Categories
ramblings of a madman

That morning cup of coffee and the thoughts that go with it…

Just coming off a few days of not being at work with the Thanksgiving holiday and such. This year I didn’t overdo the whole family Thanksgiving meal. I cooked a turkey, tried a new stuffing recipe, used lots of heavy whipping cream in the mashed potatoes and had a store bought pumpkin pie…for 6 hours of “practicing chemistry” in exchange for an hour of food and laugh with my kids.

Well the time off is almost over, although I have contemplated the fact that I could make it permanent. In a couple of weeks I will eclipse the milestone associated with the fact that I will have been working for over 32 years at the same place.

I don’t know as of yet how to fill the days in a post retirement world. My friends who have retired, still work part time. Maybe I should just start cutting my work time altogether. But then why retire in the first place. My plan is not complete and so I stick with what I know.

But I digress. Next week it will be December, which in rapid succession will be a few long days at work to wrap up the year, and then it will be Christmas, some more time off, and then a new year.

Not finished with the Christmas shopping as of today, but I am sticking to the lists. Yes, like many, I am cutting back on the whole present thing. With the market declines, I have lost 10% of the value of my retirement account, but almost 50% declines in the college funds for my kids. And what money is spent, ends up costing you more to buy less. Well that is inflation. My daughter, who now drives and has to pay for gas, is beginning to understand the value of a dollar. That fact is bourne out be her world. It costs more to fill the tank, to get a meal at Sonic. Just wait till she has to get a job and become self sufficient. The world is becoming too expensive, especially the necessities in life. What will she do when she has to pay for the horses and their food, let alone her own. My son, on the other hand, doesn’t see it since is Roblux cost the same. And he always wants more.

Excuse me while I get that second cup of coffee…

So every week, I place a clean cup under the coffee maker. Each and every day, after I wake up and get ready for the day, making the morning cup is high on the list of things to start the day. It is a ritual each and every morning. I usually start the morning with two cups. The brand will vary, but with no cream and a scoop of sugar. Each and every day. Talk about inflation. The varying bags of store bought coffee often comes in a 12 oz pack. The costs have a single bag has gone up almost thirty percent since Biden was elected.

Addicted…absolutely. A vice…more like a crutch. An absolute. Never in withdrawal because I can get my fix, multiple times a day. I am in a very different mindset if I deviate from this ritual. On work days, I stop at the coffee kiosk as I walk from my parked car to the office. Each and every day. It is a must. My only vice? I need that magic elixir or else the whole day is just wrong. And my addiction has gotten worse. Sometimes, after a meal, especially on travel, I may endulge in desert with my meal. Desert sometimes…coffee always.

And on the days that I don’t work, I will splurge and visit the Starbucks. Meet friends over coffee. Stop at the Speedway and get a 24 oz brew when I am heading to the stables. Or get a cup at the bakery. And while our local grocery store has a beer and wine bar, I can also visit the in-store Starbucks and get a cup as I stroll tthrough the store shopping for what food I want for the week. One cannot stroll through the store with a mug of beer or glass of wine.

It was the start of the day, the coffee cabel. It is always the start of the day, even though my cowroker has departed and our morning coffee cabel is no more. And now it is the end of the day. Doctors have often suggested that it is why my sleep patterns are not normal. Four hours of sleep, and a tall cup of coffee in between. My body is impacted by that most basic drug. Caffine! How wrong can they be.

Having a coffee adiction makes shoping for gifts for me easier. You can always use one more coffee mug. A few mugs are displayed in the photo above. As for me, I am always interested in trying new roasts that the store, or other places can provide me.

I am really enjoying the Black Rifle Blackbeard’s Delight. The dark roast advertises that I will “find a smoky aroma and a robust flavor with hints of baker’s chocolate”. For me, I am exploring the unknown as I start the day.

The Kicking Horse Kick Ass dark roast is just that. It kicks ass. When I need that extra jolt to kick ass at the start of the day, well there it is. The Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend is my fall back blend of late for starting the day. It describes it self as an “incomparable world blend, rich, complex, and full-bodied”. I find it to be one of the few things of value to come out of Berkeley, California. And if it is not a bag of Starbucks, it will be a bag from Dunkin, or Seattle’s Best.

Now for the purists, they are all store bought ground coffee’s. I have a grinder, but I am lazy, especially in the early morning. I don’t have a fancy coffee brewer. I actually like the old-style perculator’s the best. I currently brew my morning in a Keurig. No french press, no special machine. I don’t use special water. My tap water tasts just great and makes a fine cup of coffee in my opinion. However, it must be hot. Not warm. HOT.

So I start the day with a good coffee. I end the day with a good bourbon. Simple, yes. Predictable, maybe. A bit excentric, always. Until next time.

Categories
life

The Return

Hello Everyone. It has been over six months since my last post. It wasn’t that I lost interest. It was due to the death of my computer. My desktop, and all of those files were rendered unretrievable because of a failure of the disc drive. All my pictures. All my tax returns. All my things in the electronic age were lost. My son and daughter lost years of games. Yes, I know better and should have had backup. Live and learn…or maybe it is fate telling me that it is necessary to start over. Let’s go with that!

Earlier this week I recovered from the problem. Partially. I bought myself an early Christmas present in that I got a new computer. I was excited when it arrived. Now I struggle because I need to figure out how to set it up with what I want. I hope that I can take the old hard drive somewhere, somehow, and recover the files, but we will save that for another time.

