Friday, December 21, 2007

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Pittsburgh - I've been thinking of Robert Frost quite a bit lately. His poem that appears below seems to me to be written for today, the shortest day (or "darkest evening") of the year.

I have been thinking more frequently about Frost mainly because of how The Road Not Taken applies more to my life lately, especially the part about two roads diverging in a wood and taking the one less traveled by. This will manifest itself in different ways now and in the future, and I'm looking forward to the adventure.

Anyway, I'm here for a few days before spending Christmas with my brother-in-law on Cape Cod. He lives in a group home, and with no immediate family left except for me and Evan I feel it's up to me to show that he still has family that cares for him. After last year's debacle with bringing him out to GJ, I felt it would be better to do the traveling this time, and I have other business on the Cape as well. I'll be back the Friday after Christmas. Promises to keep, miles to go before I sleep.

I drove around with Leslie last night, looking at Christmas lights at some of the more upscale properties in my home town and contemplating the changes in the area since I last roamed here on a daily basis. Changes, indeed.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg

The news of the loss of Dan Fogelberg this morning sent me and probably lots of people my age back to their teenage years. For me, the loss hits harder because he died of cancer in his 50's, like Jan and too many others in recent years. I'm more emotional about this than I guess I should be, but his music helped to form the soundtrack for some of the best years of my life, and still does. I am using one of his songs for Words next month. I wish that I could fit in a few more.

What will have to suffice is a short tribute here. Several of Dan's songs are among my all time favorites. I used Longer as part of Jan's memorial service music. Leader of the Band is an amazing tribute to his father, and makes many a band geek get wistful about the good old days.
He even got into social commentary a little, partnering with Tim Weisberg for an album that included The Power of Gold.

But nothing else Fogelberg ever wrote put its' hooks into me like Nether Lands. There was a great video tribute posted to YouTube using this most orchestrated but also most intimate ballad. Apologies in advance to those of you at work who are firewalled from this. I also put the lyric underneath; it's a fitting tribute to someone who inspired and who will be missed, especially in this season of peace.

Enjoy the days to come.

Nether Lands

High on this mountain
The clouds down below
I'm feeling so strong and alive
From this rocky perch
I'll continue to search
For the wind and the snow and the sky
Oh I want a lover and I want some friends
And I want to live in the sun
And I want to do all the things that I never have done

Sunny bright mornings and pale moonlit nights
Keep me from feeling alone
Now I'm learning to fly and this freedom is like
Nothing that I've ever known
Oh I've seen the bottom and I've been on top
But mostly I've lived in between
And where do you go when you get to the end of your dream

Off in the Nether Lands I heard the sound
Like the beating of heavenly wings
And deep in my brain I can hear a refrain
Of my soul as she rises and sings
Anthems to glory and anthems to love
And hymns filled with earthly delight
Like the songs that the darkness composes to worship the light

Once in a vision I came on some woods
And stood at a fork in the road
My choices were clear yet I froze with the fear
Of not knowing which way to go
Oh, one road was simple acceptance of life
The other road offered sweet peace
When I made my decision
My vision became my release

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Twentysomething Travelogue

Keystone - I'm here because I ferried my son and two of his friends for the 36 Hours of Keystone, which at first blush appears to be a convergence of as many twentysomethings (and younger) as possible on the ski resort for 36 hours of nonstop skiing, snowboarding, and associated revelry.

The weather was cooperative for most of the event, except that in its' aftermath I am battling a low-grade fever and hopefully not the beginnings of the flu, a shot for which I have procrastinated about.

The boys are just settling in for what will probably be about 3 hours of sleep before using their seemingly boundless energy (augmented by energy drinks, the new motivator of this generation) to hit the slopes for a couple of hours again before we head back. I hope that my good friend Ibuprofen will help me keep the chills, etc. at bay until we get back to GJ.

I've found the last several hours very interesting, observing the youngest generation in action. The emphasis placed by Keystone on safety and responsible behavior on the slopes has had a significant effect; the lines to reach the lift and gondola to the lighted trails have been made worse by a security checkpoint, apparently looking for alcohol (I surmised this by the number of discarded containers along the path of the checkpoint queue).

I looked at the sheer number of private security and uniformed public safety personnel on site, and tried to draw a comparison between this event and the average twentysomething's way of blowing off steam in Grand Junction, that being Rum Bay, which like its' predecessor Bourbon Street had generated its' share of ill will with neighbors and law enforcement alike.
I was indeed glad that a real estate office replaced the nuisance bar in my neighborhood.

I believe that the proof of the new owners' tenacity will lie in how effectively they identify problem patrons, and head off a disturbance before it happens, if at all possible. We'll see what happens.

For the most part, the throng at Keystone has been well-behaved. Gotta ski, of course. There were some humorous (I think) bumper stickers placed at several locations that were uncomplimentary of skiers from Texas. Decorum prevents any further description. If the preferences of this group are any indicator, snowboarding is much more popular than more traditional methods of getting across the snow. I wouldn't have an idea of what is easier or more fun, as I haven't donned a pair of skis in 30 years. I would like to try snowboarding sometime. Leslie wants to as well. Maybe we can hold each other up and try to prevent any fortysomething fractures or dislocations. I'd like to snowshoe someday. Something else for the long list.

This group is certainly not a statistical representation of the real world; skiing ain't cheap, and minorities are conspicuously under-represented. I'll just say I'm watching cautiously, and doing the best I can to make sure that my addition to this generation holds up his weight.


On an unrelated note, congratulations to Rick Wagner on his new column and the listing of his blog on the Sentinel's website. Rick is thoughtful, considerate in the majority of circumstances, and an intelligent voice in the Grand Valley community. We agree on some issues, disagree more often than not, but I respect him nonetheless.

Rick seems to have jumped into his new ventures with both feet.
His blog entry of December 1 had an interesting photo associated with it, and juxtaposes rather starkly with a well-written story in Saturday's Rocky. Regardless of what Gov. Ritter's motives are with the discussion of union representation among state employees (which I haven't followed well enough to have an informed opinion either way), he's no Castro.

