Eleven years ago today, I was in the middle of my very first deployment for Congressional Affairs to a place called Rochester, Minnesota for some flooding that had occurred. It was a short deployment, only 17 days, but it exposed me to some good people and good initial field training.
My supervisor for that assignment was a real pro. She has since moved on to another department in the agency, but I still see her occasionally on various deployments and I’m always happy to do so. She took the time to show me the right way to do things. There were two other employees in our department and one day after my supervisor had laid out what I needed to do and how I needed to do it and then left the office, they both said to me that most of the time I would not have to do things that precise way; that our supervisor was just a real stickler for things being done fully and correctly. I didn’t know either of them too well so I just nodded and smiled. But later, after getting to know each of them I shared with them that I really did not mind having the detailed direction – in fact that I would prefer to know how to do everything in exactly the right way and then, after I had gained some experience, I felt like I could make informed decisions about how to proceed. They understood. And I left there with an excellent performance appraisal under my belt.
I had an embarrassing experience when I first arrived. I pulled into the hotel driveway in my rental car and was astonished to see all these people in wheelchairs, or using walkers, or pulling an intravenous drip bag on a pole with them to the front entrance. My first thought was, “What kind of hotel is this?” and then, “Is there some kind of convention for ill folks going on here?”
When I stepped inside to the front desk to check in, I quietly asked the clerk about it, because the lobby itself was full of folks in similar situations. She, in an equally quiet voice, replied, “Oh, we’re the closest hotel to the Mayo Clinic, just down the road, and these folks are from out of town going to the Clinic for treatment.”
I felt very small for not realizing the proximity of the world-famous Mayo Clinic, and for not being as kind-hearted as I should have been, I went out of my way after that to help folks staying at the hotel in whatever way I could.
On the “fun” side of the deployment, I got to spend one Sunday morning walking around downtown Rochester taking photos (including the Mayo Clinic AND the coolest Barnes & Noble Bookstore I had ever seen). I posted them to my old Flickr account and almost 2 years later Architecture Minnesota magazine asked for my permission to use one of my downtown shots in their magazine and sent me a couple of copies of their magazine when the issue was published in 2010.
In the past 11 years I’ve been on 29 deployments around the country; one as short as 2 days and several the maximum of 50 weeks that we’re permitted, with all kinds of lengths in between.
Thank goodness I love my job!
Today is June 21, 2018; the official first day of Summer 2018 (even though we hit 100 summer-like degrees already here in Austin, Texas back on June 2nd). And Summer, aside from beaches, road trips, and summer-themed drinks, is made up in large part of music. Songs that we associate with getting rid of the winter clothes, enjoying some sunshine, and letting the wind blow through our hair (unless you’re like my brother and have none). Songs that celebrate the wonderful season we call Summer. Songs of Summer.
I got to thinking about my favorite Summer songs and then thought I should narrow it down songs with the word “Summer” in the title and THEN I got to wondering; what’s YOUR favorite song with the word “Summer” in the title? What song with “Summer” in the title reminds you of that season the most?
Here are MY top 5 songs of Summer, counting down from 5 to 1:
“Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” – Nat King Cole (1963)
“Summer in the City” – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
“Summer Breeze” – Seals and Crofts (1972)
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” – Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
And my number 1 song with “Summer” in the title…
“In the Summertime” – Mungo Jerry (1970)
So, what’s YOUR favorite song with the word “Summer” in the title?
It’s been three years since I shared my Father’s Day cards, gifts, and calls here, so I thought Father’s Day 2018 was perhaps time again.
First up is this awesome cap from my youngest grandchildren, Jade and Maxwell. Cindy is going to be bringing it to me in a couple of weeks when she comes to visit and I can’t wait to wear it.
While I was at brunch this morning, my step-daughter and middle granddaughter called to wish me a Happy Father’s Day! I always love hearing from them.
Next up for Father’s Day 2018 are the contents of a package my daughter sent me a few days ago. She enforced my rule of not opening gifts until the day of the event back on me, so I had to wait until today to open this while we were on FaceTime.