Much has transpired since last I commented on TheMcKeeSpot. Let’s spend a few minutes and get everyone up to speed. Can’t you see how excited Jewel is…

My last post was the latest update of the Cerro Pelado fire. It was pressing close to town, and we were in the early stages of preparation to evacuate. Well that never happened. The fire crews were able to stem the tide and the fire was soon contained and a return to normal happened. I actually traveled through the fire area near Jemez Springs a few weeks ago on the back road to Los Alamos. Many trees scarred and lands burned. A beautiful fall day in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.

Late June brought travel and the subsequent return to another sense of normalcy…travel. And so, I traveled for work. And so, I returned, then spent three weeks recovering from COVID. Yes, despite getting the original vaccine, its follow-up, and then a booster, I entered the ranks of over half of the country and got COVID. It was three days of pure hell, between the 103-degree fever and massive headache, followed by three weeks of testing positive, lethargic and brain fog. And then it was done, and I returned to normal.

During the whole time, my evening taste test of bourbon did not fail me. I could taste it every night. So, I did not lose my taste, or smell. As summer turns into fall and soon winter will be upon us, one has to wonder if the return of COVID, the flue, or something else will transcend life as I know it?

The summer months were spent between work, and the occasional visit with the kids. Daughter turned 18 in July and her brother 15 in September.

They are both in high school. Where did the time go? Daughter is looking for college possibilities and has already been accepted into a couple. And they only accepted her and not the horses. She is still riding, but not as much as in the past. Both Roman and Ruby are doing well. Son continues to play video games, gripe about schoolwork, and has limited extra curricula activities.

September also found me travelling again, both for work and a trip to Bourbon and Beyond. Now who could not enjoy four days of food, drink and music. I had a great time getting away from here.

Outside work, nothing to really to report. I am still working. Jewel and I spend quiet evenings after work, reading or whatever needs to get done, as illustrated in the photo above. Soon I will be wrapping up my 32nd year. I am ready for retirement but with the Biden economy in the toilet, my kid’s college funds have lost over half their value. As a country, we had an election which failed to result in a change since over 70%, myself included, felt that the country was heading in the wrong direction. Our country is in decline. Our world is gravitating closer to war. I am afraid for what tomorrow will bring.

Sadly, I believe that this generation will inherit a country, a world, that is not better off than the previous generation.

More to come.

Categories
the week in review

Smokey or smoky

Well last week I wrote about the start of fire season and the fact that we were engulfed with the smoke from the Cerro Pelado fire, which started and was burning about 20 miles from us. As I left the house this morning to go to the monthly Cowboy Breakfast, the air was full of smoke and the ability to see the mountains was difficult because of the haze created by the smoke.

The smell of burnt wood was all around.

It was certainly smoky outside. After breakfast I returned home and started to prepare this weeks ramblings. Upon reviewing what I posted last week, there it was in front of me. I used the word smokey, spelled with an E, to describe what I just wrote above, which I wrote without the E. And so I wondered, what is the correct spelling or word usage? What is the correct term that I should be using?

Know I know that I am not the greatest linguist in the world. I will sometimes read my postings, especially those early on, and wonder who is the illiterate writing this. Should I go back and correct my bad English and spelling? I am constantly telling my children how it is important to learn to spell words correctly, to use words correctly in a sentence, and to be able to speak coherently. For them it is a work in progress. But for me, if I have problems, I just say that it is the CF in me. CF stands for Country Fu$&. Trying to use humor to correct my inability to speak correctly!

And so I scoured the internet in search of the correct spelling, the correct use for the word smoky, or smokey. I guess that I am not the only one who has opined about this difference in word spelling in the English language.

As an example, https://writingexplained.org/smokey-or-smoky-difference

commented on this very matter. In last weeks post I used the wrong spelling, which I corrected above for this weeks posting. I will have to check back to the website denoted above because it looks like there are lots of great words that have different spellings that people use interchangeably, and probably use them incorrectly, just as I did.

But this wasn’t the only place that wrote about the musings of smoky versus smokey. I also cam across https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/smokey-or-smoky. The Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) also wrote about the difference as fall fell into the western United States in September 2019. Looks like she offers lots of tips on how to write better and to project the proper use of English in speaking. I bookmarked her pages for a future visit since I find myself trying to improve my knowledge, skills and abilities. Finally, not to be outdone and not to add to the confusion, but Smokey the Bear (https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/speccoll/exhibits/show/smokey-bear) is where the proper noun comes from.

Where was I, Aah yes…It is very smoky outside at this moment because of shifting winds and warming temperatures. The Cerro Pelado fire has doubled in size in a week but is still about 15 to 20 miles from Los Alamos. They have several crews working on it and the other dozen or so fires that are burning in the state at present. A concise update of several of the fires can be found at https://www.npr.org/2022/05/01/1095812382/new-mexico-wildfire-updates

Sadly, just think of all of the air pollution that could have been not created if our government did a much better job at prevention of the fires in the first place. Granted, we are in a drought , and have been that way for a number of seasons in the southwest. Water, that which is very important to humans, has been slowly becoming less and less in the southwest over the past couple of decades. Less snow in the winter. Less rain in the summer. Monsoon season has clearly dried up over the past number of years as I have lived in New Mexico.

