Monday, December 15, 2008

Items May Have Shifted

In over 22 years of business air travel, I can count on one hand the number of times I did not check a bag. I've been cajoled...even reprimanded by traveling companions who prefer to have their bags with them at all times. Their objection to checking bags, of course, is two-fold. First, they don't want to risk arriving at their destination, only to find that their luggage did not. Second...and I think this is the main reason, they do not want to have to wait for their bag to arrive at baggage claim. I understand both of these reasons, and I am particularly familiar with the often long wait in baggage claim. Neither reason, however, is sufficient to overcome my rationale for checking a bag.

Most of my flights from Raleigh include a connection, typically in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, or Chicago, and occasionally in St. Louis, Detroit, or Salt Lake City. Often, the connection time is just long enough for me to walk from the arrival gate to the departure gate, with a short restroom stop on the way. However, I am frequently forced to layover in a connection airport for a couple of hours or more. During these times, I do not want to be lugging a suitcase behind me. I prefer to keep my hands free so that I can eat something while walking, or perhaps grab something at Starbucks and still have one hand free to be checking my email. A number of years ago I even began using a laptop backpack as my carry-on so that I could remain hands-free in the airport. However, as important as this is to me, the primary reason for checking my bag can be summed up in two words: Overhead Bins!

Airlines have lately been sending mixed messages. While they attempt to limit carry-ons by imposing size limits, most of the major carriers actually encourage carry-ons by charging to check a bag. Sometimes the first bag is free, sometimes not. But beyond the first bag, you usually have to pay...often from $15 to $25 (fortunately I have sufficient frequent flyer status that I am exempt from these charges). By imposing this fee, airlines have sent a message to the flying public: it's cheaper to carry your bag with you. And I've never once seen any airline employee forbid someone to carry something on the plane that exceeded the stated size limit. As a result, passengers are now carrying on everything except the kitchen sink. Because I don't need the stress of wondering if there will be space for my suitcase in the overhead bins, I choose to check my bag.

It is both comical and annoying to watch people put their stuff in the overhead bins. I am annoyed when someone simply throws everything up there with little or no attention paid to using the space efficiently. Coats, small laptop bags that could easily fit under the seat in front of them, suitcases...all tossed up as if the bin was their own personal storage space. I'm also annoyed when someone boards late with a load of "stuff" and then proceeds to rearrange everyone else's belongings (without asking...and usually blocking the aisle) in order to jam his own things in. And no regard whatever is given to what items in someone else's bags might be getting damaged in the attempt. Also on the annoying list: people who are seated near the rear of the plane who throw their bag into the first empty bin space they find, often near the front of the plane, leaving the people who sit in those forward seats (who are typically forced to board near the end of the boarding process) nowhere to put their own belongings.

On the comical side, I often find it amusing to watch someone attempt to put something in the overhead bin that will clearly not fit. They think that if they push and shove and turn the thing enough times, it will eventually go in. Well you know what? A basketball won't fit into a ring matter how hard you try to make it work, it's just not gonna happen! Same thing with these bins. They can actually accommodate suitcases larger than the allowable size, but there is a limit. Watching people attempt to overcome the laws of physics sometimes provides a bit of comic relief. And of course, there is a solution to all of's called checking a bag!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

45 Years

I can't let this day end without commenting on the fact that 45 years ago today, President John Kennedy was assassinated. Even all these years later, I can still feel some of the emotion from that day.

I was a fifth grader at Scenic Hills Elementary back in Springfield, PA. Mr. Oravek was my first male teacher, and I really liked the class. On Friday November 22, 1963, he was leading our class in a discussion of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. During that discussion, he received a call on the intercom from the school secretary, alerting him to what had just happened in Dallas. Our president had been assassinated. He was dead. We were speechless.

School dismissal was a very quiet affair that day. I don't remember much about the 4 block walk home, but I do remember turning on the television the minute I got in the house. I remained glued to the set for the remainder of the weekend. I remember attending Sunday School on Sunday morning, and upon returning home, I switched the TV back on, just in time to watch Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald right on live TV. If memory serves me, the funeral was on Monday, and we must have had the day off from school, because I remember every bit of it. The caison carrying the coffin, Jacqueline Kennedy's brave face sheilded by a black veil, John-John saluting his father's casket.