First up; my daughter and I have a friendly rivalry going over our two favorite teams – the Mighty Miami Dolphins for me and the Not-So-Good New England Patriots for her. For several months I’ve been razzing her on Facebook about Danny Amendola seeing the light and moving to play for the Dolphins, so she had to send me this childish paper she made showing Brady at the top and Amendola crossed out on the bottom and some trash-talking message about needing the Miami Dolphins’ BANDAIDS that she also sent along when they meet.
I get no respect.
But then she also included a nice card that made my eyes mist up a little bit.
And finally; earlier this year she attended MegaCon in Orlando and they had a mock-up of the Starship Enterprise bridge, so she had a couple of photos taken of her in the captain’s chair for me.
Now we know there are two Captain Wetheringtons in Starfleet!
It’s day seven and the last day of our 21st Wedding Anniversary Week. We’re visiting Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park in Redmond, WA with Jade and Maxwell.
After breakfast, Cindy and I drove over to pick up Jade and Maxwell for our day together. We drove over to Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park, which was just a few miles from their home in time for the barnyard opening a little after 9 am. This is an interesting City of Redmond public park, that contains more than your usual city park. They have swings and the usual playground equipment for children, but they also have a small farm, a horse riding school, a nature walking path through a heavily forested area, and a horse riding trail.
We started off by visiting the farm area. We saw a pig, goats, chickens, sheep, rabbits, horses, and other barnyard critters while touring the inside and outside of the barn. Most of the animals were eating breakfast, whether it was hay or seed or slop, and were standoffish but tolerant of these humans who were gawking, pointing, and talking to them in baby talk (Cindy).
Here are some of the animals we saw.
“Granddad, look! The goats are named Batman and Robin!!”
Jade is getting a good shot of the horse in the paddock with her camera while Maxwell gives me the Wakanda Salute and Grandma looks on smiling.
Jade giving us a good pose on the tree branch.
Maxwell getting a good push on the swing from his sister.
Here are some photos taken on the nature trail.
I LOVE this photo of Jade and Maxwell walking along the nature trail holding hands.
Some shots of Grandma and I with Jade and Maxwell.
Here’s a video of Jade and Maxwell playing on the tractor tire swings and trying not to get sick, lol.
After spending a couple of hours at Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park, we had lunch at McDonald’s, visited another bookstore and finished up with some cold, tasty treats from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Redmond.
We ended our day later meeting up with Jeremy, Wendy, Jade, and Maxwell for dinner at BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse in Redmond where we all enjoyed our last meal together for this trip. Afterward, there were lots of hugs as we said our goodbyes, then Cindy and I headed up to our room to get a good night’s sleep before our flight from Seattle to Orlando the next morning.
We had such a good time with all of our Pacific Northwest branch of children and grandchildren and it was a week we’ll long remember with warm feelings and smiles.
The 2018 Hurricane season officially begins today and the forecast from Colorado State University calls for a slightly above-average outlook with a total of 14 named storms (we’ve already had the first named storm), seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes expected. So let’s talk hurricane preparedness. Putting together a Go Bag or Go Kit is one of the best ways to prepare you and your family for a hurricane, or any event, that requires an evacuation or that requires you to shelter in place for an extended period of time.
Build a “Go Bag or Go Kit”
A Go Bag or Go Kit is usually something you have ready and available to grab and take with you at a moment’s notice in case you need to evacuate out of a storm’s path to go to a designated shelter, but it can also function as way to have all your emergency supplies in one place within your home or business in the event that you shelter in place because you can’t get to a shelter instead of having to run from kitchen to bedroom to utility room, basement or attic gathering up needed items, possibly in the dark.
And keep in mind that your Go Bag or Go Kit can be anything from a backpack for yourself and each family member to a duffel bag, suitcase, or plastic tub.
Here’s what a basic Go Bag or Go Kit should contain:
One gallon of water for each person for at least 3 days – Keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so it’s better to have this in a box or tub if possible instead of a backpack. Or, if you’re in a survivalist-mindset, a portable water filtration system.
Non-perishable food – Enough to last each person a minimum of 3 days. Easy carry food items include:
Food Utensils – Better than your fingers or a stick.
Medications – Prescription and OTC.
Lamp or Flashlight(s) – Preferably the hand crank type to keep from hauling batteries around.