New Mexico and other areas across the Southwest U.S. are affected by the North American Monsoon System, as the “Monsoon Season” is designated by the period lasting from June 15th through September 30th. With the onset of the Monsoon, New Mexico is typically impacted by a variety of weather hazards that can often put the population at risk for serious injury or death. Thunderstorm frequency increases during this period, while exceptionally hot days are common as well.  See the pages https://www.weather.gov/abq/prepawaremonsoonhome to become aware of the life-threatening weather hazards that affect New Mexico during the Summer Monsoon.

Not much else to comment on under the category “the week in review”. Kids are still in school. My daughter went to the prom this weekend. Gosh I feel old! Jewel is lying on the sofa next to me while I writ this post. Yesterday was the first day in weeks that I took her for a walk. We went to the vet a few weeks ago after she started limping and favoring her hind leg. And after a few week of rest, she still favors it but doesn’t appear to be in pain. I am guessing that we will have to make a return trip so as to get some x-rays to see what is really troubling her.

As for me, aside from work, I had to fix a broken fence at the stables yesterday. Ruby decided to kick the wood and essentially broke the 2 x 6 rail (photo below on the left). I was able to replace the lower rail after an hour (photo below on the right). As I get older, I notice that it gets harder to move, and as I try to do work such as this, the body aches more and more.

Needless to say, Ruby and Roman enjoyed my company, as I was able to give them horse cookies while I was there.

Ruby and Roman watching me clean up after fixing the fence. I am pretty sure that they are just looking for more cookies.

Much going on in the news over the past week. I found it very disturbing that Russia is still bombing the Ukraine. China appears to be taking their side, and yet is forging new ties with Iran. The world continues to drift towards two sides, separated by different ideologies. A separation which will only result in a death and destruction. The world remains an evil place, and I am afraid that the dogs of war are howling as time marches onward. I hope that I am wrong but I believe that I am not. The Russian leadership use the n-word, as in nuclear war and use of nuclear weapons, as if we are to shutter in fear at the mere mentioning of them. We should because neither side will gain from such an exchange. Since Russia and the United States have about 7,000 weapons pointed at each other, I think that the global annihilation of mankind is assured. And yes, China, England, France and a few other countries have about 1000 weapons as will certainly add to the destruction of planet earth.

Closer to home, the American economy if drifting towards recession, caused by inflation and supply chain issues. Yet our government fails to see the problem and relies on printing more money to solve our economic ills. I think that it is the inflation factor that still keeps me working. I was a teenager in the 70’s, when the misery index exceeded 18%. I saw my parents loose their jobs and the ills that inflation reeks on the family.

I have noticed of late that when I go out to eat, or go to the store, that I have to wait longer for service. And while the wait is longer, the service is not as good and the cost of goods and services is increasing without any restraint. Depending on where I go, a 20 oz cup of coffee is around 3 dollars, the breakfast burrito is about 7 dollars. And my splurge purchase, a Jack and Ginger was 12 dollars. Gasoline is holding at $4.29 a gallon but milk is almost 3 dollars a gallon. I went to get stamps last weekend and a roll of stamps was 58 dollars.

Yes, I still write checks to pay my bills. While you can do everything over the internet these days, you get hacked and then it is weeks, if not longer, to recover from the hack. I log onto the computer and they are always trying to save my passwords. Save my passwords on the computer. What happens when that website or that service gets hacked. No thanks, I still do it the old fashioned way. I write it down on a piece of paper that goes into a notebook.

Clearly, if I have to evacuate because of a raging fire, that notebook is at the top of my list of things to take with me. Until next time.

Categories
the week in review

Wind…and the start of fire season

The air in New Mexico this past week was cloudy and smokey. There was a large forest fire burning in Arizona. We have experienced that before with the fire in one state, even as far west as California, causing poor air quality hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.

And there were fires burning in New Mexico. Last weeks post mentioned a couple of the fires burning in the state. We have fires to the east of us. Fires to the South of us. And now, a fire close to us. About 20 miles away. This one started on Earth Day…April 22, 2022. They named it Cerro Pelado. Daughter pointed it out to me when she texted this photo from the stables, where she was feeding Ruby and Roman.

Daughter texted me this photo about 4:30 looking towards the southwest. It was about that time that a alert went out stating that route 4 into the Jemez Mountains had been closed.

In 24 hours, it has grown from 50+ acres to over 4600 acres. We haven’t had rain in the area for months. We have been in a drought for years now. And the snow pack is far less than desired, as the hot weather over the past few weeks has melted most of what had collected at the higher elevations. To make things worse, it has been very windy, with daily winds above 20, sometimes gusting to 30, 40, 50 miles per hour for the past few weeks.

At this moment, there are almost a dozen fires burning across New Mexico. For all, the cause of the fire is under investigation. The prognosis is that it will be a hot, and dry, and dangerous summer.

An image showing the fire outlook in New Mexico and Colorado. Copied from https://wildfiretoday.com/2022/04/21/extremely-critical-fire-weather-expected-friday-in-portions-of-new-mexico-and-colorado/.

Both kids were much younger when we had to evacuate Los Alamos due to the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. What I remember from that fire was tying my daughter’s riding horse “Spirit” onto the roof of the car because we had to save all of the animals. That fire burned over 150,000 acres. The family had evacuated for about a week to Albuquerque.

It was 11 years earlier that the Cerro Grande fire burned over 120,000 acres and caused about $1 billion dollars in damage. Some interesting discussion about the two fires and Los Alamos at https://forestpolicypub.com/2012/10/06/cerro-grande-post-fire-photos/. In addition, I posted a discussion about Cerro Grande previously at https://themckeespot.com/2020/05/13/anniversaries-of-sorts/.

