Monday, April 28, 2008

The New Job

Started the new job in the same old Evil Corporation last Monday. Still getting settled into the new office and routine.


Like the pay, the work and Triumphant Capitalism. Dislike this new tax bracket where I pay ALL of the federal debt MYSELF. Want the parking space by the door and my own secretary. Need the Corporate Financial Wieners and the 3 Budgeteers to ease up outta my face.

Will be regularly posting again very soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Anniversary Oklahoma!

Today marks the anniversary of Oklahoma's great Land Run of 1889. It all started with a bang, then thousands of people charging off full-tilt boogie into the wilderness to claim a 160 acre chunk of land for their very own. To be sure, the event still stirs up controversy now as then, but this is the crown jewel of our State's creation mythos.

In my travels I've fielded many questions about Oklahoma. So, I'll try to answer a few of the more frequently asked questions about Oklahoma here. By all means, if you have a question, ask away and I'll get an answer back to you.

1. What is a Sooner?

Did you ever see that 1992 movie "Far and Away" by Ron Howard? In that picture Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman came to Oklahoma for the Great Land Rush of 1889. In the famous Land Rush scene, Tom and everyone else went to all the effort of lining up, playing by the rules and starting the Run at the appropriate time. Well, there were a few people who left a little "sooner" than they should have. These dirty rotten cheaters staked their claim to the very best land and water resources they could find. Those cheaters and their descendants survived the Dust Bowl and Great Depression because they got the best land. Another thing they've got is THE stupidest beer, wine and liquor laws on Earth. Yet another thing is the title "MOST teenage pregnancies in the Nation". Without the oppressive burden of scientific proof, one might just assume the pair are somehow related ...

2. What is a Boomer?

Have you ever looked at a neighbor's vast, empty property and ever thought about just ... maybe parking your boat there rent free ... maybe going ahead and just building a house there and moving in? Most HONEST people wouldn't think that way, but way back in 1880 a group of people in Kansas looked south into Indian Territory and didn't see any Indians. but they did see lots and lots of land ... glorious land ... so they thought maybe they should go ahead and move down there, smack dab in the exact geometric middle of nowhere, build houses, graze cattle, plow up the prairie and plant crops ... all on the down low of course because it was ILLEGAL. Sure enough, these land jumpers DID make the Indians (and everyone else involved) upset. The Boomers that "moved" into the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) eventually were found and then removed by US Army. Sound strange? Well, there is a modern equivalent. They call the places these modern-day Israeli Boomers build "settlements."

3. In Oklahoma do you have ... (x) ...?

a. Paved roads? Yes, we even have a Turnpike Authority to pay for the ones that your federal Highway dollars don't cover.

b. Electricity? Someone actually asked me this when I was in California in 1988. No, it wasn't the same guy who had that marijuana leaf T-shirt that said "Thank God for Adair County, Oklahoma".

c. Problems with the Indians? This conversation actually happened on a KAL flight to Seoul, South Korea. The Korean businessman who said this was perfectly serious.

Him: From Oklahoma, huh? Still got problems with the Indians?
Me: Problems?
Him: You know! I've seen it in the movies. You can't deny it.
Me: OK, feather or dot?
Him: Whaddya mean?
Me: Indians from here or Indians from India? We've got both kinds you know.
Him: Really?
Me: Oh yeah. We're THAT cool.

I suppose it's a little quaint to say that you love your State, even dangerously sentimental in these Postmodern times, but it's true ... even if no one else believes it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Girls

Must be that time of year again for my neighbors. Came home today and saw "The Girls" gleefully preening in a field of sweetgrass and flowers. A gaggle of them, each both winsome and agog, were so elegant in thier strapless Hereford reds and whites, lined up by the steel pole and wire fence like dancers waiting for the music to begin.


The boys in the next pasture of course.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fulica Americana

When I first found these strange birds down at the Pond, I had no idea what they were. I'd never seen them before in my life. Apparently I wasn't the only Oklahoman not familiar with the American Coot (Fulica Americana).

According to, the American Coot may be described as a 15" Gray duck-like bird with a white bill and frontal shield, white undertail coverts, and lobed toes, frontal shield has a red swelling at its upper edge, visible at close range, immatures similar but paler.

The Coot eats mostly aquatic vegetation, algae; also fish, tadpoles, crustaceans, snails, worms, aquatic and terrestrial insects, eggs of other marsh-nesting birds. It pirates plants from ducks.

Coots are usually found near shore, considered golf course and gun club pests. Fortunately, they are migratory and are not a problem for long. According to The Journal of Wildlife Management, the coots arrive in late February and a generally gone by May.

This picture (taken by Berlin Heck) shows a pair of Coots. Although the name is eerily similar (as suggested by a couple of readers of this blog), I do not believe that this bird was intentionally named in honor of the Cooter. Although it would have been interesting, and a very different experience, had a "Vajayjay" nested in my Pond.

