighbors to wonder about that strange person high stepping on the dam).  I'll let you know in a few football seasons whether I have reclaimed my marching band butt, and simultaneous developed the exercise craze poised to overtake Sh'Bam.  You can guarantee I'm not going to call it "Prancercize."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


October 15, 2013

I'm not sure what I expected yesterday morning on my first dog walk of the day.  I had pulled on my Red Ball rubber boots.

No snow, of course, but after 4+ inches of rain the day before I figured that I might have to slosh through some puddles even if the thirsty, drought-wracked lake bed had sucked down its fill of the rain and run off.

I leashed up the pups and headed out way before sunrise and was surprised by a growing noise that I didn't recognize.  At first I thought someone had opened an all-night machine shop at the end of the road, with ancient belt-driven lathes and drill presses squealing and shuddering.  I struggled to make sense of that (without the benefit of the first mug of coffee for the day, I might add) and decided that the noise was much more like the soundtrack in the bar at the Rainforest Cafe.  But again, the coffee deprived brain pushed back on that notion with the thought that even a blessed four inches of rain wouldn't grow a forest complete with cacophonous birds over night.

I made the corner and the sounds crescendoed, and I had my epiphany:  frog riot.

The Buengers and the parched Leisure Lake were not the only celebrants of Sunday's rains.  I don't know where they had been hiding or whether they had hitchhiked in for the occasion, but they were some happy frogs.  I would say riotously happy.