It seems like only yesterday somehow, yet so long ago. Less than two months later, the Beatles would make their US television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show (which I also remember watching), and the 60's were taking shape as the decade of unrest, protest, revolution, and free love. So many things happened in the years that followed, but none that grabbed the nation quite so completely as the day that shot rang out across the grassy knoll in Dallas.

His Ways

Some of you will disagree with my politics, but after the election I couldn't stop wondering how the result could possibly be good for America. While I sincerely believe our President-elect has the skills to lead, I have concerns about fiscal issues, defense and foreign policy issues, and most definitely social issues. I was bewildered that a man with quite a liberal viewpoint in each of these areas, and with an opportunity to influence the Supreme Court for many years to come, could possibly be the best choice for our country. I grappled with the fact that in my head I knew that God controls Kings and Kingdoms, and that His will would be accomplished. I just couldn't see how.

The good news...God is teaching me to trust.

Recently in my quiet time, I was reading in Numbers 21. To summarize the portion I read, it is part of the narrative that describes the period when Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness, prior to entering the promised land. A tactical change was made to their plans, and the Lord led them on a more circuitous route. I guess they had had just about enough, because they at once began to complain and rail against God and Moses. And for good measure, they threw in complaints about the lack of water and the "miserable food" (guess they didn't see manna as a blessing!). As a result, God sent poisonous snakes among them. The were biting the Israelites, causing a number of them to die. This apparently brought them to their senses, because they came to Moses, admitted their sin, and begged him to pray to the Lord and ask Him to take the snakes away. So Moses prayed.

Now here's my solution if I had been God: I've made my point, Israel has learned its lesson, so now I'll just take the snakes away. Simple. End of problem.

God didn't do that. He told Moses to make a snake and put it up on a pole. He was to tell the Israelites that whoever got bitten by a real snake could look up at the fake snake, and that would keep them from dying. OK, now that's just plain weird on several levels. First, God doesn't really go for the whole "graven image" thing. Yet He told Moses to make a snake, which Moses made out of bronze. It just seems that looking up at the bronze snake is somehow ascribing some power to it, when God has all the power. As I was reading, it just didn't seem to jive with what I would have expected God to do. I thought He'd just vaporize the snakes. I'm telling you, I really struggled with this. As I continued to dig into the passage and started reading some commentaries, God intervened.

Yes, God could have easily made the snakes disappear. But He knew that the real problem wasn't the snakes. It was the lack of trust in God by the Israelites that had to be dealt with. If God had simply removed the snakes, Israel would have been happy, and I'm sure they would have worshipped and praised God over it. But their praise would have been for something God did, and not for who He was. The trust problem would have remained, and probably before very long would have reared its head again. God's solution to the snake problem required that any Israelite who got a snake bite had to look up...the look of faith. As strange as it must have sounded to them that if they looked up at the bronze snake they would live, they HAD to trust God that this would work, or they would die from the snakebite. Not only was He answering Moses' prayer to get rid of the snake problem, but He was accomplishing His will by re-teaching Isreal to place its unswerving trust in Him.

Believe me, it is still hard for me to understand why God allowed our recent election results. But through this passage, God revealed to me that my disappointment and discouragement were nothing more than a lack of faith in Him to accomplish His will. I have to say that it is very hard for me to see, with my sin-hindered eyes, how God's will is to be accomplished in our country. The election result seems a very strange way for God to further His kingdom on earth. But now I can believe with some conviction (and a dose of humility), that God's ways are not my ways, and He will advance His purposes in His own ways and in His perfect time.

I have been set free to honor and pray for our new leaders, as God desires.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Critter Update

So the humane answer to my squirrel problem was supposed to be "fox urine". I purchased a product online composed largely of this "magic ingredient" (which smells pretty much like skunk!), only to find that my tree rat squirrels are quite content to sit in a pile of it while munching on my hibiscus. The primary predator of squirrels is the fox, and yet there appears to be no fear. I'm seriously thinking about firearms!