Rick's inaugural Sentinel column also drew the attention of Colorado Media Matters. All I can say is that there are times when we all have a Woodstein moment, but with faith and perseverance the truth will make itself known to us. Of that much I'm hopeful for.

Speaking of interesting pictures, The New Yorker had another cover this week that deftly captures the unfortunate circumstances with which we find ourselves saddled.

All I want to know is if Blackwater has this contract too.

Best wishes for His blessings upon your holidays and the year to come.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend 2007

It's been over a month since I last wrote anything. Tough times and issues abound, but nothing insurmountable with the help of friends, family, and the grace and mercy of God's love to help see the way through my own shortcomings, and to pardon those of others.

We did the turkey on the grill for the first time this year. It was very good. My mother is a whiz at these things, and her organizational and other skills when it comes to cooking, etc. are formidable.

We did a little bit of furniture shopping on Friday, but in general were able to avoid the throngs out for the high holy day of the First Church of My Stuff.

Evan is enjoying his extended vacation while work continues at Grand Junction High School.
He goes to WCCC, so he still has classes there. While I sympathize with the staff and maintenance personnel involved in the repairs, I have to scratch my head about the alleged lack of modern, commonplace systems that could have minimized the catastrophic damage that occurred to the school and its' infrastructure, not to mention the continuity of education. Ralph D'Andrea and some of his readership wondered the same thing.

News Media reporting of this incident has been pretty good, despite Jeff Kirtland retaining his title as the most taciturn Public Information Officer I've ever seen. Witness this reported exchange with Emily Anderson of the Free Press:
Kirtland said the break was the result of natural stress on
aging parts.

"Parts give," Kirtland said.

Kirtland said the break came in an integral mechanical part located under the water tank.

"If you don't want something to give, this is the thing you don't want to give," he said.
Granted, this is a 50 year old building with infrastructure that is clearly aging, but still working and serviceable. I hope that the media will pick up on this angle and start asking questions, perhaps not to the Principal, or the Superintendent, but the Maintenance Director, who has yet to be heard from in any forum that I've seen.

Questions I would ask include "Are there leak detection systems with automated notification contingencies in any District 51 facility?" and if not, "Why Not?".

If this is the case, and if in response to this event the District is forced (hopefully by their insurance carrier) to retrofit these detection systems at an increased cost over had they been a planned expenditure, then this will be another classic example of the District knowing the price of everything, but the value of very little.

If you need another example, drive past a few school facilities during spring and summer. Even with all of the public emphasis on watering and sprinkling during non-peak hours, it's not hard to find a massive school sprinkler system spraying away at 2:00 in the afternoon.

The most recent reporting in today's Sentinel has teachers reporting next week to attempt to "
boil down the last weeks of school into absolute essentials", according to GJHS' first-year Principal, Jon Bilbo. I still have to wonder how much torment he's taken over his career from teenage fans of Tolkien. Lucky for him he's a pretty tall and imposing figure, more like Gandalf. Pretty much a straight shooter as well. No complaints from this corner so far. We'll see how this condensation of schoolwork goes.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm hopeful for a swift and successful resolution of the immediate problems, as well as the granting of foresight and strength of will to those responsible for these facilities, so that they may see the need and benefit of modern technology and take the necessary steps to see it utilized, to the benefit of those who use the facility, those who maintain it, and those of us who help to pay for it all.

May this weekend be the start of many blessings for you this holiday season.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Building Bridges

It's heartening to see someone reconsider a good idea initially perceived as out of reach, and take steps to make it happen. An example of this is the article in today's Sentinel about St. Mary's getting city help to build a pedestrian bridge over Seventh Street at Wellington Avenue.

I wrote about this back in March. St. Mary's employees were apparently so vocal about this when their building project came about that their CEO put a long explanation into his monthly communique' this past January about how a bridge just couldn't be built because of the expense.

It's likely that pressure has continued from employees and perhaps some customers who would benefit from a walkway between the surgery center, oncology clinic, and the main hospital, and as a result St. Mary's reached out to the city for help. Perhaps Bob Ladenburger is learning something from Tim Foster in this area.

It's absolutely correct that the same issue exists with Mesa State, with one of the differences being a cohesive, focused voice from those who would stand to benefit from a pedestrian bridge over 12th Street. Perhaps the Criterion can make this an area of focus, especially with their new web presence. Those with concerns in this area could then be organized into a presence that can't be ignored, and then perhaps Mr. Foster will take a page from Mr. Ladenburger's game plan and start the process of making this happen.

A pedestrian bridge over 12th Street for the benefit of Mesa State students, staff, and neighbors is long overdue. Barring any substantive movement in this direction from the College itself, the city should make it a prerequisite for any future in-kind contributions to the College's expansion efforts. It would be nicer if the College would earmark some of the $5 Million it just received from the City over the next 10 years toward some kind of progress in this area, and soon.

Bridges can be a good thing, not only in the context of achieving a greater measure of safety and helping to ameliorate the effects of significant growth, but to achieve understanding and cooperation between institutions with strong leadership and varying missions and visions for the future. Here's a start. Well done.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


This is my favorite season of the year. The heat of summer is gone, replaced by a more comfortable climate for quiet walks, thinking, and just being at home. The more temperate conditions (when it's not raining) have an invigorating quality for me that helps me to focus and get things done. It's also a subtle reminder that all things end, be it summer, youth, a period in your life, or indeed life itself.

Jan will be gone 6 months on Monday. This coincides with what would have been our 19th anniversary.
That being said, I feel compelled to reflect on a colleague whose untimely death in a foreign place that I will probably never see is having a profound impact on many in my profession.