Radio – Also hand crank so no batteries needed.
Applicable batteries – (in case you don’t have the hand crank versions of the above items) and other power sources fully charged. For example, Cindy and I each have an Anker High Capacity Portable Charger with connecting cords that can fully charge our phones 3 times before running out of power. I keep mine with me in my backpack.
Knife and/or Multi-Tool – More convenient than carrying an entire toolbox.
Rope – If you know how to tie useful knots, even better. But at least have some rope.
Duct Tape – A multitude of uses.
Matches and/or Lighter – Preferably waterproof.
Toiletries – Wipes, toothpaste/toothbrush, toilet paper, personal items, etc.
If you have the room – consider adding large, extra-strength trash bags, and several zip-lock bags in quart and gallon sizes, paper towels, travel packs of tissues, etc.
Important Papers – There are two schools of thought on this; scan them all and have them digitally available or gather the physical papers, place them in sealed, plastic bags and carry them with you. I prefer the belt and suspenders approach, doing both so that, if by chance, you have no access to power for your device and/or your cloud, then you still have the actual documents to provide if needed. What are important papers?
Write down important phone numbers – Most of us have them on our devices, but if your device is damaged or dies from lack of power, do you have those numbers memorized? I sure don’t and even if I did I might not be able to recall them in the hectic midst of evacuating or landing in a designated shelter.
Cash – With the possibility that power will be out, it’s best to have an amount of cash available to you as opposed to relying on your debit or credit card to make purchases or to get cash from an ATM soon after a hurricane makes landfall in your area. I recommend keeping it in a money belt under your clothes or some other unobtrusive place as opposed to your wallet or purse.
And when you’re building your Go Bag or Go Kit, don’t forget your furry family members. You may need a carrier or cage that can be moved easily, pet food, medications, toys, etc.
You can also customize your Go Bag or Go Kit to your own individual needs. If you have young children then perhaps you want toys and/or activity books for them. Maybe you need a special diet food. And throw in a book or magazine for yourself to pass the time.
You should put the Go Bag or Go Kit together a couple of months before hurricane season begins. If you end up not using it by the time the season is over, then use the food and water items and replenish with fresh items, swap out medications and batteries with new ones, and put the Go Bag or Go Kit in an out of the way but easy place to grab. You’ll have peace of mind that, if needed, you’re ready to go.
And if you don’t want to go to the effort of building your own Go Bag, you can purchase ready-filled backpacks like the Earthquake Bag that claims to carry 33% more food than most generic kits and allow you to add options for your pet, car, or office.
The bottom line is to find some way to be prepared this hurricane season in case you have to evacuate in a hurry or shelter in place for a few days. One of the best ways to do that is with a Go Bag or Go Kit.
What did I leave out that YOU would include?
It’s day six of our 21st Wedding Anniversary Week and we’re exploring Underground Seattle with Jade and Maxwell.
After breakfast at the hotel, Cindy and I drove over to Jeremy and Wendy’s house to pick up Jade and Maxwell for our trip to Seattle and our visit to Underground Seattle.
Seattle and the surrounding metropolitan areas have an awesome mass transit system of buses and trains. In fact, there’s a bus route that goes from Redmond to downtown Seattle, getting you there in about 40-45 minutes. Jeremy and Wendy lent us their transit passes (shhh), Jade had her own and Maxwell didn’t need one, so we were all set. We drove down to the Redmond Transit Center, parked our rental car across the street at the free parking garage and timed it so we only waited about 5 minutes for the next bus to arrive.
The bus was an articulated model, like the one pictured here. I have some advice for you, should you ever find yourself on this type of bus. Even though there are seats (nicely arranged so that they face each other across the aisle that runs down the middle of the bus) in that accordion-like section you see in the photo, DON’T sit in them!
Number one; when the first half of the bus is full (and sometimes even when it isn’t) people who are going to sit in the second car have to walk past you. If you’re long-legged like yours truly, it’s an effort to pull them in enough to avoid being bumped into by those folks. It’s aggravating.