And now a new pest has arrived. Admittedly much cuter than a squirrel, but costing me a bunch of cash. This time it's a rabbit. I know...I know. A cute little bunny. Yeah, well...YOU try to convince the little bugger not to eat my freshly planted pansies.

For the first time since we moved to this house 4 1/2 years ago, I got the winter pansies planted by the end of October. I knew I was going to be out of town for awhile, so I worked hard to get them all planted sooner rather than later. My goal was to give them enough time to get very well established before the cold weather slows them down, so that in the Spring, they would really take off. Ah...the best laid plans!

Upon our return from 10 days on the west coast, I discovered that more than a dozen of my plants ($4 a pop at Lowes) had been munched down to the nubbies. Still alive, but without a bloom in sight, and seriously lacking leaves. I fear there is not enough left to sustain life in the cold. I think they will need to be replaced. Not happy about having to lay out more coin.

Honestly, I can't prove that a rabbit is the culprit. I've yet to see the dastardly act performed live. These snuggly little predators are apparently a bit more crafty (or private) than my brazen tree rats. I went online to research what might be eating my plants. I found a video that told me all I needed to know. I'll let you watch it here and decide for yourself if I came to the right conclusion about what has been dining on my winter greens!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Clean Up

This is just a random rant...because I can't help myself.

Why is it that restaurant employees insist on sweeping and/or mopping the floor around you while you're eating? This has happened with some frequency lately, and it always makes me not want to eat my food. It happened not long ago at Panera Bread in Brier Creek. Last night it happened while Paulette and I were attempting to enjoy a cup of coffee and a scone at a local Starbucks in Bellevue, WA.

As we sat down, I noticed an employee in the back with a broom in her hand. Sure enough, before long she was out in the store sweeping away. All I could think is that dust and dirt were flying in the air and landing on my food. A less than appetizing thought. I didn't say anything to Paulette, because I didn't want to be a whiner, but I was irritated inside. Next thing you know, the employee brought out the bucket and the mop. You know the one I mean...the big bucket with the wringer on it, and the big stringy wet mop, just dripping with yuck from the last dozen moppings. She mopped so close to us that the mop came within a couple of inches of my shoe. She seemed oblivious to the customers around her. I'm surprised she didn't try to mop under our table. At one point, when she wasn't paying attention, her mop handle nearly clobbered one of the customers, and when she realized it and turned to avoid said clobbering, the mop handle came perilously close to smashing into one of the windows. It was almost comically hazardous! Next thing you know, another employee comes around from behind the counter out into the store, and completely slips on the wet floor and falls flat on her back...literally! She wasn't hurt, fortunately, and they all had a good laugh. It was only then that they started warning customers as they came in that the floor was wet. That floor was a lawsuit waiting to happen. By this point, even Paulette had reached her limit and suggested we leave. With careful steps, we made our exit.

Now I know why this happens. It was less than an hour before closing, and the yourng people who usually work those hours are interested in one thing...getting out at closing time. If you can get some of your chores done during store hours, that's less you have to do after the store closes. I know that. But it is still no excuse for inconveniencing, and in some cases endangering, your customers while they're in the store.

Please, store managers, insist that the clean-up chores in the customer areas of your establishments be done only after the store has closed!

P.S. Get a Swiffer! We all know those disgusting string mops are only smearing last week's grunge onto this week's floors.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Today is the 30th anniversary of the day I became a father.

Well, now...I guess that's a pretty self-centered way of looking at someone else's birthday! What I really want to do is wish my daughter Rachel a very happy 30th birthday today. But in reality, I often think of her birthday as my "fatherhood anniversary", because October 17, 1978 was one of the happiest days of my entire life. I will never forget the unspeakable joy I felt (2 weeks earlier than anticipated!) the first time I held her in my arms. That moment, along with the moment 4 days later when we brought her home and laid her in her own crib for the very first time, made one of my dreams come true. For the past 30 years, I have loved being Rachel's dad, and I couldn't be prouder to call her my beloved daughter.

Rachel is now a mother herself...of two precious 20 month old (today!) twin boys. And I just know that as they get older, they will feel just as proud that they get to call her "Mom".