With the onset of this latest forest fire, one begins to look around the house and think about what stays and what goes if the order to evacuate is received. Lots of stuff. Lots of junk. Lots of memories. Lots of pictures taken in case the house is burned down and you file a claim with your homeowners insurance.

One hopes that sufficient notice is provided should a mandatory evacuation order be given.

Of course, its an added complication when one has to evacuate the animals. No longer can I tie the horse to the roof of the car. Now room for these two…

Checking on Roman and Ruby on April 22, 2022. This photo was taken several hours before the photo above of the latest fire. It was a very windy day and so I was concerned about the barns and the horses as the winds gusted from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

So arrangements have been made that if the evacuation order is given, we will load the horses up and take them to stables south of Santa Fe. That means hitching up the trailer, loading the horses, grabbing some bales of hay and riding stuff. In addition, the dogs, and prized possessions of the kids, valuables and other stuff. So long as there is room.

Sadly, I do not know what I would do about the fish. Fill a smaller aquarium and throw it in the back of the car?

Welcome to the start of summer 2022. It has only been spring for about a month. Should be another interesting time.

Categories
Family

Happy Easter…where have the past two months gone! Much to report.

OMG it is Easter. No colored eggs, no chocolate’s or bunny paws around the house. Not even reservations for brunch. I did sleep in till 6 this morning, went to feed the horses and get some coffee at the local gas station. No Starbucks for me today.

It’s been a little over two months since my last post. Lots going on in the world. Russia decided to attack the Ukraine. I think Putin is trying to use war to restore Russia’s prominence in modern times. I think he is just wasting time. Biden is still running the US into ruin with the misery index at 12% (and rising). Worst president in American history. He should be impeached for his lack of action on the southern border alone! Hopefully come November, we can fix his sorry ass to a single term and get our country out of the ditch it finds itself in. Never heard so many lies coming from an administration that supports America last. The New York Times wants to end our beliefs in God. I am not a religious person but God does more than politicians do to help mankind. Sorry NYT, but there is more truth in the pages of the Old Testament as opposed to your Sunday edition. Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter to save free speech. I am pretty sure that the marshmallow and snowflake crowd will not support this because they do not like speech that while it is the truth, is considered vial and hateful. It is time the the participation trophy generation grow up.

With the COVID pandemic reduced to a reoccurring illness much like the flu, I think we are returning to a new sense of normal. The economy appears to be running even with inflation. The new normal is that there are plenty of job opportunities. Wait, are we not raising interest rates, inflation is near all time highs and economists are predicting a recession!

What do I mean by a new sense of normal. Well today we spend more time in lines waiting for service. I have spent more time in lines waiting for picking up a prescription, getting money from a bank teller, fast food, or getting in to see the doctor. This is the future America. Longer lines, and longer waits. We will no longer be separated by differences between the rich versus the poor. The rich will just end up paying more to not wait. As for the rest of us, bring a book as the lines and the waits will be longer in the future. I expect many more positions will be replaced by automation, or services to do your daily things. However, is it just me or has the postal service improved in terms of delivery. Amazon Prime and next day delivery is something that I have yet to experience!

As spring comes to New Mexico, we are reminded of high winds and the start of fire season. Ruidoso, a small town in the southern part of the state, lies in the mountains (much like Los Alamos), and yet has already experienced several deaths, houses and acreage burned with the first forest fire in the state, Or is it the second as fire burn east of Santa Fe (west of Las Vegas) in the Hermit’s Peak area of Santa Fe National Forest?

For me, these fires are the result of a lack of proper forest management. Sorry, but a controlled burn is not proper forest management. I remember Cerro Grande! We should be going into these area, reducing the brush and trees, actually using annual cutting of areas to manage the thickness of the forest and using the proceeds from selling the wood to defer the costs.

Closer to home, I continue to work. That said, I see that I am fairly certain that unless things change for the better, I will not be working much longer. The management team at Los Alamos is the most disingenuous of teams that I have ever experienced. They need to be replaced. Do not see that happening and so maybe it is time for me to call it a career and finally move on to the next stage of my life.

Our beloved dog Jewel may have a torn ACL. Earlier this week, she started limping and favoring her right hind leg. Upon closer inspection, it did not appear to be causing her too much pain and so I finally made our belated annual visit, Overall she is fine, put on a few COVID pounds (or is it table scraps), and is confined to rest for a few weeks to see if that doesn’t improve things. Otherwise we return for x-rays and probably surgery in a few weeks.

Jewel waiting for the Vet to check her out.

Better start saving my pennies because I am guessing that orthopedic surgery for a dog isn’t cheap.

Speaking of saving pennies and inflation, I have seen it in several examples of late. My family container of Oreo’s went up in price and there are less cookies. It is clear that my pizza, whether it is Domino’s or Papa Murphy’s, is using less ingredients. And I swear that the size of a medium or large is shrinking. And the Domino’s delivery charge went up. But my best example of inflation is with Banquet chicken.

I love fried chicken.

The box of frozen chicken was the usual amount, at $8.49 a box. However, I was surprised to open it up and remove only four pieces of chicken, not the usual six, seven, or eight. I previously wrote about inflation on October 6, 2019 and there commented on oreo’s, ritz crackers and a few other things. At least the chicken pieces were the same size. But if I was complaining about inflation in 2019 when Trump was President, just think how bad it is under Biden.