Maybe the confusion comes because like the words to, to, too, too and two - Coot and Cooter are very close, but they are not homonyms like the 2's. Homonyms are words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. Coot and Cooter are actually paronyms - words which are almost homonyms, but have slight differences in spelling or pronunciation and have different meanings. A Coot is not a HappyMeal's unmentionable bald biscuit. Just as a Cooter is not just a bird. It's a actually any of several freshwater turtles.

Words like affect and effect are probably better paronyms, but just aren't as funny.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Strange Birds

This wild turkey was fluffed up in the middle of the street, displaying for a pair of female turkeys when I drove up to them. I got the camera ready as they got off the road. He puffed up again as soon as they got to safety. Here he is. Can you see this Tom in his habitat?

This strange bird belongs to NASA. It is the Super Guppy and has a cargo compartment that is 25 feet tall, 25 feet wide and 111 feet long. It can carry a maximum payload of more than 26 tons. The aircraft has unique hinged nose that can open more than 200 degrees, allowing large pieces of cargo to be loaded and unloaded from the front. It's just passing through this neck of the woods.

And here are the Coots. They are only here at the pond during the daylight hours. I'm not sure where they go in the evening.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nancy and the Magic Coconut

Once upon a time in a tiny white house in a garden of very red roses, there was a Man named and a Woman whose happiness was matched in greatness only by their poverty. Each morning the Man would leave his happy home and go into the dark and wicked world outside because there were simply not enough prefabricated concrete building parts for the kind of simple and fast erections that the naughty Corporation enjoyed. Each evening the Man would return home with two precious coins jingle-jangling in his pocket.

The Woman would greet him with a kiss and smile. He would give her all his money and she would make him very happy indeed because she would let him rub her stomach and sing this song:

Soda cracker, soda cracker, sis boom bah,
Let's make some babies, rah, rah, rah!

One day the Woman sneezed and had a baby. It was a lovely daughter, who was a girl of unparalleled goodness and sweet temper. The Woman named her Nancy, and gave her a middle name that meant Love in another language. Upon returning from work, the Man was very happy, but did not rub the Woman's stomach quite so energetically, and his song was not quite so exuberant.

The next day, just before lunch, the Woman was in the kitchen felt first tickle of a sneeze coming on. She pinched her nose with her fingers, held her breath and tried to think about anything but having another baby. She thought about differential calculus, quantum electrodynamics, and even heavy baryon chiral perturbation theory with light deltas, before the image of a fat, pink little baby wandered into her thoughts. Before she could get a napkin out of the box, she sneezed and had a son. She named the son Spaulding. Upon returning from work, the Man was ... surprised ... however happily, and touched his index finger to the Woman's stomach, and mumbled the lyrics of his song.

The next day the Woman avoided the kitchen altogether and order Chinese take-out. It was small and hot and smelled of a perfectly safe beef and broccoli. She broken apart the chopsticks and opened the package of food. There lying on top of the rice was a little packet of pepper. Just seeing it was quite enough. She sneezed so hard that she spilled the package. When she was cleaning up the mess, she found a brand new daughter in the rice. She named the daughter Fawn. Upon returning from work, the Man was too astonished to speak. After his wits returned, he swore off singing from that day forward.

A beautiful fairy Godmother named Angelique heard of the magical births and came to see the children and give them special gifts. When Angelique saw the youngest baby girl, Fawn, she gave the child the gift of beauty. Angelique knew a great deal about beauty because not only was she pretty and pure, she had been a highly paid wedding gown model before becoming a fairy Godmother. Angelique determine that this child would grow into a beautiful runway model and make millions on the catwalks of Paris and New York.

When Angelique saw the middle baby, Spaulding, she gave the child the gift of intellect. Angelique knew a great deal about intellect because her one true love in life had been a dashing young physicist who worked in an Advanced Weapons Research Lab for the Corporation. An accident with an atomic demolition munition separated them forever, and to mend her broken heart, Angelique was transformed into an immortal fairy Godmother. This child would graduate from MIT and make tons of cash perfecting the design of krytrons (nuclear weapon triggers) in the same Lab where Angelique's love once worked.

When Angelique saw the eldest child, Nancy, all she had left to give was personality. Angelique knew a great deal about this because personality was so enchanting that a mere glance would stop men in the tracks. Angelique preferred the company of women for conversation because most mortal men were only able to repetitiously babble a single word in her presence - "Humina" - which in another language means "Excuse me, Madam, may I clear a space for you to sit?", or, depending upon the vocal inflection of the final syllable, "Hold on t’yer shorts, kumquat. It's gonna get bumpy!"

As Nancy grew into womanhood, she listened to what her teachers told her about the world. She wanted to have fun and earn money. It seemed as though all of her friends were already doing it too. She dreamed of going with her father into the evil world and work for a multinational Corporation. The poor girl bore it patiently, but dared not tell her father, who would have scolded her.

One day a Charming Corporate Prince invited all to apply for a job as a software engineer. He wanted someone with personality who could help with a customer support/relations problem that had dogged the Corporation for years. All the people were invited, but only the young bothered to apply because entry level Corporate blows big time. So the young people gleefully planned their wardrobes, rehearsed their interview questions and prepared their resumes. Nancy made her preparations in secret because her father would never allow her attend an interview in the wicked world outside the red, red rose garden of home.

