Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Life at Steed Pond

My morning walk often passes by Steed Pond. It’s a small bit of nature amidst my suburban neighborhood. This spring, I’ve taken to more walks, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see what’s living there, or at least passing by for the catch of the day.
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This morning four American White Pelicans were fishing there, along with a couple of Double Crested Cormorants and the usual ducks. The pelicans migrate to areas near Salt Lake each spring, and depart for southern destinations in the fall. In years past, I had been amazed to see them on the water at a golf course, but this week was the first sighting within a half mile of home.

I was pleased to see the pelicans, but had to wonder what they were finding to eat. A bit of Google research reveals that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources annually stocks the pond with rainbow trout. It turns out they are a tasty treat for pelicans. And I don’t think they are respecting the limit of 2 per day!

DWR reports that this year they’ve planted 2807 rainbow trout in Steed Pond. These trout have had an average length of 11 inches. Examining the bill of the pelicans, I’d say the trout are a right-sized snack. It’s fun to watch them fishing.

Reveille

This morning, I got up at 5:20 am, then went downstairs to practice jazz improv for an hour at the piano.   I then moved into hunter-gatherer mode, and walked a mile to Maverik to get a quart of milk for the morning cereal.   On the way home at 7:30 I heard:

Reveille!

Yes, Reveille was playing on the huge loudspeakers of Hill Air Force Base – two miles away.  What a sweet sound, from a distance!   Now the distance is not just two miles.  Also the distance from that place is one year, since one year ago I left my half-time work at HAFB to become the full-time piano technician.   I like hearing Reveille from that distance.

It is a distance of one year with no regrets.  Just a more centered and joy-filled life.

Horseback riding

I still haven’t gone horseback riding. If I had a bucket list, surely I’d have to put it on my bucket list. I know that for a modest fee, I can find several venues within a few miles where a caring person can put me on a gentle horse and take me for a ride. I think about that from time to time, but I do fail to act.

Cousin Jim says that we are “first generation off the farm”. I find that to be an interesting label, for what it says about our place in history and the conditions of our upbringing. We had strong fathers. Very strong fathers, who developed their characters in a very rough life.

Harvey McGuire, my dad, didn’t say much about how rough life had been for him. But gradually, over the years of my youth some glimpses of the rugged life of the 20’s did emerge. It was during a trip to Pacific County Fair in 1960, when I was maybe 8 years old, that I began to ask some serious questions about who my father was in the pre-existance! While with Dad in the middle of the midway, a horse had become spooked, and the young girl who was leading him had lost control. The horse was rearing up and creating real danger for all around. The crowd was scattering, as Dad placed very firm hands on my shoulders – as only he could – and said “YOU STAY RIGHT HERE!”. He then walked up to that wild horse, grabbed the reins and calmed him. I’d like to think he whispered something sweet to that horse, but I actually think that he smacked the horse in the side of the head as he whispered.

I was absolutely awestruck. Here I was with the father I had known for 8 years, a man who had never even commented on the nature of horses. A man, that as far as I knew, had never even touched a horse. And he was taking control of a horse gone wild! It turns out that I knew nothing of my father. He asked the girl where the horse belonged, he led the horse to its stall at the horse barn and settled it in. All I could do was to follow in pure wonderment.

As I learned, back on the farm there had been about a dozen horses. To add some income to the subsistence farming, Edwin McGuire, my grandfather, operated a pack horse operation leading hunters into the Cascade mountains. As a youth, and as the oldest of 5 children much of the labor of caring for those horses fell on Dad. He never commented on the beauty of horses. He was not enamored by horses as the teenage girls were in my neighborhood. No. He actually actually disliked the animals and wanted nothing to do with them. He told me the stories later. When cousins would come over, he’d get on his bicycle and escape the farm, so that he wouldn’t “be saddled” with all the work of caring for the horses so that cousins could ride!

But still, I want to ride a horse. Maybe this spring. Before it gets too warm. Or maybe this fall, before it gets too cold. It would be nice to touch my heritage in that physical way.

By the way, I’ve never seen a picture of Dad anywhere near a horse, so it is fitting that my favorite picture of Mom and Dad shows him enjoying his sweetheart and his preferred mode of transportation.

LaRue Henkel and Harvey McGuire — 1936(?)

New Tech meets Old Tech

I’m a technologist.  And sometimes I have more fun with old technology than new technology.  For seven or eight years we’ve been without a landline phone, and that works pretty well — until the owner of the phone is upstairs and the phone is downstairs.  In an effort to expand our phone availability, I went looking for new technology, and found the bluetooth gateways for cell phones can be pretty cool!  The device shown below, connects to the wired phone lines in the house, and when one or both of our smart phones are nearby with bluetooth on,  all the phones in the house ring.

That worked out well, and I wired some more phone jacks in the house. We now have three wired phones. But when I built the shop, I didn’t wire it for phone. Well it’s wired now, and enter old technology:




The shop has a phone! I value the old power equipment that I have and operate in the shop, and I thought it fitting to have a phone of the same vintage. This particular phone is the Western Electric “space saver” model, from the 1940s. And today it is working again and ringing when I’m home and you call my cell phone! I found this one on eBay, and it was the exact model I sought, because it is the same model that hung on the wall of the kitchen in Raymond when I was a tot. It was replaced with a white plastic wall phone that had a dialer! Our phone number was 278R. When you picked up the phone to call first you checked to see if the party line was free, then the operator would say, “Number, please”. So at this point the shop phone is incoming only. It has a dial tone, but no dialer. Ryan has suggested that the ultimate marriage of old tech and new tech would be to hook it up to a PBX server which would say “Number, please”, and then using voice recognition, would — well dial the number!

Where’s the worst air in the U.S. today?