Jason Lhotka was tied to my place of employment more than the average Sheriff's Department employee. When I first started working here, his girlfriend was one of my peers. After he graduated from Mesa State, he did an internship at the GJPD that included processing requests for audio tapes. He was quiet, articulate, and driven. We did not always see things the same way, but he was always respectful, even in disagreement. The Lord obviously had a greater calling for him when He called him from the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and I hope that his wife and young son will draw some comfort from knowing that Jason is at peace in His kingdom. He will be missed.

Not much more to add at this point. I've attached a link below to a recent live performance by an icon of my generation, singing a song that was an anthem for young men my age and from the looks of it still is. The Boss has a few more wrinkles, but the fire is still there.

Enjoy your weekend. Maybe see you at Oktoberfest.

Springsteen: ‘The Promised Land’
Springsteen: The Promised Land

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Enough Already

The fact that I have left this outlet alone for nearly two months has less to do with not needing to vent than it does coming up with occasional cohesive thought, while maintaining a sense of humility and grace about things. I have remained silent through the first anniversary of the blog, but that date doesn't seem as important to me as the rest of the dates ahead. So much for introspection; I'm pretty damn busy too. Trying to buy a house, raise a teenager, and keep up with work and miscellaneous projects; It's gonna keep getting busy around here.

Pastor Kirk Yamaguchi at the Vineyard tonight talked about Jesus being in the wilderness for forty days, and being tempted by Satan. This is the way I've felt at times since Jan died, wandering in the wilderness of indecision, doubt, fear, and insecurity. I'm feeling better now, largely thanks to those who love me unconditionally and whom I have not treated very well at times. Now, if we can just get these people together...

I hope that Denny Herzog is doing OK; his blog has been silent longer than mine.

The qualities of grace and humility seem to be more important to me now, and are a precious commodity in the blogging community. As much as I enjoy reading Gene and Ralph and others, the shrill tone that accompanies the writing at times smacks of posturing and being overly judgmental. I do not strive to do this.

I do strive to effect change through careful analysis, quiet determined discussion of the issues, perseverance, and the application of common sense. There are a few things that have passed by that I thought were worth writing about, but are dated enough that I'll just spare a few words about them.

Drunks: See Matthew 25:40. It's not just about enforcement, and the potshot taken at Chief Gardner in the You Said It was unfair and shortsighted. It's about changing hearts and minds, as well as maybe the culture. This starts with greater community involvement in liquor licensing (several home rule cities on the front range have liquor advisory boards), and increasing the availability of effective treatment to the CPI (Chronic Public Inebriate) population. I wonder who actually thought that moving the main homeless shelter and alcohol treatment facility to North Avenue would move the problem there?

Mesa State: When I moved here my first apartment was in the shadow of the college, and I am now to the point where if I can avoid the area during the day it's a good thing. The city planner who wrote a letter to the neighborhoods east of the college and called it a "threat" to those neighborhoods had their heart in the right place. Regardless of what the "official" city line is toward the college's continued growth, there's a quality of life issue looming heavy over there that will not be resolved without careful consideration given to that growth, and when enough is enough. For me, that line has already been crossed.

Annexation / Persigo Agreement: When Ralph D'Andrea and Rick Wagner are on the same page about an issue like this, you know that suitable redress is long overdue. Gene Kinsey did an admirable job trying to defend the actions of the elected officials at the time, and his unique perspective is valuable. Unfortunately, what many of us have had to deal with as a result of the effects of this agreement equates to me to a finding of the end not justifying the means. It also makes me seriously consider whether a court-imposed solution would have been preferable to what exists now.

I would like to conclude with a rather poignant reminder of what really matters, and from Pittsburgh, no less. I don't write as much because I'm too busy with things that matter. My son and family, a good woman who loves me, and those intangibles that make life worth living. If I have anything constructive to share, it'll be here. Otherwise the sharks can have at the scraps.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ward Churchill

It seems that the blogosphere is rife with commentary about the demise of CU professor Ward Churchill. I wasn't really concerned with it until I read a blurb on the Junction Daily Blog that went like this:
According to today's Rocky Mountain News, disgraced CU professor Ward Churchill is entitled to a full year's salary, more than $96,000, as severance pay. Should he decide to retire and begin receiving benefits to which he is entitled under PERA, he can draw $70,000 per year if has has not bought extra years of service under the plan. The university is currently discussing whether he'll be allowed to keep his health insurance benefits.

What the hell is he complaining about?
I decided to comment, and by the time I was done I had a nice post put together. So here it is, for what it's worth, and since I'm not a product of the rarefied air of academia that Mr. Churchill and his entourage populate, perhaps it won't carry the same weight that it would coming from someone with a college degree. It's a free country, though, or so we think:

Churchill reminds me of a line from Monty Python:

"Professor of Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself, California".

This is not about Churchill personally. He's the poster child for those in academia who fear accountability and peer review, and hide behind tenure as an excuse for doing real work, or making the impact that they were perhaps even hired to make.

I agree that Churchill wasn't fired for coming up with his own ideas and speaking them, no matter how curious they were. He made his own bed when he took other people's ideas and touted them as his own, and now he has to sleep in that bed. Pretty comfy bed from the sound of it, too.

Do you think any contributions toward substance abuse research among Native American populations might be forthcoming from that somewhat gilded parachute? Or might he adopt or sponsor a Native American child affected with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
The Ward Churchill Foundation..what a concept.

Don't hold your breath. It's all going to trial lawyers, and to accomplish what? True academic "freedom" without the requisite responsibility.

Sicko: The Aftermath

My mother and I went to see Sicko this past Saturday. Before and since, I looked into some of the rhetoric, for and against, and thought about a lot of it. I'll keep my comments short, because my reaction was simple and not hardly as entertaining as what you'll find on Moorewatch or other sites.

As I was watching, the same thing kept popping into my head:

Matthew 25:44-46 (New International Version)

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Moore certainly delivers a potent message, but perhaps not a complete one. His defense of the facts presented is comprehensive and admirable. It's the facts he leaves out that appear to be a cause of concern for many.

