Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Red Solo Cup

This morning I read that the developer of the red Solo cup, Robert Hulseman, had died.

The cup was first produced in the 1970's and is known to generations of students as the cup of choice for keggers. It's also the preferred growing container for cannabis.

I took the photograph at the top of this post in 2009 at the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. My partner's dad had passed away a few months earlier. We all knew him as Chub and we dearly missed him, his simple approach to life, and his cheeky humor.

Now, the family was gathered at the headwaters to perform a simple ritual that we once discussed with Chub: we were going to send a few ounces of his ashes down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Maybe ocean currents would carry him to Greenland where he served in the military.

Needless to say we did not ask permission, as it would have been denied. We realized we needed a discreet way to introduce the ashes to the water without catching the attention of park rangers.

We found a red Solo cup in the trunk of our car. It smelled vaguely of stale wine, which would have reduced Chub to giggles had he been there in person. The oldest grandson introduced the contents of the cup to the Mississippi.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My America

Today I waited at Cedar Riverside light rail station for a friend. We were going to walk and chat about our memories of the area. He, and his father before him, had attended the nearby Augsburg College. [See his blog post.]

100 years ago, the Cedar Riverside area of Minneapolis was the first American home for waves of Scandinavians. Augsburg College, with its Norwegian/Lutheran roots was well situated here.

Back then, the prevailing culture sometimes stereotyped the newcomers as dumb, clumsy, heavy drinkers who talked with a funny accent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Imperfect Gifts for Long-Haul Travelers

The other day I came across an article at with the click-bait title: 10 Perfect Gifts for your Favorite Long-Haul Traveler.

I was skeptical right out of the starting gate: I travel light, a declaration I repeat ad nauseam. Recently I renewed my passport, and opted for the version with more pages as I was running out of visa pages in my existing passport. I hummed and hawed at the additional bulk and weight (0.7 ounces) but eventually decided convenience outweighed the additional weight, if you excuse the pun.

I don't need much. What I need for a two-day trip is identical to what I need for a two-month trip.

But what goodies would the article reveal: essential items, or things I didn't realize I didn't need?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Carny's Final Journey

If I die in a distant place, my instructions are simple. No coffin, no embalming, just have me cremated then shipped back in a generic box to Minneapolis.

That's it: one final flight to MSP, then scatter my ashes somewhere.

Lakewood Cemetery would be a fine place for The Scattering. It's beautifully maintained by a nonprofit, it's beside a Minneapolis lake, Lake Calhoun, and I'd be in the company of the likes of Hubert Humphrey and Paul Wellstone. Oh yes, and Tiny Tim.

I have a physical place to return to, but what about people who do not have such a place?

So today, I left a track in the fresh snow as I walked the 6,000 steps from our front door to the southern corner of Section 28 of Lakewood Cemetery. Here I hoped to learn something about people who have no physical place to return to when they die.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Our Personal Kitchen Assistant

This week we welcomed a personal assistant into our home. Or, to be more precise, FedEx delivered a Google Assistant.

It's a stubby, round box you plug into the wall. It listens for our commands and talks to us via surprisingly good speakers. It connects to Google services over WiFi.

It sits in a corner of our kitchen and has already changed how we do things.

We've eliminated the need for a paper groceries list. Instead we keep a list in Google Keep, an application I use frequently for quick notes.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hidden Cities

The term "hidden city" conjures up all sorts of romantic notions: a Mayan city lost in a jungle; a Soviet-era science city excluded from maps; abandoned tunnels under a city, beyond the rule of law.

It's also part of a strategy some people use to save a lot of money when traveling.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Post-Election Microblog

In 1960, in a school playground in Northern England, boys were grabbing younger boys and demanding: "Nixon or Kennedy?" If you answered "Nixon" you got roughed up.

All the boys were answering "Kennedy" so I answered "Nixon." I was nine.

My nephews are eight and nine. I wonder if last week's election has inspired bullying in their school playground. I wonder how the girls feel about themselves.

The Internet is not a place to emote: our rants fall on deaf ears, and we deepen our divisions. I don't care for slacktivism: nothing changes in the world when I click on Like.

My microblog (displayed to the right of this post) is simply a place to highlight something I actually did each day. It's almost exclusively something for which I am grateful. This past week I have tried to find small meanings in my actions.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Meaning of Shadows

This morning I photographed my shadow, firmly attached to me. Although it was almost noon, the sun was quite low in the sky.