Not sure which is cheaper, hay for the horses or Doritos?

No, I didn’t feed Roman Doritos. But it certainly looks like he is interested. Recently we had to get delivery of hay for the horses. With the price of gasoline and diesel increasing, the cost of hay will certainly increase. I was able to get a nice mix of Timothy/Brome from Northern New Mexico (second cutting) delivered. Our normal deliveries from Southern Colorado, also Timothy/Brome, do not start until July. With two horses we are eating more and were running very low. I am glad that I was able to get a delivery. And the horses appear to enjoy it and do not notice a big difference.

Ruby and Roman this Easter morning before feeding. A beautiful spring day in New Mexico.

But it has been very windy and I have had to make some emergency repairs to the roof on the barn. Hopefully they will hold until I can make permanent and replace some rotted wood. This time, I think we can apply some paint to the wood instead of just letting it weather naturally. More work for me and son to tackle as spring turns into summer. Between the roof, the deck, the barns and the fence; I probably will need to work throughout the summer to pay the bills.

Son and daughter waiting for Dinner one afternoon at Denny’s. Today’s kids are glued to their iPhone’s and mine are no different.

The kids had late March/early April off for spring break. Daughter went to check out some colleges in Colorado. That prospect alone should make me think that I need to continue working for at least several more years. Son spent the week home with me as I worked and he played video games. He just wanted to rest from school. I am sure that he is anxious for the COVID years to become a memory, albeit a bad memory! However, we did sneak away to Albuquerque for a day to enjoy all the big city has to offer.

Son and I managed to get away for a day during spring break where we spend several hours at Dave and Buster’s for lunch and arcade games.

Daughter is growing up too fast. Yesterday it was driving lessons. Today it is the prom. Son is finishing up middle school; not sure what the summer will bring. As for me, I managed a return to normal by spending a recent afternoon in Santa Fe dinning at Red Lobster. When I first got to New Mexico, it was a monthly ritual that I looked forward to. With the kids, not so much. Still tastes good and something to look forward to in the years and decades ahead.

Returning to normal. I made it to Red Lobster. Yes…seafood in the Southwest.

And saving the best for last. I am looking froward to seeing Pearl Jam sometime this summer. While it has been about 8 months since Sea Hear Now 2021 in Asbury Park, NJ. It will be good to hit the road to explore some new place over a long weekend. There I will get to enjoy great music, take in some sights and sounds, enjoy food and rest from the hustle and bustle of life.

And saving the best for last. Pearl Jam will kick off a North American tour in early May and I have tickets for one…and maybe four shows.

I am still contemplating a return to Sear Hear Now 2022, where Green Day and Stevie Nicks are scheduled to appear. Until next time. It is mid April. I will turn 61 soon and so I want to wish all of my friends, relatives and colleagues (Scott, John, cousin Mike, and Jim…Happy Birthday).

Categories
the week in review

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Greetings to everyone from cloudy and cold Los Alamos New Mexico. It is a cold Sunday. Earlier this week we managed to see single digit temperatures and over 8 inches of snow. The winter weather caused me to work from home for two days while road crews, work crews and whomever else had to do whatever they do in order to make roads and parking lots usable.

When I awoke last Wednesday morning at my usual time, work was on a delay and it was snowing outside. Only about 4 inches had fallen by 3 am, but it was windy and the temperature was below zero with the wind chill. Needless to say, Jewel and I had to venture out to check on the weather.

Jewel and I venture out in the cold and blowing snow

Often what I do is post pictures from these walks on Facebook so friends and coworkers who are driving from afar to work can gauge the travel conditions. Didn’t see any snow plows on our walk but there were cars. Because it was very cold, and the snow was very fine, Jewel and I were unable to finish our normal loop, as it was freezing and bothering her paws.

Looking west down Trinity Drive during the snowstorm
of February 2, 2022 at 5 am.

By 6 am, it was still snowing and the wind was still blowing and the temperature was still below zero. The powers that be canceled work, or at least closed the lab for the day. Ditto with school. However, if one could telework, one should telework. The fact is that COVID has ended the snow day. If you can work from home, one can telework. If you cannot access work or do work via computer, then it is report pay. This is what we would historically call a snow day. BUT, if you could telework but didn’t want to telework, well then, that is called vacation! The kids don’t teleschool and so they just do homework on their computers, if they are not watching YouTube or playing computer video games.

I have previously mentioned that I do not like to work from home. I need to keep that separation. Well I managed to telework for about half of the day and then took the other half as vacation. Telework cuts into my productivity significantly. If it isn’t the fact that the computer connection is bad, I typically do not have certain files available, or data printed out and at my fingertips. Between the cell phone and the internet, one can work from just about anywhere.

Anyway, the snow continued to fall. I think that I posted numerous updates on my Facebook page as the snow kept falling and the wind kept blowing. Had to shovel the walk three, maybe four times throughout the day. By the evening, it was announced that school was cancelled for the second day, and the same was true with work. Yet I had too much to do and so on Thursday, February 3rd, I was working from home the entire day.

Thursday morning rolled around and after several hours of working from home, I ventured out to survey the damage. You see, if you get up early, work starts early. One doesn’t have to shower, or for that matter, get dressed. All you need is the internet, your computer, and of course, coffee. By that time I ventured out, the sun was just starting to come up. The wind was still blowing and it had stopped snowing. I measured 8 inches on the back porch. So Jewel and I took a drive to get a breakfast burrito.