Rachel, if I was able to be with you today, I'd want you to hold a sign up with the number 30 on it and take your picture (only because you don't have 30 fingers to hold up!), and after supper and presents, I'd love for us to sit next to each other on the couch, so I could read you Dr. Seuss' "Happy Birthday To You". Sure wish we could share the "who-bubs" together one more time, even though you're 30!

Happy Birthday, Kiddo. I love you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Having watched all three debates so far, I've been giving some thought to what might be the best way for voters to learn where the candidates stand on issues, and what plans they have to address problems facing our country. I don't think the current formats even come close to helping us make informed decisions. I'm frustrated that we hear the same talking points in the "debate" format as we do listening to stump speeches. I suggest the following ideas for your comment.

Format #1: Each candidate will run a town hall meeting, without the other candidate present. They will not be televised live, but back to back after both events conclude. This way, one campaign cannot capitalize on knowing what happened at the other candidate's event. Freeflowing questions from citizens, with a moderator whose only role is to assist the citizens in keeping the candidate on point. The moderator has no role as a questioner...only to make sure the candidate doesn't evade the question and move back to standard talking points. Meeting attendees should be identified as undecided voters.

Another rule: candidates are forbidden from saying the name of their opponent, saying the words "my opponent", or otherwise alluding to their opponent in any way. We want to hear the candidates talk about themselves, with no potshots against their opponent. (Might actually be a nice rule for campaign ads, too!). This rule will apply to every debate format.

Format #2: Candidates are interviewed separately by a neutral party, agreed upon by both campaigns. The two candidates will be asked the same exact questions and given the same amount of time to answer the questions. The interviewer may ask one followup question as desired for any question. No questions can be about the opponent. The interview questions will be written by the interviewer. Both interviews will be taped, and then aired back to back, in an order determined by a coin toss.

Format #3: The two candidates sit at a table with a moderator. Based on a coin toss, one candidate will open by asking the other a question. The responder will have a specified amount of time to answer. The questioner will be permitted one follow up question, if desired. The questions can be on any topic, and each candidate may change the questions on the fly if desired. Each candidate will ask the same number of questions. The only role of the moderator is to monitor the time.

I know these ideas have challenges and flaws. But perhaps they will stir up a conversation that will generate better ideas. Almost anything would be better than what we've seen so far. We need a way to hear about issues from each candidate without all of the "noise" caused by mud-slinging, pre-written talking points, and distracting intervention by moderators.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How Good Does It Taste?

It really doesn't matter. Because..."NOTHING tastes as good as thin feels!"

I'm near my low now, weighing within a few pounds of what I did when I got married 32 years ago. Having not so long ago had 30 more pounds on my frame, I know how uncomfortable carrying the equivalent of 2 bowling balls around feels. Not good. Not good at all.

Yet, there are times when a lack of discipline snags me. I can easily let a pound a month creep back. Doesn't take long for the clothes not to fit well anymore, and to have that bloated, lethargic feeling. What has snapped me back to exercising and eating more sensibly during those times is the reminder that nothing tastes as good as thin feels.

Krispy Kremes? Nope!
Snickers Bars? Nope!
Fries? Nope!
Rocky Road Ice Cream? Nope!

Do I avoid these things completely? Nope!

I love chocolate in most any form...and for that matter, lots of other sweets and fattening stuff. I eat them once in awhile. But always keeping in mind that...

Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stripped Away

"Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies." Psalm 49:16-17

It's a phrase that has been embraced in the mainstream vernacular: "You can't take it with you!" Everyone knows what it means, but I wonder how many people realize that it comes straight from scripture? I suspect there are other common phrases, used by Christians and non-Christians alike, that find their basis in the Bible. Any of you care to share others you can think of?

Reading in Psalm 49, I'm reminded again that everything we have gets stripped away at death. The older I get, the more aware I've become how unimportant "things" are. I still enjoy them. I'm still captivated by the latest electronic gadget. I'm grateful for the comfortable furnishings in my home. But is accumulating and protecting these things worthy of the time and attention I often give to these endeavors? I know the answer. It doesn't always change my behavior. I need the reminder of Psalm 49.