In 1847 Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Shadow, a short story that talks to the present time. Here's the bare details
A man gave his shadow permission to leave and explore the home across the street from his home.  
The shadow did not return for several years. It was now in human form, and the man and his former shadow became friends. 
After that visit the man did not see his former shadow for several years. When the shadow returned, it forced a role reversal. It was now the master. 
Ultimately, the shadow had his former master thrown into prison then executed.
It's no accident I read this dark story this week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Strange Election

I voted early.

A strange thing happened today as I was jogging slowly round our neighborhood lake, Lake of the Isles.

A diminutive older woman was trying to catch my attention. She announced proudly in broken English that she was voting for the Republican candidate for President. "Very good, very good" she declared to prove her case. By now her right hand was over her heart, and I wondered if she was about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dreaming of Circling the Globe

The other day I found myself poring over this Google map. Each red dot marks a place I've visited in the past four years. Google has been watching me.

Some places don't count: in Seoul I was in transit to Busan, in Salt Lake City we were on our way to Palm Springs, and in Amsterdam I was in transit to Edinburgh or Newcastle upon Tyne.

You can see dense clusters of red dots. Of course the densest cluster is Minneapolis where I live, but there are clusters in the northeast of England where I grew up, Hawaii, and Japan. These are important physical locations in the place where I live. Place is complicated.

In each of the past four years I made separate trips to both Europe and Asia. This week I found myself wondering what it would mean to aggregate the separate journeys. What would a round-the-world journey look like?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Annual Walk on Fall Leaves

Every October, after the peak of Fall foliage has subsided, we head up to the North Shore of Lake Superior to walk sections of the Superior Hiking Trail. We like this time of year: the trails are uncrowded, the temperatures are good for hiking, and mosquitoes are done for the year. Besides, we don't need the bling of peak Fall colors.

This beautiful trail stretches over 300 miles from the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in the south almost to the Canadian border in the north. The trail winds its way between views of Lake Superior and views of the back country.

Much of the time we crunch our way on fallen leaves through forest trails. The trail in the photograph at the top of this post took us through an extensive maple forest. I enjoy this quiet experience: the dry leaves underfoot, moss on rocks, fungi on tree stumps.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My Most Expensive Night Away from Home, Ever

  • In the above infographic I used a stock photograph of surgery being performed using a da Vinci robot, a device that costs about $2 million. July 2016, a surgeon operated a da Vinci on me via five small incisions. I was glued to the table: alcohol was sprayed on my back to activate an adhesive on the table. 
  • The $31,561.86 $32,661.86 [Infographic updated October 20, 2016] bill includes hospital, physician, laboratory, and pharmacy charges. This may not be was not the final total: another bill trickled in last week and another came in after this post was published. The work-up prior to surgery produced $6,400 in medical bills. I expect to undergo radiation therapy which will result in another $30,000, or thereabouts, in new claims going to my insurance company. In all cases, the insurance company negotiates a lower rate with the healthcare provider. 
  • Unpaid healthcare bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the USA. There's evidence most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. Public policy needs to double-down on access to insurance and the affordability of out-of-pocket expenses. 
  • I'm grateful for my good healthcare outcome, and for good insurance.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Walking in the Company of Crows

Jigokudani (Hell Valley), Shikotsu-Toya National Park
Between flights at Tokyo's Haneda Airport I noticed a comment on my Beyond the Narrow Road to the Deep North blog post. The writer recommended a book, Ainu Folk Tales.

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Much of their culture is handed down verbally from generation to generation in the form of stories.

Although the book was published in 1888, it was available for download. I read many of the Ainu stories on my flight from Haneda to Wakkanai in the far north of Hokkaido. I'm grateful for the recommendation.
The devil got up early one morning, long before the sun had risen, with the intention of swallowing it. But God knew of his designs, and made a crow to circumvent them. When the sun was rising, the evil one opened his mouth to swallow it; but the crow, who was lying in wait, flew down his throat, and so saved it. [From an Ainu legend explaining how a crow saved the sun from the devil.]
Crows often invaded my solitude as I walked alone in Hokkaido. On my first day of hiking, they barked like dogs. On a busy city street their defiant "f*ck, f*ck, f*ck" rose above the sound of traffic. At other times they declared a simple "ah, ah, ah."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Let's Play "Which Button Do I Press?"