Looking east driving down Trinity
Looking west driving down Trinity

In general, the roads were snow packed and icy in some spots. Side streets and many parking lots were covered in snow. Some traffic, especially at the McDonald’s drive thru was out and about as well. Chile Works, where I typically get my burrito, was not very busy. Nonetheless, my burrito certainly hit the spot. And since I typically get mine with green chile, Jewel just has to sit and watch me eat.

And the kids had no school for a second day. Of course, daughter had to go to the stables to feed Roman and Ruby. As it was still single digits outside and the wind was still blowing, one had to check and make sure that they were fine. Daughter let me know that I needed to buy our stable neighbor a bottle of whiskey. He had managed to plow the stable roads long before the county ventured out to do the same.

Daughter letting Ruby try on her winter wolf hat.
Of course, daughter needs to see if Roman likes the hat as well.

We finally received our first real snowfall of the year. We can certainly use the snow. I hope that we get more so as to reduce the drought conditions in the state, and for much of the Southwest. In my 31 years here, we have seen snow as early as October and as later as June.

I am sure that the ski hill was very popular as it was able to open. It is only 10 minutes from town. Of course Jewel does not like the deep snow and so she leaves me presents on the deck. No photographs here.

And so, by Friday, life returned to normal. The roads were plowed completely, and parking lots could accommodate both vehicles and massive piles of snow. I went to work at my usual time. Jewel was glad to rest while I was at work. The sun was out, and the snow was beginning to melt. As I get older, I find myself enjoying the cold and wind and snow less and less.

With that, until next time.

Categories
the week in review

…tis the end of January 2022

Good morning everyone. I cannot believe that it is already the final few days of January. February is just around the corner. I have been awake for several hours now. Did some light reading than rose from bed to put a load of laundry into the washing machine. This has often been my typical routine of late as I try to figure out how to spend the day and the week.

Last week I found myself on travel. Work related, having to travel back east to Savannah River for a number of meetings. As with all travel that I have done of late, it completely disrupts my routine, resulting in the addition of unnecessary pounds for myself. Found full planes and no issues, delays, COVID or weather impacts. Masks required for planes, airports and some other locations. Largely not required for eating and drinking establishments in the state of South Carolina. Yes, the source of my extra pounds. Refreshing to see this, and old colleagues, and to think that we may be returning to normal.

Kids are back to school after their bout of COVID. Daughter resumed the daily care and feeding of the horses. I worry about son and how the past two years have taken much away from him. The whole on-line learning has not been good. How are we, as parents, to reduce his screen time from video games when school is now on-line? And it is not as if they are watching a video feed of the teacher in the classroom.

As for me, I remain lucky, knowing that it is just a matter of time before I too will become sick. We are told to follow the science but it has become more about politics and less about science. As with so many things about science in the mainstream anymore. Testing appears to be difficult to find. As a nation, I think we find ourselves weary of the pandemic. In talking with people, they are ready to return to a normal life.

I have to wonder how we can talk about normal in an environment where inflation is around and is impacting the cost of everything. People will want to travel but everything costs more, or is difficult to find, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. I know that I have cut back on my spending, trying to pay my bills, pay down debt, and save more. As I prepare for retirement, I watch the daily declines in the market. I see that my children’s college fund has also taken a hit. All of that makes me think that I need to work just a little longer.

But how much longer? This weekend I said bon voyage to a coworker and friend, who has left for a change of station. We had dinner and drinks Friday night and he dropped off a few things yesterday that he would have thrown out but didn’t want to waste. A couple of fishing rods, some laundry detergent, Kleenex, coffee, green chile vodka. His plans are to endure a year, maybe two in Washington and then to retire. As for me, its 31 years 1 month and 13 days. But who is keeping track? Sadly, I will miss our Sunday morning coffee cabals, or the occasional trips to the brew pub. They were great in that it got me out of the house, if only for a few hours.

Well it is a cold and cloudy 24 in Los Alamos as I write this. Jewel hasn’t had a walk in a week. While the kids did a great job of taking care of her with the feeding twice a day and letting her out for awhile, I am sure that she too could use a stretch of the legs. And so with that in mind, I will end this post and walk the dog. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and be kind to everyone you meet. I have some Sunday reading to wrap up, some work related work to do and yes, begin that effort in which Americans refer to as tax time.

Categories
the week in review

It’s seven o’clock on a Sunday Morning.

Greetings from New Mexico. It is Sunday January 16, 2022. It is cold outside. It is early in the morning. I am trying to get into the trend of getting up early on Sunday to post. Certainly no mutant messages are being heard here. But the mutants did pay a visit.

It has been a wild week since my last post. Last week focused on the continuing COVID pandemic. I wonder if it was foreshadowing for this weeks events? Well, this week it managed to hit home. Daughter was notified about contact tracing at the high school and started feeling bad last Sunday. Everyone who I know that has been flagged by contact tracing has turned out to be positive within a few days. If you are lucky enough to get a test!

By Monday, daughter tested positive. Son tested negative but stayed home awaiting for the inevitable. By Wednesday, daughter was starting to feel no worse, son tested positive. And since they were with their mother, she too was hit with the symptoms. In all cased, it was the equivalent of a bad cold, with congestion, cough and a low grade fever. Of course, not to be outdone, their aunt in Louisiana was working through her second bout of the Chinese virus.

In all cases, everyone was fully vaccinated. The adults had the booster. What is obvious is that the vaccine, nor having the earlier mutations, does not protect you from getting the virus. However, it appears that it reduces (thus far) your symptoms and complications.