This is a temporary home. It offers temporary pleasures. I can be grateful for them. But the best use of my time and energy is in making sure I am prepared for the life to my real home. Honoring and worshipping God. Building my relationship with Him...and with others. Striving to become more Christ-like. These are the things that endure...the things that I WILL be able to take with me.

Hard to believe, on such a beautiful day, that everything I enjoy of God's creation will be just a shadow compared to the splendor that is to come. My mind can't really get wrapped around that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Double Nickels

The first time I got an invitation to join the AARP was right when I turned 50. Ridiculous! Not even close to retiring. Not even remotely interested in being made to feel like a senior citizen. That first invitation (and all subsequent ones) have found an immediate home in the circular file. After all, in my head, I'm still in my 20's (OK...late 20's). And what's up with "senior citizen" discounts being offered in certain grocery stores and restaurants starting at age 55? When did attaining senior status switch from 65 down to 55?

So guess who has a senior citizen discount (55 and older) every Tuesday? Kroger does!

And guess who qualifies? My wife does!

She hit the double nickels last week, and just happened to see that 5% discount mentioned in the newspaper ad. You know what, 5% is 5%. I'll take it. The savings could buy some Chick-Fil-A. Or a hot chai at Starbucks.

I'm thinking my wife will make me wait 'til I qualify myself before I get to spend the savings. And that's not for a long time. I'll be paying full price at Kroger until January!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Whose Plan?

I like to plan. I like to help other people plan. I'm a financial planner. Makes sense. It's my nature, my vocation, and also my weakness. Another blogger recently wrote about core sin. This is one of mine: I sometimes rely more on my plan than on God's purpose.

People are worried about the economic and market woes we are experiencing. I understand that. On some levels, so am I. What happens will not only have an effect on my retirement savings, but potentially on my livelihood as well. I have a plan to pay off my mortgage. I have a plan for retirement (what I like to call financial independence). To execute the plan, I will exercise my skills whenever opportunities are available to do so. Here's my issue. I often forget to acknowledge that God has given me the skills, and He has provided the opportunites for me to exercise them in the context of executing my plan...earning a living, giving, and building a nest-egg. He could just as easily take them away in the context of executing His plan. A physical illness. An economic downturn. What will it be?

Fortunately, God reminds me regularly that success has little to do with executing my plan, but everything to do with trusting in His plan and His purpose. None of what is happening in our economy or the stock market is catching God off guard. His plan is not at risk. Forgive me, Lord, for worrying sometimes that mine is.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Bob Barnes, who spoke at our church last night, always amuses me, yet at the same time challenges me. Nice combination! My kids are raised, but when I listen to Bob, it makes me want to have a "do-over". So many things I wish I had done while the kids were under this roof.

We are blessed with two kids who are both married and both following the Lord. We had help parenting. Godly friends and mentors, and great resources from Focus on the Family. When we blew it, God stepped in. It's the only explanation, when I hear Bob talk about so many things I could have done, but didn't. I did some of them. I wish I had done more. I'm glad God stepped in.

Today, I couldn't be prouder of my kids. Rachel, who will turn 30 in a few weeks, is a homemaker and stay-at-home-mom raising twin boys, now 19 months old. She's been married to a believer for nearly 8 years, and is active in her church. Ben, who will be 28 in a few weeks, is a Student Ministries Pastor at a church in Charlotte, and is attending seminary. He is also married to a believer, and is showing real leadership qualities both at church and at home. I am fortunate. indeed, to be their dad.

I thank the Lord for the insights he gave us when raising our kids. That still doesn't stop me from occasionally wishing for a do-over. Even though our grandsons are 3,000 miles away, I'm anxious to have an influence on the next generation. Maybe that's my do-over!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I had the great pleasure yeterday of re-connecting with somone I hadn't spoken to in over 37 years! It was my high school algebra/trigonometry teacher. Mr. Werley (now Skip) was also our class sponser, and he coached the boys varsity basketball team. The last time we connected was back when I had a rotary phone (what's that?) on my kitchen wall, and probably 15 years before I owned my first microwave! I was a senior in high school!