The only thing I knew something about that didn't sit well with me was the little girl who needed a Cochlear Implant. We have many friends who have received these implants after being profoundly deaf since birth, and the perceptible improvements are significant. The following red flags popped up:
  • I'm surprised that the family's insurance company would have even paid for one implant. Jan was evaluated for one a number of years ago, and while her hearing would not have been measurably improved with it, Rocky Mountain specifically excluded them for coverage at the time, along with hearing aids.
  • Implanting both ears is a relatively new concept. It wouldn't surprise me if it was considered experimental at the time, and as a result been denied, probably no matter what country you were in.
The rest of the facts presented seemed, for the most part, plausible, and presented in an engaging and entertaining manner, which is something Moore does quite well; he makes you laugh at things that perhaps you really shouldn't.

By far the most impressive part of the film was Moore's interview with the retired but active British politician Tony Benn. Some of his contribution is excerpted here:

The most interesting review of the movie came from a unique, and perhaps unlikely, source; Kurt Loder of MTV. It was the most fair and balanced (ugh..sorry) assessment I could find of what was presented. Loder even used a word that I was previously unfamiliar with to describe the film; meretricious. I think I will use that one on somebody who deserves it someday, and see if they mistake it for a compliment.

After that, I don't have much more to say, other than my original recommendation stands. It's an enjoyable film and one that will educate, stimulate debate, and get us thinking about things, and from thought hopefully comes action. Like it or not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sicko comes to GJ

Michael Moore definitely brings out different reactions in people. My take on him is that he is meticulous, controversial, and tries to deliberately piss people off, sometimes at the expense of his message. Many people want to see through the hyperbole, on both his part and his detractors, to try to understand what he's trying to say. I guess those are the ones who make his films among the most popular in the documentary genre.

Moore's latest film, Sicko, has generated its' share of controversy, from the scenes shot in Cuba to the CNN coverage and resulting fallout. From what I've read, on both sides of the issue, the film can't be ignored if one wants a complete understanding of the issues at hand.

It's been close to a month since the film's release, and up until now the only place on the Western Slope that the movie has been playing has been Durango. That will change starting Friday, when Sicko begins its' Grand Junction run.

I'll be seeing the movie, but I have to take it with a grain of salt, simply by virtue of my own experience with the health care system over the last two years. I'm fortunate to be able to have quality health insurance partly paid for by my employer. My share of the premiums are fair in relationship to my compensation, and the co-payments were reasonable as well.

My wife's cancer made itself known to us out of town. Rocky Mountain Health Plans covered everything that my plan said they would cover. They were understanding and compassionate, deferring to the opinion of the physicians in Pittsburgh that Jan could not travel until her damaged spine was surgically stabilized. Once back in Grand Junction, they worked with us on prescription drug costs, which still amounted to $5000 in 2006 but could have been much worse.

My wife's initial 5 week stay in two different hospitals, surgery, ambulance, etc. amounted to over $250,000. While considering the implications of this for someone without health insurance, consider also whether or not you feel that access to quality health care services, without cost as a consideration, is the right thing for our society to do.

Sicko appears designed to inform and motivate people to find out more about the way that health care has been administered in this country. As a public safety professional with a career emphasis on Emergency Medical Services, it has long been my firm belief that EMS services are part of the community public safety system, and as such should be provided by government on the same basis as Police and Fire services are. While we are part of the way there in Mesa County, there is still work to be done.

With that in mind, I hope you'll join me at the theatre this weekend to find out more. Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Moore's message, you're not better off not knowing.

Best wishes for God's blessing of good health.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Services Transition

"One of the definite changes in my thinking was born of the hard reality I confronted when I discovered how much easier it was raising money for the opera and fashionable museums than for at-risk children. So I came to recognize that the task of overcoming poverty will not be achieved without the raw power of government appropriations."
- Arianna Huffington
As a property owner and frequent visitor to Cape Cod, I took understandably more than a passing interest in Mesa County's choice for it's new Director of Human Services. Full disclosure: I was a finalist for a job at DHS a couple of months back. If things would have happened differently, I would likely have been working for Len Stewart when he starts in August.

After reading the Sentinel's report in Saturday's edition, I quickly surfed over to the Cape Cod Times to read their story about Mr. Stewart's departure from their area. As you might expect, the coverage was somewhat different. I chuckle at the imaginary prospect of Gary Harmon working in Massachusetts.

Mr. Stewart has a public profile on LinkedIn, which has quite a bit of good information about him. An impressive education, including Philips Academy, Andover and Duke University.
Equally impressive credentials in public policy development, human services management, advocacy for specific public health crises, and even local news media.

Mr. Stewart seems to be all about establishing effective partnerships between government and that component of the non-profit sector that provides human services. His profile espouses goals I can agree with:
Interested primarily in ways government can better connect with and partner with the community (in a peer to peer, or "healthy communities" sort of way) to improve people's lives, and make sure they have what they need to be healthy, productive (however defined) community members.

Interested in ways to integrate and coordinate health and human services to link people quickly to what they need; and to link service providers to each other to truly coordinate services in a patient/client centered way.

Looking for ways to use innovative approaches to develop better services, for more people, at less overall system cost.

Vitally interested in improving government and nonprofit services through use of technology.

These are impressive goals, particularly the last one, and especially when dealing with a non-profit sector that sometimes appears less than coordinated and duplicates efforts at times, and elected officials that in the past have seemed bent on micro-managing the department, as evidenced by the demise of Mr. Stewart's predecessor, James Garrett.

To Mr. Stewart's credit, he seems to be focused on a collaborative future instead of a contentious past, even if the Cape Cod Times article alluded to a tenuous relationship with the commissioners there:
But Stewart said his job has been challenging because he's had to fight with the majority of county commissioners to get funds for the nonprofits that help poor and sick people. "He's been hanging tough for a long time," Paul O'Connor of the Barnstable County Health and Human Services Advisory Council said. "But it's been tough."
It looks like Mr. Stewart brings some quality experience and steadfastness to the forefront of his new job with Mesa County, and I hope he is up to the task. Cape Cod is a far cry from Grand Junction, and not just in distance. In any case, we both came out here for the job, and I hope that his experience will be as (if not more) positive as mine has.