Needless to say, by the middle of the week, I was taking care of the horses, making food deliveries and keeping track of my kids from a distance. Elements of work were moving to working at home. Aside from hating it, aspects of my job simply cannot be performed at home. By the end of the week, I was still in the office every day but the Los Alamos High School and the Los Alamos Middle School returned to remote learning, and both kids had already missed almost a week of in-class education.

At this juncture, I need to pause my thoughts and go feed the horses…

As it has been getting in the low 20’s here at night, the horses need to have blankets. Roman is still confined to a smaller paddock area months after his surgery. Daughter was riding him on the Saturday before she fell ill. Ruby, who spends her days starring at the neighboring stables and horses, and goats, and donkeys, likes it when I feed her because I always have cookies to greet her.

As you can see, there remains some snow in the background of the photos. We had some several weeks ago but it is slowly melting. We clearly need more, much more in order to recover from the drought that has hit the state, and much of the southwest over the past few years.

…What I thought was going to be a brief pause for feeding turned out to be almost 12 hours. I went and fed the horses. Then I went for my usual Sunday morning coffee at Starbucks. My friend and coworker managed to return from Florida late last week. Almost a week later than he normally planned, but air travel experienced a number of flight cancellations over Christmas, New Years, and into early January. After coffee, I managed to run a few errands and returned to the stables to move some hay.

It turned out to be a beautiful day with temperatures in the middle 40’s. Moved hay and took Ruby for a walk. Her, and my first real exercise outside in months. Fed the horses dinner and then tended to myself.

Ruby was all excited when I grabbed her halter to take her for a walk.

So we managed to walk the outer loop at the stables, which is over a mile. She was thirsty when we returned, as she started to eat the snow. I have never seen a horse eat snow.

Ruby eating snow after our walk.

We also managed to see Roman, who was outside on such a great day. We caught him lying down, sunning himself and taking a nap. As I said, he is still taking it easy after his surgery. And with his rider out with COVID, not much for him to do. He finally got up and we were able to snap a good picture of him.

Up close with Roman.

So the end of the week was very different than normal. I spent it outside with the horses, doing a bit more than just feeding them. While I do not ride, maybe someday I could learn. At least I had fun spending time with them. Here is to the kids getting better, me keeping from getting sick, and to the horses. Until next time. Much to be done.

Categories
ramblings of a madman

Happy Sunday January 9, 2022

It’s Sunday morning, after the first full week in which I returned to work from the the Christmas/New Years vacation. Jewel and I are spending a quiet day here at the house. Relaxing, drinking coffee. Well at least I am drinking coffee; Jewel is sitting next to me on the sofa.

It has been weeks since I last enjoyed my Sunday morning coffee cabal with my coworker. My friend left before Christmas to go to his house on Sanibel Island and now finds himself trying to return today. He is caught up in the COVID induced travel cancellations that have been pretty significant around the Christmas/New Years travel period.

COVID is significantly on the upswing in the US, with over a million new cases reported each day over the past week. The increase certainly keeps me from going out unless I need to. In Los Alamos county, COVID cases are up. Ditto at work, where we were reminded to resort to video meetings and to work at home if possible. Earlier in the week I received e-mail from both the middle school and the high school, indicating multiple students with positive tests and others identified for possible testing and quarantine by contact tracing. Important information since both schools have some importance to me in that both of my children are enrolled in each. So far, I am glad that they are continuing to push in class teaching. Both my son and daughter (and I) hated the on line stuff, and it is clear that they suffered from the video instruction. Overall, the pandemic has taken much from kids growing up over the past few years.

For some COVID cases, I understand that people have been vaccinated and still catch the virus. For others, this is a repeat infection. Either way, the virus is still with us, and will probably be around for ever. It will mutate and it will infect all of us at some point. Two points emerge from this, the 670-plus days into the pandemic. The first is that I, like many, are just fed up with the virus and how our government has handled it. Early on, it was shut down everything. It was the need for testing. Today, we still find ourselves short on testing. Shutting down the economy, not so much probably because the 15 days to slow the spread just didn’t do it. Government and employers still push masks and while I wear mine as so directed, I have to conclude that it only offers marginal protection. And while treatments exist, they are difficult to obtain, others are just now coming on-line, and others have may have been altogether discredited by the mainstream. The second is that while the vaccines offer some degree of protection, they do not make us immune. I expect as the virus mutates, it will be like the common cold or the flu and that we will be living with it for a very long time. But don’t take this as medical advice. It is just my opinion.

Today, much of the news is less about reporting events. It is more about reporting the opinion of events. I think objectivity has been lost in the modern age because of how quickly information travels and gets reported. Events can be seen real time. Stories are written and reported across multiple outlets, and the flaws, misinformation, lies, all can be shared without any evidence of truth or facts to back it up. The same story can show up in five, ten, or more newspapers, websites, twitter feeds, etc. Objectivity is now replaced with opinion.

The dictionary defines opinion as a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something : what someone thinks about a particular thing. Newspapers now have opinion sections, where experts tell the story based on their beliefs, judgement, or way of thinking. Even what I write her is my opinion, based on my thinking, beliefs, education, background, experience. Included in that is political thinking and ideology. It is important to understand as much about the person who conveys the story as part of how one understands and interprets the story itself. This is the objectivity that people need today to understand what is going on around them.