Question 1: Which button do I press to dispense hot water? 

A Japanese hotel room is an oasis from the complexity of navigating Japan. I can kick back, have a nice cup of tea, and calmly plan my next adventures.

Or can I?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mt. Asahidake: Shapes in the Mist

The cable car goes part-way up Mt. Asahidake in central Hokkaido. I took it to reduce my round-trip hike to the summit to 3½ hours.

When I started out from the cable-car station, I could not see the summit, but I expected the sky to clear as the day warmed up. Sulfurous steam vents did their noisy best to create vog (volcanic fog) and change my expectations.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Place Where Two Seas Collide

Getting to Rishiri Island via Wakkanai  (northern Hokkaido) from Minneapolis is straightforward, with a few perturbations. A place where the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk collide is bound to have perturbations.

An agent at Tokyo's Haneda Airport warned me the flight to Wakkanai might have to turn back. I was sure something was lost in translation, until I went online to review the status of my flight: "May return to Haneda (Tokyo) due to bad weather."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Beyond the Narrow Road to the Deep North

I'm drawn to places at the end of train lines.

Today, my backpack and I head to Wakkanai in the north of Hokkaido. It's as far north as you can go without entering Russia.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fictional Hokkaido

I was on a train, traveling through darkness. The elderly woman next to me asked if it would be OK if we chatted.

She was on her way to her home on Shikoku having stayed with friends on Honshu. I was returning to my base after cycling on bridges and islands across Japan's Inland Sea.

After some basic pleasantries we talked about the Meiji era at the end of the 19th century when young Japanese traveled to America and the UK to learn how to modernize Japan.

She chatted about her year working at Johns Hopkins, and her travels in the UK. She connected with northern industrial cities like Manchester and Glasgow. She did a side trip to Denmark because she loves Hamlet.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tracing a Victorian Woman's Hokkaido Journey

In the summer of 1878, Isabella Bird sailed from Aomori in the north of Honshu to Hakodate in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island of any size.

She then sought undeveloped places beyond Hakodate.

When she returned home to Edinburgh, Scotland, she published a book of her letters, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. It's still in print and available as an ebook. It's a good read, full of intense and detailed observations.

She was the first Western woman to explore beyond Hakodate. She traveled on horseback, accompanied by a native-Japanese interpreter, and stayed in the homes of the indigenous Ainu people.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Japan's First ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher

September 2016: I'll land in Wakkanai, Japan's northernmost airport capable of handling commercial jets. If the plane were to fly 30 miles further, I'd be in the Russian Federation.

I'll then take a boat to Rishiri Island.

July 1848: Ranald MacDonald, 24 years old, half native American, half Scottish, landed on Rishiri Island. He represented himself as a castaway to the Ainu, the local, indigenous people.

But MacDonald was not a castaway. Driven by curiosity, he was risking death by entering a society that was closed to outsiders. He had boarded a whaler in Lahaina, Maui, and persuaded the captain to set him adrift in a small boat in the Sea of Japan.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Trek to Tiny Tim's Tomb

In 1968 Tiny Tim released his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, and his falsetto Tiptoe Through the Tulips became a worldwide phenomenon. In 1996 he had a heart attack on stage at the Minneapolis Women's Club, and was pronounced dead at the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center.

It seemed strangely appropriate to start my hike to Tiny Tim's tomb outside a factory that makes jingle machines for ice cream trucks. On the way, I would pick out other points of interest, including the former home of a pathologist whose name is known to millions of men around the world, the home of an elf, and a former fast-food outlet which is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Shortest Urban Hike Ever

Around the turn of the nineteenth century, movers and shakers built some standout homes on Lowry Hill, Minneapolis.

Last week I decided to get to know part of the neighborhood a little better. I'd had surgery the previous week, and the chosen day promised to be the hottest in four years. This would be my shortest urban hike, ever.

I walked from our home to the 1925 Elizabeth C. Quinlan House (pictured above). Quinlan operated a successful department store in the Young-Quinlan Building, a gracious structure that still adds heart to downtown Minneapolis.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lego Technic Therapy

My mind goes to a different place when I build models with Lego Technic and Mindstorms. This week, as I recover from surgery, a dose of Technic seemed like a good idea.