Welcome to Mesa County, Mr. Stewart. A lot of needy people are counting on you. If you get homesick, I know of a small place that might be a good summer rental.


On a final (and possibly related) note, I was driving down North Avenue yesterday, and after passing Carville's this popped into my head:

You know you're from Grand Junction when the tallest fire truck in the county belongs to a used car lot.

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What is a Christian?

A couple of articles this past week have compelled me to lead off with the above eternal question, which certainly won't be answered in this or any other forum, unless of course God is a blogger somewhere.

Much hue and cry has been coming from many places over the pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI that the Roman Catholic Church is and remains the "one true church", and that salvation can only be obtained from said one true church.

Some of the myriad interpretations of this Vatican missive speculate that Rome is trying to assert a very narrow interpretation of exactly what constitutes the definition of a 'church' in theological terms, along with the assertion that they are the only ones that meet that definition.

All I can say about this is through my limited experience as a practicing Catholic, which ended around when I turned 12, and what my own sense of faith tells me about these things.

Theology is defined in at least one source as
"The study of the nature of God. The study of religion, and religious beliefs." As such, Theology is an enterprise of man, and thus subject to man's inherent imperfections, penchant for altering the truth for his own purposes, and desire to build elaborate structures and rituals around a truth, where none are really essential to the preservation of that truth, and are perhaps better suited to control of the message surrounding the truth, and through that exercise control over the believers.

For me, this defines much of the Roman Catholic Church throughout its' history, particularly the period that led up to the
Protestant Reformation. I'm no religious scholar by any means, but it would seem to me that if Benedict XVI is looking to call out other Christian denominations as being somewhat less than the Roman church, he need look no further than the nearest mirror for the root of the existence of these denominations. This should be especially clearer to this Pope, from whose earthly German origins sprang that same Reformation.

Bottom Line: A monstrous bureaucracy, with a storied history of corruption and duplicity on many fronts, is hardly the sole road to salvation in my book. For me, we are all loved by God, who gave his only Son to free us from the suffering of sin and death, and we need to lead our lives in accordance with His teachings and those of Jesus Christ.

I know that by focusing on this I will be leading my life in the way it was intended for me to do.
To be sure, I will mess up. I will make bad decisions and questionable choices. Knowing that I am loved helps move one foot in front of the other each day, so long as I am walking that intended path. Even as I struggle with the present and future uncertainties of this life, that's really all I need to know.

There was a
guest column in the Free Press this week that asked some really interesting, fundamental questions that should be of interest to anyone who purports to identify themselves as a Christian. While much of Mr. Rains' column centered on another corrupt, duplicitous bureaucracy that we are all too familiar with, the bulk of his assertions went to the heart of what those who identify themselves as Christians should hold as core beliefs.

It is our nature as flawed, imperfect human beings to take the pristine word of God and mold it for our own purposes. We rationalize, we justify, we ignore, we
bloviate. We become excessively, hypocritically narrow-minded, or too accepting of things that do not hold true to what should be our first priorities as people of faith.

Remove the labels of "organized" Christianity for a moment, and focus on the Word as we know it. The Bible as we know it today may or may not be representative of the "true word" of God, as written thousands of years ago. Some take it literally; some take considerable liberties with its' meaning. I try to use the lessons that I read in the Bible, and those taught to me by my pastors, as guideposts for living. These include the
Golden Rule and Psalm 23.

As I've said before, the closest representation we will ever see on this earth of the true word of God in action is through those who believe and live by that Word, including the admonition that we
live by faith and not by sight. Mr. Rains' father was very wise when he said, "I can't hear what you're saying, your actions are speaking too loudly".

I think I've said enough for now. To try to say anymore flies in the face of humility. This is probably why I don't write consistently; some of what I could say I don't feel comfortable saying.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Three Months Gone

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything, so I guess I'll start back into things with a few observations, and try to build back into the habit.

If anyone's curious, the Jeopardy audition went pretty well, at least as far as I was concerned. Knew stuff that nobody else did, like what movie biography had Greg Kinnear playing Bob Crane, and the name of the character Jimmy Stewart played in Harvey.

Part of the process was gathering some personal information, and along with what I did and other things I did mention that I had recently lost my wife. Their response was kind of false; "Oh, I'm so sorry...", and I almost wonder if they will just hold off using me because of it. Not really worth worrying about it; anything more is gravy. So many more things to think of, to deal with, to remember...

After three months, Jan still makes her presence known in many aspects of daily life, which is probably as it should be. I spent most of today going through still more boxes of stuff. One thing I found was her senior portrait from high school. I met her about 7 years after this picture was taken.

Returning to work has been difficult. I'm not at my best. I did better when I was immersed in being a caregiver and care coordinator, along with holding down a (more than) full time job.
Now other things are filling in that time, not the least being a long-distance relationship that carries with it all of the joys and challenges that are typical of those, with the additional challenges of dealing with grief, loss, and a sense of inadequacy. I'm not on the rebound, but I think I am on the mend. Leslie helps with that. I hope I am worthy.

Another challenge is the nature of shift work while trying to be a single parent of a teenager. I'm trying to make some adjustments. This can and will be interesting.

KAFM continues to be a source of quiet joy. Excellent people, an excellent platform for creativity, and well-positioned for the future. If you support the station, pat yourself on the back. They're making a difference.

After going through boxes and reading the papers, etc. today, I went to Bananas to hit some softballs, then took a drive around the area as dusk approached. The smoke from all of the local and distant wildfires painted the business district of Fruita in a somber dark red as the last vestiges of sunlight filtered through. It was eerie and troubling. This summer has been fairly oppressive, even by Grand Junction standards. Hopefully some relief is in the offing.