Kevin M. Lerner recently wrote an article on the online website The Conversation in June 2020 about “Journalists believe news and opinion are separate, but readers can’t tell the difference”. Lerner is Assistant Professor

https://theconversation.com/journalists-believe-news-and-opinion-are-separate-but-readers-cant-tell-the-difference-140901

of Journalism at Marist College and edits the Journal of Magazine Media. His research focuses on the intellectual history of journalism through press criticism, satire, and magazines. The basic premise of the article is that the newspapers of today have sections that report news, and tell opinion. But is difficult for today’s reader to tell the difference.

The title of today’s post is “Happy Sunday…” It is my opinion that this Sunday is a happy day. I got a good nights sleep. I awoke in a good mood. I am not angry at my surroundings for the moment. But that could change as the day goes on.

There, I just gave you my opinion of his article. But we see it in the newspaper, on TV. Whether it is the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal, or CNN versus FOX News. It is everywhere. Now more than ever, objectivity is needed as the world becomes a more troubling place. Russia looks poised to invade the Ukraine. China looks like it will use force to take over Taiwan. The Middle East continues to be in constant turmoil. And in the USA, the media continues to push the January 6 coup. The left hijacks the story line as an attempt to overthrow the government while the right pushes it as political protest.

We could write more about all of these political situations but I will save that for another time. Several things are still clear. It is Sunday. I am still happy. But I need more coffee. Until next time, be safe, enjoy reading TheMcKeeSpot and come back often. Drop a note if you like or dislike what you see here. I enjoy reading new things and conversing with new people.

Categories
the week in review

Welcome to 2022

Here it is, January 2022. Another year older as I approach my 61st year on Planet Earth. I didn’t make any New Years resolutions. In the past, I would make resolutions in the new year but always found that it didn’t help and I didn’t keep any of them after a few weeks anyway. And when I would make a resolution, it was always the same. Lose weight. Exercise more. Strive to be better, or to be more outgoing. Relax and smell the roses, or whatever else I think might work to change my being.

I don’t think this year will be any different…

Winter snow…January 1, 2022

We started the new year with several inches of snow. I can remember years where we have had more and I can remember years where we have had less. This morning, I awoke to a tad more snow and single degree temperatures outside. It certainly has been a few years since I can last remember it being that cold outside.

It has been a very relaxing week off. I didn’t do a thing related with work. I completely unplugged. Didn’t think about it very much. Didn’t log in to check e-mail. Didn’t check my phone for messages as I pretty much turned it off for the week.

And now tomorrow, the rat race resumes. It will be 2022. A new year that will be more of the same.

Spent the past week watching football games, reading, caught an occasional new show on Netflix. Managed to pound out a few more pages in Atlas Shrugged. Managed to review my investments and planned for the next week, month, year, decade and century. More of the same. Steady as she goes.

The other day I found myself listening to some old Bob Dylan tunes. By old, I mean the stuff that constitutes his first five albums. I was inspired to do that because I had just finished watching the Martin Scorsese picture “No Direction Home”. I always try to understand the lyrics. What do they mean? I even dusted off my copy of “Bob Dylan. The Story Behind Every Track. All the Songs”. A rather heavy book, comprising over 700 pages, hardbound, that I bought myself as a Christmas present an number of years ago for my coffee table. It now sits on the bookcase.

I guess I do things like that to keep the mind active. Didn’t come up with any new revelations but it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

I just left Jewel out. It’s 15 degrees outside and there is snow on the ground, including the back deck. What does this mean…she will quickly go outside and do her business on the deck and immediately want in. Doesn’t like the snow and the cold weather. I cannot blame her. Texted daughter to check in and see how Roman and Ruby are this cold morning. Last night was cold and windy. No wind now and the sun is out.

Haven’t seen much of the kids since Christmas eve. For them, school resumes January 5. Just checked and thus far, the spike in COVID cases hasn’t changed the resumption of in school learning. That said, I am troubled by the bold statement “…it is more important than ever to keep your children home if they are sick, have a fever, or show any symptoms of COVID…All absences will be excused…” Odd since we followed that requirement last semester and received a letter from the school district regarding son and him being out with unexcused absences. In today’s world, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I really hope that this year we downgrade the pandemic of COVID to something that allows us to return to normal. Unfortunately, it has become too politicized and another talking point that divides us as a country.

I am saddened by the fires in Colorado. Parts of places that I visited 10 to 20 years ago have been burned. A small fire by today’s standard (< 10,000 acres), but almost 1000 homes destroyed in urban areas. Between the high winds and how dry it was in Colorado, in December. But with winds in excess of 90 mph, glowing embers will spread and I guess anything can catch fire under those forces of Mother Nature. I have twice evacuated my home because of wildfires. I have seen the destruction, but have never experienced it. I was glad to see that the fire was miles away from the Rocky Flats site.

Most of the Christmas decorations have been taken down and put away. The ones that remain are outside. Buried in the snow. Looks like the wind is picking up. I will get to those soon. The dining room table is still clear of clutter. As for the rest of the house, not so much. Guess that is something that I can work on this year.

I noticed that for calendar year 2021 that I posted only 15 times, down from 20 in 2020. and that I had 184 visitors in 2021. So I guess that I can strive to do better. The trend over the last three years has been to the downside, both in terms of posts, visits and visitors. So maybe that can be my resolution for the new year, strive to post more often. Maybe I need to work on the content. More pictures? Write around a theme?

All we can do is strive to do better.