Where’s the worst air?  Oh.  Right here.  In the little known State of Utah.  Also known, perhaps,  as the State of Denial.

This time of year brings temperature inversions to the valleys along the Wasatch Front Mountains of Utah, and pollutants from 1.7 million cars is trapped – it just cannot be dispersed to the surrounding desert!   This week cities in Utah have repetitively made the EPA’s chart of Top 5 Worst air in the United States.

Here’s today’s current conditions and forecast  (this just shows the top 5 in the nation):

US Current air quality January 25, 2013

From the EPA's website: airnow.gov

 

U.S. Air quality forecast for January 25, 2013

From the EPA's website: airnow.gov

 

Is this unusual?  No.  It’s January in Utah!

Earlier this week, a group of health care professionals delivered a letter to the Governor of Utah, requesting that the Governor take immediate action and declare a healthcare emergency.  The doctors stated, “We know from thousands of medical studies that people are dying in our community right now because of air pollution and its role in triggering strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and infant mortality.”  Reference:  kuer.org

The governor’s office responded:

“Ally Isom is a spokeswoman for Governor Herbert. She says he would not characterize current air quality conditions as a health emergency, but acknowledges it is unhealthy for some groups. She says the governor encourages everyone to exercise individual responsibility to combat the pollution.”

The Governor does seem to be the Governor of the State of Denial.  “Unhealthy for some groups” is quite the understatement.  The red designation in the graphic above is an EPA Air Quality Index greater than 150.  The EPA defines this category as, “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”   This is a marked contrast in definition.  Maybe the good doctors are right and the Governor is wrong.

I take exception to the Governor’s solution. He “encourages everyone to exercise individual responsibility to combat the pollution.”  It wasn’t the individuals who built the twelve lane freeways along the Wasatch Front, enabling a lifestyle which is reliant on cars.  It was the elected government.  It’s time for the government to take action.  As the doctors say, this stuff isn’t just an irritant.  It’s costing lives.

Earlier today, I sent my proposals to my State Representatives.   They are harsh, but would be effective.   The “individual responsibility”  approach has not worked.   We need real plans now.   Here’s my proposals:

Representative Pray and Senator Stevenson:

It is time! It is time to stop wringing our hands about our filthy air. IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION! This week we have been ranked number one in the nation for filthy air by the EPA. Cars are the major problem. Lets attack it there on an economic basis!

Proposal 1: During periods where PM 2.5 emissions are above 30 ppm, charge a $10 toll for every vehicle entering I-15 in affected counties which have fewer than 2 passengers. Hmmm that’s logistically challenging. Probably would be troublesome to implement.

Proposal 2: During months where PM 2.5 emissions are above 30 ppm, increase the gas tax in affected counties. I’d say $3.00 a gallon would get enough cars off the road.

Radical proposals? Perhaps. Do we have a big problem and do we have our head stuck in the sand? Yes. From each of the above proposals, take the revenue to fund public transportation and public transportation awareness. Offer free public transit during these periods.

Why am I concerned? Well, I’m sick. Not terribly sick, just sick when I breathe the air. I dread January each year. If it were more than 6 weeks a year, I’d move! I’d leave the state. I’d leave the state? Hmmm. Maybe this pollution has a negative economic value to the state! Yesterday more than 100 medical professionals petitioned the Governor’s office, asking for a declaration of “healthcare emergency”. The governor’s response was lame. He said, “Nah, it’s not that bad”.

Big problems require bold solutions. We have a big problem.

Life in the internet-enabled slow lane

Sometimes, the little joys in life just sneak up on you!  And while reporting today’s little joy, I do want to affirm that the Internet enables our cultural connections in a very positive way.

Terri, my wife is a committed bargain shopper at DI (if you aren’t from around here, translation:  “thrift store”).  The other day she dragged home a pedestal for a clothes dryer, which she said would be perfect as a planter for some potatoes.  Five dollars.  Thank you DI. Attached to the pedestal was a 30 AMP dryer cord, which she deposited in my shop, and said, “I thought maybe you could use this!”   I could only smile at the gift.

This afternoon, I took two photos of the dryer cord and listed it for sale on ksl.com (if you aren’t from around here, synonym: craigslist.org).  Eight dollars, please!    An hour later, I got the phone call.

“Hi, do you still have the 4-prong dryer cord for sale?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Well, do you ever get down to Clearfield?”

“Uh … yeah … but I’m just a couple miles away here in Clinton.”

“Well, I have no way of getting there, but if you’d like to bring it by this week some time, I’d sure buy it.”

Being a kind hearted soul, with a small profit motive, and a natural curiosity about what would happen next, I said, “OK.  I can make that work.”

My caller responded, “Good. The address is my dad’s place.  He’ll pay eight dollars cash.”

As I thought about it then, I realized I wanted to go for a bike ride anyway, so joy!  I was going to get paid a dollar a mile to ride the bike.  The next smile I got was when I turned the corner to the address and saw the sign proclaiming “Appliance repair.  Used appliances”.   I guess I didn’t need ksl.com to find the buyer, but it got me there.   The appliance shop was out back of the house, and the proprietor  was clearly 80 or better.  And indeed he found joy in giving me that eight dollars, which was clearly better than a wholesale price for the dryer cord.   He enjoyed my recumbent bike, inquiring, “Is that thing electric?”

“Uh no.  I do have some wiring on it for headlight and tail light.”

“That’s quite the contraption!  Did you buy it like that?”

I explained that it is indeed a commercial product and a great bicycle.  I think we both enjoyed the moment.

After pedalling home the four miles, I went out the the garden to find Terri.   I said “I have something for you”, and pulled the eight dollars out of  my wallet.

When I explained that I sold that dryer cord for eight dollars, she gave me her very best smile.  Joy!