There was some interesting media and blog posting this weekend on the subject of police. Not the typical kind of coverage that you normally expect, but it definitely got my attention and was worth the read, whether or not you agree or disagree:

  • Gene Kinsey's post about the militarization of local police. This has been a pet project of Gene's ever since Northridge Estates got a taste of what not-so-well-heeled neighborhoods see much more often. It's an interesting point that Gene brings to the forefront, especially in the wake of some disturbing actions taken by the Bush administration involving the role of the real military on the home front. Even more disturbing is the mainstream media's failure to bring this to light.
  • Amy Hamilton's Page One story in today's Sentinel about the experiences of a female Meeker police officer one year after an officer-involved shooting. This was very well done and held my interest. It also validated several things for me about the nature of some communities, and how much denial and rationalization some will engage in, even when faced with the truth of how low some people will go. Like so many other things I read about in the papers, the same mantra pops into my head: Don't Drink....Don't Drink....Don't Drink.
  • Sunday's You Said It included a "question" about why there are cops in town wearing long sleeve shirts in 100-degree weather. As interesting a topic that this might be to some, I feel that I have expended enough virtual ink for the moment.
Best wishes for peace and understanding during the Dog Days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beneath the Surface

Cookey's Mechanical...if it goes through a pipe, we do it."

Radio ad heard during a JUCO broadcast

Denver - I'm here to take part in something you don't necessarily do every week. I'll talk more about it afterward, but back in February I took the online contestant test for Jeopardy, and earlier this month was invited here to audition for the show. The second step, sort of. If I do well here I'll be placed in the contestant pool for a year.

Four co-workers stepped forward to cover my shift so I could be here today. My sincere thanks to them.

Microsoft unveiled a new product this week, and does it look cool. Obscure reference department: If I get one, I'll be reviewing the data with this baby after I get a redball and before consulting the pre-cogs .

JUCO has been very well-attended this year (gas prices affecting out of town travel?), but the product placement has gotten ridiculous. Considering the volume of advertising being thrust at people during the tournament broadcasts, some corners may have been cut in the screening-for-double entendre department, witness the example above. If I have to hear another business name inserted into the descriptive account of the event, I'm shutting off the radio.

Next on the Gene Taylor's, Home of The Cage schedule, I'm getting dressed and having breakfast.

Wish me luck today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

The cover of this past week's New Yorker says it all.

Remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

GJT Follies and True JUCO Flavor

"He can dance around in lederhosen if he wants, I don't care. I want our engineer in town and available for the first three days of the tournament."

- Jim Davis, "The Radio Voice of JUCO", expressing frustration over some technical difficulties encountered on Saturday afternoon.

I've been busy and somewhat distracted the last few weeks, not only with the continued efforts at settling Jan's affairs, but with other things as well. There have been frustrating moments and joyous ones to be sure; my son got his learner's permit yesterday, so perhaps a little of both on that one. We'll wait and see.

One thing that has caught the attention of myself and several others is the sudden name change from Walker Field Airport to the Grand Junction Regional Airport. Generally speaking, this is not that big a deal, but a name change is a significant step if one wishes to reinvent themselves.

Having worked in an aviation-related business in the past, I tend to refer to airports by their FAA identifier, so for me it doesn't matter how you sugar-coat the outside; when it gets down to what the facility is supposed to accomplish, then for me the name remains GJT.

The traffic, parking, and other construction going on is certainly significant, but every time I choose to visit GJT I get the impression that the facility lacks imagination and friendliness to the traveling public. Like many industries that have to endure lots of government regulation
(especially federal) in order to operate, there doesn't appear to be a lot of vision and foresight in the conduct of daily operations. Here are a few examples:

  • Try to reach someone from the Airport Authority by phone after normal business hours; you'll find yourself in automated-attendant Purgatory. Before and after these hours, the only airport folks on duty are the maintenance staff, which doubles as the airport fire department. They're required to be at the airport until the last scheduled commercial departure and/or arrival. There isn't any easy way that I know of to track one of these folks down, save for meeting one in person if there is a problem or issue.
  • There is no centrally-located information desk or easily identifiable airport representative to be found. The airport website speaks of a Volunteer Ambassador program, with nice artists' renderings of smartly uniformed ambassadors assisting travelers. There's even prime parking reserved for these folks. Too bad I have never seen one on duty.
  • Speaking of the airport website, it hasn't changed to the new name yet. As much as the Airport Board wanted to jettison the name "Walker Field" as quickly as possible, the existing site is the only one online for the facility after several Google searches of the old and new airport name. Here's a suggestion; Google says that is available.
  • There are no centrally located electronic message boards or LCD monitors that advise travelers of the status of all departures and arrivals, including delays or cancellations. The PA system at the airport is pretty active, but that doesn't help the hearing impaired a great deal. A lot of this visual information is readily available from paid services via the web. General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, also known as MKE, is one of the nicest medium-size airports around. They have monitors that show not only flight status, but also the flight location, altitude, etc. on a dynamic map that is updated every few minutes.
It's pretty clear that the Authority Board that operates GJT has its' work cut out for it, now and into the foreseeable future. There are three seats on the GJT Board coming up for appointment over the next year, two appointed by the Grand Junction City Council and one by the County Commissioners, and the city council rep's term is up as well, but it's likely that Gregg Palmer will continue in that role.

According to the agenda from the May 14 Council Workshop, the Board member whose term expires at the end of the month, Frank Roger Little, has expressed an interest in being re-appointed. Based on
Mayor Doody's well-reported comments about the name change, the re-appointment process for these Board seats may be more interesting this time around. I'm thinking about this, and other ways to steer GJT toward a customer-driven service delivery model that has the traveling public's service needs at the forefront. _________________________________________________________________

It's JUCO week in Grand Junction, which one wag long ago equated to a combination Chamber of Commerce picnic, teenage mating ritual, and Lions' Club Convention. The tournament may indeed have something for everyone, including us radio hobbyists.