I decided to work on my Lego Technic design aesthetic. Yoshihito Isogawa produces wonderful Technic books that demonstrate a pleasing balance of form and function. He presents each model as a series of pictures: there are no words to explain the thinking behind the design.

I love to stare at the pictures and figure out why a model looks good.

I decided to build one of Isogawa's models, a "gripping fingers" mechanism. While building it, I would ask myself questions about the design choices.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Steps to Fitness After Prostate Cancer Surgery

This week I'll walk into a hospital feeling fit, with no symptoms.

Dr. "Zap" will sit at a console at the side of an operating room. Across the room, a da Vinci robot will carry out his instructions via five small incisions.

Good riddance to my prostate, a ticking time bomb. (I'll miss it, though.)

Next day I'll leave the hospital, feeling pretty weak.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Small Experiences on a Big Journey

We stood behind a crowd at Edinburgh Castle waiting for the one-o'clock cannon to fire. Many eyes were fixed on cell phones to catch the moment to share on Facebook. Bodies in Edinburgh, minds in other places.

Meanwhile, my nephews were determined to climb up rocks where climbing was not allowed.

Last month's trip to the UK with our nephews (7 and 8) and their parents was a series of small experiences. We saw some big sights, but the time spent between those sights, living in the moment, gave meaning to my journey.

A metal drain cover extending the length of the sidewalk outside our hotel in Edinburgh is a case in point. (See the picture at the top of this post.) On a rainy day it became a slide, made all the more dangerous by the higher center of gravity imposed by the boys' backpacks. Our protestations fell on deaf ears as they giggled and slid.

The previous evening they enjoyed the attention of the hotel bartender. She was from Catalonia, the boys chatted with her in Spanish, and I barely understood a word.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Tale of Two Falls

At the start of today's hike in Northumberland, England, we came upon a hiker who had slipped and made a faceplant on the street. He was elderly, and his vision was sub-par. He was bleeding from cuts beside one eye and on his wrist.

My brother-in-law had a surprising variety of wound dressings in his pack, my better half performed medical services. I held the hiker's broken spectacles, while another bystander called 999.

A NHS (National Health Service) rescue vehicle showed up in under five minutes and two paramedics took over.

The old man's biggest concern was that he was causing trouble.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lost Stories

My mother-in-law has acquired a photo mat with 17 cutouts.

17 just happens to be the right number for her to be surrounded by baby photos of her children, her children's partners, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchild. 16 babies, one matriarch.

My partner's photo is a vertical-format portrait, which means he's deprived of his cranium in the landscape 3 x 5 dictated by the mat. We look like Winston Churchill dolls.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cycling Around Hakata Station

I had thirty minutes to kill before boarding a bullet train, enough time for a bicycle-themed walk.

I was outside Hakata Station, the busiest train station on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. I tried to walk predictably so as not to confuse cyclists who shared the sidewalk with pedestrians.

About 17% of weekday trips in Japan are by bicycle. These are short trips around town. Most bikes are simple, heavy, one-speed mamachari (Mommy chariots).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Travel Gear: UK Electrical Adapter

Next month we'll be taking our nephews and their parents to the UK. Today the mother of the nephews asked me about adapters for UK electrical outlets.

I had anticipated the question and had stocked up on this necessary item. Ax-Man, a local surplus store had a supply of UK adapters at 75 cents apiece.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Journeys Through the Eyes of Children

I'm planning a June trip to the UK. We're bringing our nephews (7 and 8) and their parents.

We start in Edinburgh, Scotland, then hop on a train to Morpeth, Northeast England, near where I grew up. We're carrying backpacks and we won't be taking cabs.

I expect my nephews will revel in small things rather than big sights. Through their eyes I will see the world a little differently.

Travel does not have to be an exercise in consumption. I will never take the boys to a Disney park, but when they're about 16, I want to abandon them in a European city with enough money for hostels and basic travel. A week later, we'd meet again in a different city in a different country with stories to share.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Urban Bike: Purple Rain Tour

As I get older, I find it's best to focus on one task at a time. In fact, a task can become so engrossing it pushes out thoughts of everything else. Some would call this a deficiency of aging, I call it an advantage.