Several months ago, a HS buddy I've kept in touch with asked if I'd ever had Skip as a math teacher...yes! My buddy mentioned that Skip, now 68 years old and retired, had been sending out a daily email to many friends and acquaitances called Thought for the Day. Skip enjoys keeping in touch with many people whose lives crossed his during his 40 year public school teaching career, so I emailed him and asked to be included on his mailing list. He wrote a very gracious return email, and I was very surprised to learn that he actually remembered who I was. I've been receiving his daily email ever since.

We had a great time of reminiscing about people and events we both remembered. We joked a little about how much the world has changed over the years. Though I didn't really recognize his voice at first, the more we talked, the more familiar it became. We spent over an hour in a very comfortable and enjoyable conversation.

Two things struck me as we talked. First, I was keenly aware of the many technological changes that had taken place over 37 years. Nothing stays the same, and the advancements will continue now at a breakneck pace. That's partly what's behind my decision to blog and to begin using Twitter. While I might only have a partial picture of how useful these technologies can be, as I imerse myself in them and discover more about how they change the way people interact, I expect my use of them to change from recreational to "must-have" technologies.

The second thing that struck me was how nice it can be to re-connect with people you've known over the years. Skip and I had only a teacher/student relationship back in 1971. I didn't know him well, but he was a fine teacher, and I remember liking and respecting him a lot. Now, both adults, we have re-connected, and I am enriched because of it. Technology allows us to stay connected in so many different ways. We have no excuse. If a re-connect doesn't really click, there's no harm done. When it does, like it did for me this week, it's an incredibly enriching experience.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


"Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry." Prov. 19:15

Did you ever have one of those times when it seemed like God kept telling you the same thing over and over, just so you'd get it? He's been nailing me this week.

It started on Sunday with a message from Brian Frost. The concept he was getting across was that even if we know the right thing to do...the right road to take...the right moment by moment decisions to make, if we fail to avail ourselves of the necessary resources, we simply fail. The football team analogy was perfect. The coach of an inferior team, when scheduled to play a superior team, has a game plan designed to defeat his opponent. However, if the team lacks the necessary resources of talent or ability to execute the game plan, the plan will fail, and his team will lose the football game.

My resource for living the Christian life is Christ himself. When I fail to make use of that superior resource, and depend on my own inferior resources, I fail in living the life I was designed to live. I become unproductive. Skipping quiet times and prayer...not a good idea! Skipping for long periods...just plain stupid!

My through-the-Bible reading plan had me in Mark 9:14-32 this week. This is the story of the disciples being unable to cast a demon out of a young boy, after having had many previous successes. Fast forward. Jesus is called over, and successfully casts the demon out. Afterwards, the disciples ask Jesus why they had been unable to cast out the demon. He answered that "this kind can come out only by prayer." The disciples, rather than praying and relying on God as their one superior resource for the power to cast out demons, had instead been relying on their own past successes. Hey...we did this before, we can do it again! Jesus reminded them that they must always look to God for the power to cast out demons in the name of Christ. Rely on the resource if you want success. Otherwise, plan on being unproductive in the things that matter. OK, Lord. I'm starting to get it. I need to plug in every day.

Later in the week, I ran into the Proverbs verse at the top of this post. I knew I could be lazy at times, but shiftless? Seriously? When I hear the word shiftless, I think of a scruffy unshaven dude in an old western who is always up to no good, because he doesn't have a job or any motivation to do anything productive. Just to make sure I had the right meaning, I looked up shiftless in the dictionary: "lazy and inefficient, lacking resourcefulness!" I take that to mean, "failing to take advantage of available resources". There it was again. The same old problem, only with an ugly new name. Shiftless! When I don't plug into my superior resource for the power to live a productive life, I'm guilty as charged.

I'm glad Brian preached the truth so clearly, and that God has continued to school me on this issue throughout the week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Critter Issues

Today I am about at my wits end. One word should explain. SQUIRRELS!