Broadcasting in Grand Junction is the official broadcast partner for the tournament, and their broadcasts on KTMM 1340 here locally are also beamed to radio stations serving the populations of the participating teams' home areas.

The signal from the press box at
Suplizio Field is beamed to the KTMM studios near Sherwood Park in Grand Junction via a constant VHF radio feed on what is in FCC terminology called a Relay Press frequency.

This transmission is constant from the microphones in the press box, and can be particularly entertaining during commercial breaks, witness the quote at the top of this post, monitored during the beginning of the 3:00 game today.

If you have a standard programmable scanner receiver, or a multi-band receiver that pulls in VHF around the
NOAA weather band, plug in 161.700 or tune to just below 162 MHz while the games are going on. The signal can be heard pretty well across the central Grand Valley. You just might make a great catch yourself.

Happy Flying and Play Ball.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Leadership Lesson

Burlington, Wisconsin - She's been gone a month. Between trying to get things organized at home and going back to work, I guess I'm starting to feel a little more normal. Travel helped - 10 days spent between Pittsburgh and Cape Cod, among loving friends, relatives, and some quality time with Jan's brother.

Now I'm in an attractive small city about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee, on business doing an inspection trip for a mobile communications vehicle we're having built here.

While driving here from Milwaukee Airport, I had occasion to listen to Marketplace, a nationally distributed public radio business show. A commentary on today's program caught my attention:

BENJAMIN BARBER: Paul Wolfowitz is crashing and burning at the World Bank not because he did or said something wrong - that's debatable.

It's because he's an overbearing and arrogant bully trying to impose his will on an organization that depends for success on consensus - both among those who work at the Bank and the governments that pay for and sponsor it.

Simply put, the wolves are after Wolf because he failed to cultivate effective leadership. Not because of a mistake in moral judgment or because of his campaign against corruption.

He placed two former administration allies in high World Bank advisory office, and paid little heed to collegiality and common wisdom in an institution that depends on them for its effectiveness.

Like the world it serves, the Bank can be effective only when it has the collaboration of its staff, the support of its national funders and the good will of those to whom it makes loans.

That's nearly impossible for Wolfowitz to achieve, because he's the product of the administration he left behind: stubborn, zealously "principled" and absolutely certain of his own moral rectitude. Those who disagree are blind to truth, self-interested or traitors.

But leadership isn't about giving orders. It's about listening. Without common ground, no reform, no progress.

The World Bank faces a formidable agenda: correcting global inequalities and augmenting wealth in a world where investment capital is seen by many as the problem, not the solution. Putting Wolfowitz there, like putting John Bolton at the United Nations, was asking for trouble.

Like President Bush, who disdains the national community he was elected to lead and prefers his own voice to careful listening, Wolfowitz is self-destructing around his own self-proclaimed rightness.

Leaders, take notice: democratic leadership in a global world is a two-way street. You need those you lead and you must listen to those you lecture.
(Benjamin Barber runs the nonprofit Democracy Collaborative.)

This commentary set me to thinking about the kinds of leaders I have been both privileged and cursed to work under, what kind of leadership styles work in the type of work I do, and how listening is as important as anything else a leader does.

I'm currently blessed to be working for leaders who (mostly) listen. I can't say the same for many of my colleagues in government at all levels. Maybe the Wolfowitz saga as played out in the media will send some kind of message to those in leadership positions as to what really works.

As for me, all I really needed to know about Mr. Wolfowitz was displayed in his brief appearance in Bowling for Columbine, as excerpted below:

Have a great week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The White Table

By now the instant analysis, second-guessing and armchair quarterbacking have started in earnest over the truly tragic events at Virginia Tech yesterday. I won't jump in, and agree wholeheartedly with Ralph D'Andrea and the Rocky as far as their respective take on the issue. The President and Police Chief of Virginia Tech are also spot-on about the ability to effectively alert and/or lock down a 100-building campus spread over 2600 acres.

As someone with a public safety background, I can make some general observations about what makes or breaks the response to something like this, especially in a largely rural area with limited or distant specialized resources:

1. Unified Command using standardized methods such as the Incident Command System are paramount to any level of responsiveness or success in mitigating an incident such as this.

2. Knowing how to effectively interact with your neighboring agencies and other public safety disciplines on all levels is another make-or-break factor. With something like this that requires an efficient and large scale multi-disciplinary response, there is no room for politics, petty prejudices, or stereotypes.

3. "Interoperability", the buzzword that speaks to the ability of disparate public safety agencies to communicate when working together, is usually referred to when discussing technology deficiencies, especially as it pertains to radio communications. It actually means a great deal more than making sure your radio talks with other agencies and vice versa; it's a state of mind that has to be sold, utilized, and enforced across all levels of an incident response. Interoperability is not just about technology; it's about the processes used to operate, the training that responders receive, and the attitude with which they approach the tasks at hand. See #1 and #2.

I'll look forward to the investigations and reports.
Enough said for now; let the mourning and remembrance begin. My prayers are with the families and fellow students and staff.

Family and friends are starting to arrive in town for tomorrow's memorial service. In an effort to make more room for visitors and others, I began moving things around and cleaning up over the last couple of days. One thing that had to get cleaned off and put away was one of those ubiquitous 4-foot white folding tables that I picked up at Sam's Club about two years ago to use for a yard sale.

This table was rapidly pressed into service when Jan came home in August 2005, after her surgery and first stay in the hospital for rehab and radiation treatments. It stood in our bedroom, filled and organized with the myriad medications and other things necessary for Jan's care at the time.

As Jan's condition started to become more stable over last year, her tumors held in check by an oral chemotherapy med that she responded well to, the table started to have other things on it, including reading material, journals, the binders where I kept information on doctor's appointments and medical records, and other things. As this drug stopped working, and Jan started experiencing other types of discomfort, this material made its' way elsewhere, in favor of additional medications and supplies.