Number two; the seats in that accordion-like section do not “ride” like the rest of the seats in the bus and so you may, MAY find yourself experiencing symptoms of motion sickness to a degree that will make you, shall we say, uncomfortable.
Number three; you may find yourself experiencing the totally illogical fear that the bus, when making sharp turns which bend the articulated vehicle in half, will rip open and spill you and your loved ones out onto the road and into traffic, where you and they will surely experience severe bodily injury and perhaps worse.
Ride in the “normal” section of the bus. You’ll thank me for it later.
We arrived at the stop closest to the official Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour (they were the originators of the underground tour and have been doing them since 1965) entrance and staggered the five or six blocks of rolling downtown streets to get there. Well, Cindy and I staggered, the grandkids are young and they did fine.
This is just a building with fire escape stairs that caught my eye as we were walking to the Underground Seattle Tour.
After waiting with about 100 other people while the Underground Seattle tour conductors told bad jokes and pitched their books for 25 minutes, we finally got started on our two-hour tour (minus those 25 minutes) with a tour conductor and 30-35 people in our group.
Now, you might think an underground tour would get started underground, but you would think wrong. We had to go out to an alley on the street level and cross sidewalks and traffic to get to our first underground destination, so another 10 minutes of the two-hour tour.
You can probably tell by now that I was not impressed. But my youngest granddaughter loves this tour, so granddad “loves” it too and is happy that he’s spending time with his wife and youngest grandchildren.
So, here we are at the first Seattle Underground stop. These folks look happy, don’t they? Anyway, if you look at the old photo on the wall it shows what the area we’re standing in looked like when it was originally at street level back in the mid-19th century Seattle.
Now, I will say that our tour guide had lots of interesting and amusing stories of the time when all of this was at street level and how it came to be underground. My lack of impression with the tour was the shortness of time and the low number of underground places we actually visited during the advertised two-hour tour. But our tour guide; she did good and even dressed in the style of the period somewhat. I think.
When Seattle city leaders decided to raise the street level, most businesses still had entrances where they had always been but were now underground. To provide light, these sections of clear glass (which came to be known as pavement lights) were installed on the sidewalk area. The glass was clear as in translucent, but made like, say, the glass of your shower stall so it wasn’t transparent in the sense that you could see through it, but allowed daylight to illuminate the entrances and walkways below ground. Over time, the aging process made some of the glass amethyst-colored, which is attractive and decorative as well.
And here’s an above ground view of the pavement lights on the street today.
If I’m not misremembering, this area was a speakeasy and a house of ill-repute. There were lots of little alcoves around the outer edges, but we couldn’t get into those.
And here is a bathroom just off the main room. Seeing that toilet seat reminded me of a memory I’d forgotten about. When I was young, not older than 8, my parents and I went somewhere (I don’t remember where) where the bathroom had a wooden toilet seat constructed like this one, only not falling apart in pieces. I remember it because the first time I sat on it I expected it to be like the toilet seat in our home, plastic or whatever they made them out of back then. But, like the one in this photo, the seat had seams on the right and left that joined to the curved open section. When I sat down on it, I didn’t realize that my weight caused the seam on my left to separate slightly, but I sure realized it when I started to stand up and the lack of weight cause the seam to push back together, pinching my ass and the back of my thigh in the process! YOW!!!
Here’s the photo of ourselves that we bought in the Underground Seattle gift shop.
After finishing the Underground Seattle tour, we walked a few blocks over to Shawn O’Donnell’s for lunch. The food was good, the company (as you can see on the left) was great, and Maxwell loved his smiley fries.
We took the bus back to Redmond, drove over to Half-Price Books where Jade and Maxwell each picked out a book (maybe two?, lol) and then we visited the Stone Cold Creamery for some ice cream before returning to our hotel for what was supposed to be a nap before dinner but ended up being playtime for us instead.
Hey, it’s not every day you get to see your grandkids so you gotta make the most of it!
One more day of our 21st wedding anniversary week is all that’s left before we have to take our leave.
We have a couple of folks who (sadly) will be leaving our External Affairs group here in Austin tomorrow. After our going away potluck lunch today, one of them asked if there was a way to get a group photo. I volunteered to take the photo because I always have my DSLR camera with me, I wanted the opportunity to practice my portrait photography skills, and, most importantly, it means I don’t end up in the photo.