We apparently have the tastiest deck in the neighborhood. One of the fluffy-tailed varmints has been chewing all up and down part of the railing. Not attractive. Until I moved it, our potted hybiscus tree served as a nice hors doeuvre platter. Leaves, branches, and of course the "just ready to bloom" flower buds. All fair game. One little scavenger in particular would pull those buds off and sit there on the railing and eat them like they were acorns. Last year when everything was so dry, he bit a hole through the bottom of a planter so he could take a drink after dining...perhaps to mitigate the effects of his "hybiscus high". Then for variety, he would hop up from the railing right into both hanging planters of sclavera...and chew through the flowering shoots about an inch above dirt level. The flowers have a hard time surviving once severed from the plant...but apparently our little critter has no interest in helping us maintain the aesthetic beauty of our deck. Food is food.

Fortunately, we discovered and installed a birdfeeder that is impervious to hungry squirrels. They tried in vain for several weeks to figure out how to reach the seed. Now five or six of the little pests can be seen dining on the seed scattered on the ground by the undisturbed bird population. We have found no similar solution to our deck invasion.

This might not be quite the mystery to me if we didn't have one of the largest oak trees in all of Wake County smack dab in the middle of our spacious back yard. Acorns everywhere! More food than you could ever want if you were a squirrel. One would think!

Now, don't get me wrong. I think little animals are cute, just as much as the next guy does. I've been known, when vacationing out west, to take photos of squirrels and chipmunks. Truth is, when we're on vacation, and the critters are thousands of miles away from my deck, they ARE cute. But here at home, I have no use for them.

So this morning I'm sitting in my office, and I keep hearing a noise on the roof that sounds a bit like a bird building a nest (wrong season for that...I know). I could see nothing from the window, so I decided to go downstairs and step outside to see if I could see anything. You guessed it. Right up near the gutter, there was the pesky little critter..staring right down at me. I spooked him, and with what I swear was a guilty look, he turned, ran over the top of the roof, and was gone. Then I looked over again where he had been. I happened to notice what looked like a rust stain at the end of a piece of wood trim that I was sure I hadn't noticed before. The longer I stared at it, the more I came to realize it wasn't a stain at all. It was CHEWED WOOD! That little varmint was eating my wood trim, and now there is an area on the end that is bare to the elements. The perfect recipe for rotting wood. Great! All well beyond the height of any of my ladders (not that I'd climb up that high even if I DID have a larger ladder!).

I've never handled a firearm of any kind, let alone shot one. But let me tell you how close I am to getting a gun (or borrowing a friend who comes with one!) to shoot the little tree rats! I know that might offend some PETA people (depending, of course, on whether you think PETA stands for "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" or "People Eating Tasty Animals"...I've seen both T-shirts!). This, of course, would be a last resort. But I'm close. Dangerously close. A critter eating my deck and plants is one thing. One who eats my house is, well...close to DEAD.

If anyone has a more humane suggestion for dealing with these pests, I'm all ears. If not, you better get ready to cover yours!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blog Hog

So I've been known to post repeated comments to other blogs, and sometimes I end up feeling like a blog hog. But sometimes a blog post will trigger something in me that prods me to express myself. While I'll still participate in the other blogs, I figured it was high time for me to bite the bullet and set one up for myself. Now I can let my thoughts zig and zag in all kinds of directions, and I have a place to talk it out. If I find it as useful as I'm hoping, I'll keep it going. If others choose to join in, I will most certainly enjoy the interaction. If it becomes a chore, well...I guess I'll go back to being a blog hog.

I'm kind of new to this whole concept of social networking. Don't have a FaceBook have a Twitter account...have responded to a number of LinkedIn requests. I don't participate in chatrooms, but I do follow several blogs.

I've seen some really great blogs, and I intend to learn how to add some cool stuff to this one over time. I tend to follow blogs that I know are updated fairly regularly, so I want to make this a blog I would follow if I weren't the author.

I've run into some blogs that have pretty much been abandoned. I'm always disappointed, particularly if I've read some decent posts there, and then they stop. So here's my myself, and to anyone who happens to run across this blog: If I stop keeping it updated, I'll delete the whole thing. I certainly don't need another "to-do" hanging over my head. Either I'll use the blog as an outlet for my thoughts, or if it becomes burden, I'll abandon the idea and delete the blog.

What's a "fifty-something" doing messing around with all this new-fangled technology? Heck, when your mind zigs and zags in all directions, a guy just has to write stuff down.