After Jan's stroke and second hospital stay, lots more supplies came into the house, including pads, pre-filled syringes, and new medications. With Jan's hospital bed in the living room, the table was moved and re-organized, along with a white board on the wall to write down medication times, blood sugar readings, and anything needing restocked.

The simple act of cleaning these supplies off of the table, folding it, and storing it away impacted me more than I thought it would. It was for me the last physical vestige of the events of the last 19 months, the diligence and organization required over that time frame, and the final realization that she is gone. Even the brand name embossed onto the tabletop - "LIFETIME" - bears a certain degree of irony for me that I will not shake easily, or for a long time. The neat piles of folding tables for sale at Sam's will be a constant, and perhaps welcome, reminder of what transpired in our house the last 19 months.

I've been fighting a feeling of emptiness these last few days. This isn't something that was unexpected, but its' profundity is more than I perhaps thought possible or probable.
Learning to live without her will be an adjustment of significant proportions, but I will not forget how to care, how to love, and how to share her lessons with others. This is her gift to me, and hopefully to anyone else that I may have the privilege of knowing as the journey winds on.

I'll leave you with another one of Jan's favorite songs. This one is profound in its' message, not only for my family but for our society in general, in part because of the reminder we all got yesterday that there are people in this world that are in need of our collective love and caring. We are NOT alone.

God bless you.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Boy, what would we do without humor? After the last 19 months, I thank God for the ability to laugh, at both myself and others.

Jon Stewart takes four and a half minutes and deftly dissects one of the key problems with our media and society today. It's unfortunate that Nancy "not one iota of" Grace has to bear the brunt of this, but as someone long dead and gone once said, "Instant karma's gonna get you".


Here's another one of Jan's favorite songs.
Hope the rest of your weekend is quiet and joyous.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Loss, Indignation, and Wonder

When I read yesterday that Kurt Vonnegut had passed away, I felt the loss of another individual who shaped part of my life in some meaningful way. I have read most of Vonnegut's early books, which really isn't a grand achievement for someone who was a teenager in the 70's. They were seemingly everywhere to someone like me whose idea of summertime fun was curling up with a good book, or holing up in my room and talking on the CB until the wee hours of the morning. This is, of course, before I discovered girls.

Like many I thoroughly enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five, in part because it deals a lot with Vonnegut's own experience as a survivor of the bombing of Dresden as a POW in World War II.
I felt an honesty to his writing that was uncharacteristic in relationship to other books I had read at the time. The writing was simple, direct, and unemotional.

Vonnegut appeared in one of a famous series of ads for International Paper Company in the 70's called The Power of the Printed Word. His contribution, titled How to Write with Style, provided me with advice that I try to remember when ever I sit down to write; "
If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out."

There is an excellent remembrance of Vonnegut in recent years on Borders' website. So it goes.

The controversy over Don Imus this week is becoming the latest weapon of mass distraction, but it has disturbing undertones associated with it. Many in the blogosphere seem to see it as a continued symptom of the media's fascination with things that are not news. Yesterday morning I was watching CNN's Your World Today, which had in-depth coverage of the bombing of a bridge in Baghdad along with the successful breach of security by a suicide bomber at the Iraqi parliament. I quickly flipped to MSNBC and Fox; Imus was still the topic at hand.

What worries me is the potential for increased scrutiny of what would otherwise be protected speech in this country. Imus did a stupid thing, but I'm more concerned with the ripple effect on broadcasters and others in either being or feeling restricted from expressing their views, especially in a reasoned way. As both a citizen and the producer of a radio program, this concerns me greatly.

Harsh words like Imus chooses to use do not promote the effective exchange of ideas, but as Media Matters demonstrated yesterday, he's hardly the exception to the rule. What's next for other polarizing media types that use language and words similar to Imus? Do we insist on their firing as well?

Coincidentally, the ACLU sent out a press release yesterday concerning legislation that would increase the federal capability to prosecute hate crimes when local and/or state authorities do not. At first blush, it appears to be a balanced approach to the problem. I wonder if Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson will weigh in on it. It would certainly seem to be a more productive use of their time than the Imus debacle.

I don't know enough about the issue to go any further with this, but
yesterday I saw a local example of Sharpton-esque indignation that was, at least for me, pretty comical.

The Junction Daily Blog of April 10 was a small blurb about the recent expansion of Channel 12's capabilities, with a fairly critical approach. Someone chose to send back an informed, reasoned, and anonymous comment about it, which Ralph D'Andrea posted in yesterday's edition, along with the information that the comment had originated from Mesa County's Internet server.

Not to be outdone by other Rutgers alumni, Ralph has taken the approach that the comment is, in his opinion as a taxpayer, inappropriate in relationship to the duties of a county employee. I'm not so sure about that, given that Ralph took the time to criticize a county operation in a way that appeared to want to generate feedback of some kind, or at least a little controversy.

From the viewpoint of a private citizen and a public servant, I disagree with Ralph's assertions.
First, Channel 12 is an excellent community resource that is operated in a fiscally responsible way. I know this because while they do a great job, they're not perfect. Any programming produced by Channel 12, including the live broadcast of public meetings, must be accessible to the hearing impaired, per Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This has yet to happen, and when it does it will be a little costly. My wife was the main reason I got involved with this, but I will continue with these efforts for the benefit of others.

Second, while the comment may have been sent anonymously from a government computer, it was spot on with relevant, enlightening, non-sensitive information that would otherwise not be readily available unless someone took the time to ask. The author's first sentence seemed to set Ralph off a bit, perhaps extending the tax-induced agita that he complained of in his original post.

I've learned my lesson more than once to take a few deep breaths before clicking "Send" or "Post", and I need to be reminded at times. Sounds to me like Ralph got such a reminder and is none too happy about it. I'm hopeful he will get over it.

I found another video, this time of a song that reminds me a lot of Jan. I'm off shortly to the mortuary and the church to finalize plans for her memorial, so this seems like a fitting way to conclude. Enough said for now.

Have a good weekend.