As my maternal grandfather used to say, “There’s a method to your madness.”
While I was getting everyone settled into position I took a few candid shots to check out my lighting (horrible neon lights in the ceiling, ugh), focus, and exposure. I had no intention of using them, but looking through them later this candid shot just jumped out at me. It ended up being my favorite portrait shot of the session just because it captured so much of the spirit of these folks.
To me, that is one of the most important parts of portrait photography; doing your best to get in the photo the essence of the person or group of people you are photographing. Honestly, I feel like I seldom succeed in that goal, but these folks made me feel like I did attain it this time.
This is the best posed shot of the group, in my opinion.
And in this shot toward the end, I asked them to all wave. Most of them did and I think you can see how they all kind of relaxed a bit, some in their face and some in their body, from the posed shot above.
Now, the shot below I obviously didn’t take (thanks Aja) but I was told I had to be in the governmental affairs staff shot and I’ve included it because my wife and daughter always like to see pictures of the old man when he’s away.
From left to right there’s yours truly and these other three handsome gentlemen are Ben, Anthony, and Michael. Fine, fine men to work with.
I wish the rest of our EA staff in Houston could have been with us today to take part in the lunch and be in the group photo, but it’s hard to do all your work from one location in a state as big as Texas.
Thanks, guys, for letting me practice my portrait photography.
It’s day five of our 21st Wedding Anniversary Week where we take a trip to Mt. Rainier.
So you may remember that back on day two of our 21st wedding anniversary week we had planned to drive up Mt. Rainier, but discovered that coming in from the northern entrance would not gain us access to the mountain, only the national park forest area at the base. We still had a great time.
Since I had visited Mt. Rainier back in late May of 2017 when I was working in Washington, I decided that we would go in from the same entrance I had used almost a year earlier. Even so, I was still worried that we might not get in or get far because of the weather. When I went in late May I was only able to get as far up the mountain as the first visitor center. After that, the roads were still blocked by snow. Trying to ascend it almost 2 months earlier in the weather cycle made me think we might not get far.
But I really wanted to take Cindy up Mt. Rainier to see the beauty I had seen, so we were going to try again.
As with our trip to Ruby Beach the day before, for this day trip on a Sunday we were being joined by Jeremy, Wendy, Jade, and Maxwell, which made the trip all that much more fun. We again took one grandchild with us on the drive there and the other one with us on the drive back.
We stopped in Eatonville around lunchtime, not far from the entrance, to fill up our cars with gas. There was a Subway shop across the parking lot from the gas station so we walked over in a light drizzle of rain to “Eat Fresh” before making our way to Mt. Rainier.
When we arrived at the entrance it was cold and raining a bit more heavily. The ranger on duty asked me if I had tire chains and when I told her I did not, she said they were still needed at this time of year. She said she’d let us go in without them, but if we went more than 6 miles in that other rangers would turn us around. I figured 6 miles was better than nothing, so off through the rapidly increasing snowfall we went.
We stopped at the 6-mile mark without being challenged by rangers, but the roads were getting slicker and the snow was coming down harder, so out of an abundance of caution we turned around and made our way back. Cindy got to see a little of the beauty, but I really hope we can return when the weather is not so inclement so she can see more of what I had the chance to see last May.
A big thanks to Cindy for taking all the photos above while I was driving.
It’s day four of our 21st Wedding Anniversary Week where we take a day trip to Ruby Beach on the West Coast of Washington in the Pacific Northwest.
Neither Cindy nor I had ever been to the Pacific Ocean. When we were planning this anniversary week in the Pacific Northwest, we wanted to include a visit to part of the West Coast of Washington that would allow us to see and feel the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We ended up deciding to visit Ruby Beach in the Olympic National Park.
Before leaving the hotel, Cindy and I enjoyed the complimentary breakfast in the lobby area. We were still tired from the trip to Vancouver the day before, so we needed all the help we could get to wake up fully and get filled up before the 4 ½ hour drive to Ruby Beach.