Last Wednesday, it was time for a bike ride with purpose. I wouldn't know the results of CT and bone scans until the next day, and didn't want my mind to drift to the worst possible outcomes. A bicycle tour of Purple Rain movie locations was a perfect diversion.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bathroom Humor

My nephews will giggle when they see this sign in June.

I'm taking my nephews (7 and 8), their parents, and my partner, Dwight, to the area where I grew up. I took the photograph last year in the main train station of my home town, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

I expect a few bathroom giggles along the way. We change planes in Paris and I've explained it's OK to say "wee-wee" (oui, oui) there. They giggled deliriously at the subversiveness.

My 8-year-old nephew will fit right in. He sometimes announces in an impeccable English accent "I have to see a man about a dog." This is a euphemism in the UK for having to go to the bathroom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Uncomfortable Scene, Comfortable Food

Train stations in Japan can be busy places, but boarding trains is an orderly process. In mainline and subway stations, symbols on the ground show where to form lines. When a train arrives, each door aligns with the queuing passengers. Train stops are brief, trains run on time.

But things can go wrong.

I can't get these images out of my head. On a screen I see a mother with a baby stroller, last in line to board a subway car. She pushes the baby towards the door, ignoring the warning tone. The door closes, pinching a small part of the stroller. The train moves, pulling the stroller along the platform. The desperate mother won't let go, she's dragged along the platform, her attempts to release her child are futile. They speed towards a barrier at the end of the platform. People look on, alarmed, helpless.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Small-Town Bullet Train Station

The last time I went through the town of Itoigawa (population 47,102) I was on an express to Kanazawa.

Since then, the Shinkansen (bullet train line) from Tokyo to Nagano was extended to Kanazawa, and the new section opened in 2015.

This week I rode the bullet train 97 km from Nagano to Itoigawa, just enough time to enjoy a lovely picnic lunch I had picked up in a department store in Nagano.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Temple Plumbing 2016

The Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage connects 88 temples over 750 miles on Japan's Shikoku Island.

It's a circuit: temples 1 and 88 are 17 miles apart. It's a journey: I've watched pilgrims making quite perfunctory stops at temples.

This speaks to me. I walk to walk, not just to visit a sight like a waterfall or a great view. I'm happy to finish where I physically started.

This month I found myself in two sections of the pilgrimage defined by temples 13 to 17 near Tokushima, and temples 49 to 53 near Matsuyama.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cycling Across the Seto Inland Sea

When I look across Japan's Seto Inland Sea I see small islands, distant volcanic hills, ocean-going ships, sleek bridges, all sitting on a bright palette of blues and greens.

The Inland Sea has energy: it connects three of Japan's main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku), and the Pacific Ocean with the Sea of Japan. I've crossed this sea on fast trains and slow ferries, always an observer.

This week a rented bicycle turned me from observer to participant in this scene. I pedaled across the sea from Shikoku to Honshu on six bridges, quiet island trails, and rural roads.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Travel Gear: Hiking Pants

As I was stretching, clambering, grappling over rocks in Kirishima National Park, I replayed in my head the most recent encounter with a fellow hiker.

The woman had made the usual greeting, then a look of dissonance flashed across her face.

I'd seen that look before when I've thoughtlessly put a shoe on tatami, or walked into the Ladies. I had done something egregious.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hiking Above Clouds

When I pulled open the drapes this morning, I decided to drop my plan to go directly to Kagoshima City. Instead of yesterday's unrelenting rain, sunshine was trying to penetrate mist. It was time for a bonus hike.

I had less than 60 minutes to dress, pack, slow down enough to enjoy breakfast, then check out of the hotel. With minutes to spare, I caught the hikers' bus to the trailhead.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Finding Japan

The flight attendant showed me a handwritten note: "we will be landing [in Kagoshima] at 9:30 [a.m.]."

I'm the only non-Japanese customer, and, by the look of it, just about everybody else on this 737 is flying for work.

I like traveling with Japanese people because they are generally quiet, calm, and are considerate in crowded places. Besides, I wouldn't understand a disagreeable conversation.

As the plane climbs above Tokyo Bay, I'm treated to my best-ever view of Fujisan. (See my cell phone picture at the top of this post.) I've never hiked it, and probably never will. For me, over-loved places can be unsatisfying and are best avoided.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Insufficient Reality

Every hotel room in Hawaii has a book or brochure pushing Hawaii as something to consume. Many first-time visitors are doomed to be unfulfilled by the activities they are seduced into buying.