For this day trip on a Saturday, we were being joined by Jeremy, Wendy, Jade, and Maxwell, which made the trip all that much more fun. We needed to take two vehicles to transport everyone, so if I remember correctly Jade rode with Cindy and me on the trip out to Ruby Beach and then Maxwell rode with us on the trip back to Redmond. But, I could have that reversed, lol. Either way, we had a good drive there and back.
By the time we were approaching Ruby Beach it was lunchtime, so we stopped at the Kalaloch Lodge to eat at their restaurant before finishing the trip to Ruby Beach. We had a delicious meal and enjoyed being out of the cars for 30-45 minutes. Before our food arrived at the table we went out to the back deck facing the Pacific Ocean and got a few photos. Wendy was kind enough to take one of Cindy and me for our album.
In the background of a couple of these photos, you can see drift logs; full-sized tree trunks stripped of most of their branches and deposited on the coastline. It looks like there are a lot of them in these photos, but wait until we get to Ruby Beach.
We left Kalaloch and drove a few miles to the entrance of Ruby Beach, parking our cars and walking down the trail to the beach. The kids brought their pails for collecting all kinds of treasures.
Standing at the end of the trail, you can see the drift logs piled up on the beach and those rock formations called sea stacks.
Cindy has a smile on her face, but what’s she’s thinking is, “There’s no way in hell I’m climbing over those drift logs to get to the beach!”
Those drift logs don’t look so bad from the top of the trail; just some small driftwood to step over, right? Afraid not. Here’s a ground level photo to show you what we had to climb over to get to the beach. I’m getting way to old for this kind of stuff.
The kids and grandkids had, of course, no trouble whatsoever scaling these full-sized tree trunks that, in some places, were stacked four feet high. Ah, to be young again!
I love this photo of Cindy with the waves of the Pacific Ocean in the background, commemorating her first visit to the West Coast and Pacific Ocean.
Poor Cindy and Maxwell, they misjudged how fast and how far the waves would come in as they stood on the beach and had to scramble to get out of the water before it went higher than their ankles, lol!
Jeremy, Wendy, Jade, and Maxwell on Ruby Beach with the sea stacks behind them.
All of us walking along Ruby Beach.
Here’s a short 360-degree video I shot of Ruby Beach. It’s a pretty awesome place.
Cindy and I with Jade and Maxwell on Ruby beach with the sea stacks behind us and a drift log at our feet. It really was fun to get to visit here with Jade and Maxwell and watch them playing and having so much fun.
This is a panorama shot I took looking out to the Pacific Ocean from Ruby Beach.
I’m pretty sure that Cindy and I will always remember our first trip to the Pacific Ocean together and how much we enjoyed Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Thanks, Wendy, for taking this photo of us together on the beach.
Just a collection of this and that from recent things I’ve read, seen or experienced.
The 10 Most Common Languages – As English speakers, we often tend to think that EVERYONE speaks, or should speak, English as well. That’s just not the case in the real world. This article, in listing the 10 most common languages (I know they use the word “popular” but “common” feels like a better usage to my ears) points out that four times (4X) more people speak Chinese/Mandarin than do English. And English isn’t even the second most common language; it’s the third.
Clean Sleeping – If you’re like me, you’ve heard of clean eating or eating cleanly (I initially thought it meant I had to take a shower before eating) but perhaps never heard of clean sleeping. This article caught my attention because I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 4 months, so I thought I’d see if clean sleeping might be the thing for me. Here are the suggested guidelines:
I guess I’m going to continue to sleep dirty…
Window or Aisle? – I always prefer the window seat when I fly. The middle seat is like hell, especially for someone my size, and the aisle seat means you get bumped by passengers, flight attendants, service carts, etc. In the window seat, I can lean against the window or aircraft body, angle my body toward the window, and pretty much be left alone.
But after the horribly tragic accident on Southwest flight 1380 several days ago, this article says some fliers are having second thoughts about sitting in a window seat. I’ll admit, when I first heard about this terrible accident I thought, “Gee, I always take the window seat if I have the choice. Maybe I should reconsider that choice.”
But, I don’t think so.
All the other bad aspects of a middle or aisle seat happen on every flight. The odds are greatly against this particular bad aspect happening.
I’ll stick with my window seat.