The experience depicted at the top of this post is dangerous and illegal: volcanic gases and Federal law get in the way. The real thing cannot possibly meet expectations.

Whales leap over boats while people stare at their cameras. Apparently ambulatory families rip along on ATV's oblivious to the natural sounds and vignettes around them. Helicopters break backcountry hikers' solitude as the occupants listen to New Age music on noise-canceling headsets.

We work long hours to pay for not being in the moment.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lava: It's Scientific Fun!

We walked on lava through fern forests down to two calderas. We rested on chunks of lava with steam rising around us.

Our nephews (7 and 8) were in good spirits but they got a little bored towards the end. To distract I demonstrated how to make a whistle by clamping a grass leaf between the thumbs and blowing. That amused for a mile, or so.

We'd walked past Halemaumau Crater with its high plume of volcanic gases. At night we would see that plume glowing red from our lodge, the Volcano House, in Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tough Jobs and a Lascivious Senior

I'm on the "wrong" side of Hawaii Big Island: often rainy, no posh resorts, no ocean sunsets, vulnerable to tsunamis. Rich.

This morning I lay in bed watching the sun rise over the Pacific.

A rising sun does not have the easy drama of an ocean sunset. But I can't say a setting sun is better than a rising sun. This rising sun meant I had a full day ahead of me to potter around Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Long Hauls, Cheap Tix

Tomorrow, Monday, I get on a plane.

I've been getting on a plane several Mondays in January and February. A plane to take me to work in Portland, Oregon.

This Monday is no exception, except this time I'm flying on a one-way ticket. I'll work for my client for the last time, then cross the Pacific to Japan via Hawaii Big Island. I'll arrive back home from my adventure in April.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Seeking Order in a Chaotic World

A few books linger on my office bookshelves.

I've tossed many of my business books into the recycling bin, including unread 1980's editions of In Search of Excellence. Managers passed out copies, and it would have been impolite to decline.

In the absence of competent leadership, it seemed futile to spend time reading a book about leadership. I gather the book had high praise for Amdahl, Data General, Digital Equipment, and Wang Labs. Past performance was no guarantee of future results.

When I was new to the workplace I was flummoxed by some of the behaviors I saw around the office, particularly in meetings.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

DV: Delta (Airlines) Volente

DV is usually taken to mean "Deo Volente, God willing." It's a great excuse to avoid personal responsibility, as in, "I'll met you at 6:30, God willing." Or, more precisely, "If the road is congested, it's not my fault if I'm late."

I've been happy with Delta Airline's MSP-PDX on-time performance while traveling that city pair a few times in the past month. Prior to a couple takeoffs at Minneapolis/St Paul, MSP, we had to pause at a deicing station. Enough slush time was left in the schedule for the flight to make it to Portland, PDX, on schedule.

Tomorrow I expect to be home, on time, for dinner with my partner, DV (Delta Volente).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Travel Gear: Mesh Stuff Sack

On a train or plane, it's good to have stuff immediately to hand.

My solution is a mesh stuff sack that closes with a drawstring and toggle. It's light and durable, it keeps things together, and I don't leave random possessions behind when I disembark. My partner and I have been traveling with the same sacks for decades.

When I board, I drop the sack on my seat and stow my backpack in the overhead. I then sit with the sack sandwiched between my back and seat. Flight attendants never ask me to stow it.

Once I'm settled, the sack and its contents fit in the pouch along with the safety card and airline magazine.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Trains and Planes and Earworms

I don't know how road warriors do what they do, year in, year out.

My temporary home, Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful place, but I've been experiencing an earworm filled with loss and longing as I walk to work.

Wikipedia defines an earworm thus:
An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing.
Studies have found 98% of individuals experience earworms, so I don't worry about my earworms. Generally they are simple music, and reflect my mood.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Road Warriors

Tomorrow, I'll be sitting in an airline club, tuning out the other road warriors. "Just checking in" phone calls to the home office shouldn't last twenty minutes.

Extreme road warriors cluster around departure gates. One may be begging for an upgrade, others are making sure they board ahead of the next-lower class. A common topic of conversation is so-called status: a Diamond ascertains he's chatting with a Platinum.

Airlines know what they need to do to breed loyalty.