When the appointed day came, Nancy slipped out of an upstairs window, shimmied down the trellis for the climbing roses and was gone. She tripped and got caught in the thorny roses. Her smart business suit was ruined. She cried in despair. There was a burst of light and Angelique, her fairy Godmother appeared. . Don't be alarmed, Nancy, Angelique said. I know you would love to go to the interview. And so you shall!

And so she did! Nancy knocked them dead with her poise, confidence and sense of humor at the interview. That afternoon, the Corporate Prince called and gave her the good news that she had been selected. She could start on Monday in two weeks time.

Nancy was so happy to work. Every morning she told her father that she was going to work in a family owned Yum-Yum store where they bottled sunshine and rainbows for toppings on ice cream that was only made from the very happiest of the unionized cows in meadows of New Jersey. To make the story complete, she would stop by that store after working for the Corporation Taskmasters, and buy a carton of ice cream and some toppings for her father.

One day the people in Nancy's office at the Corporation were planning a tropical theme party. The theme drink was the Pina Colada. How the Corporate Lackeys worked at this party! One of them proposed using a Cream of Coconut based milk for the Pina Colada. Another proposed a quicker and dirtier substitute "Pina Colada Mix" for the coconut milk and sugar. But there was one Man who was true in spirit and pure of heart. This Man was The Most Honorable, The Corporate Marquess of Nondestructive Testing. He stayed true to the spirit of the coconut. His preference was coconuts, real coconuts and nothing but brown hairy coconuts.

The Marquess was an interesting man in many ways, but moreso for his luxurious hair, almost all sadly being on his back and chest rather than on the top of his shiny head. He had an Engineers common deficiency; that is, the singular ability to find a negative, or in the vernacular, he was able to pick turds out of the daisies.

The Hairy Marquess suffered from a broken heart. Some time ago he and his brother had formed a dart team. They recruited two additional members to build a foursome. There was the Corporate Prince and Dave the Klingon, a bad man who was born on bad day in very bad part of the city. He had the table manners of a goat and same conversational skills as Satan's bottom. Dave's one redeeming feature was that he did have very good hair.

Smoochmachine the Blonde was a storm that blew through the Hairy Marquess' life like a tornado on a warm spring day. Their relationship was passionate and intense. Their fights were legendary, and their make-up sessions just as revoltingly public. Part of this was because she was the Hairy Marquess' first true love. The Blonde One wanted one thing more than anything else in life - a husband.

One day, the Hairy Marquess and the Blonde One had a fight that grew more silent rather than louder the longer the spat went on. It was a "relationship" fight. Becky the Blonde wanted a permanent one and the Hairy Marquess prematurely panicked, hiccoughed a frightened "No!", and refused to hear anymore about the matter. The Blonde One cried. It was exceedingly uncomfortable to watch; that is, for everyone except Dave the Klingon.

He offerred the Blonde One a shoulder to cry on. He was compassionate, gentle and kind. One thing lead to another and they kissed. Then they moved in together. Of course, they moved into her house because Dave's wife lived in *his* house. For awhile Dave went "visiting the Library", then when Winter gave way to Spring, he went to "water the garden." When Summer came, Mrs. Dave caught the lovers betwixt the sticks and the jig was up. There was an ugly divorce, but at last Dave and the Blonde One no longer needed euphemisms.

With all of that behind him, the Hairy Marquess was ready to move with the Tropical Themed Party at the Corporate Office. His first task in building the perfect Pina Colada was to get the milk of the best brown, hairy coconuts that he could find. So he went to the grocery store. At the store he discovered that real brown, hair coconuts don't have pop tops, pull tabs or lids. Well, how hard could it be? He thought. He would get three of them and bring them home for experimentation.

The first coconut was subjected to the drill press. The Marquess discovered that the stubborn coconut would indeed submit to a quarter-inch steel bit. Then he discovered that he needed two holes to drain the thing - one hole for the precious milk and one to let the air inside. Then he realized that no matter how many holes he drilled in the coconut, the holes would not cleanly link up so he could use the shell of the nut for a cup.

The second coconut was subjected to a band saw. The Marquess discovered that the stubborn coconut would indeed submit to the high speed band of steel, but could not contain the juice that rushed out as soon as the nut was pierced. Worse still, the nut tended to shatter under the stress loading of the band saw.

He thought the solution may be in constraining the coconut before tapping on it with a chisel. He put the sole surviving coconut into a tabletop vise and tightened the jaws around it. He took a sharpened wood chisel to the coconut. He raised a mallet and gave it a mighty stroke. The coconut, even in its bondage, jostled. The chisel slipped and bit into the Marquess' bare knuckles drawing blood (and three stitches to close). Rage burned in his heart, and the Marquess raised the mallet again struck the offending coconut hard. It exploded in the vise raining milk and broken shell all over the garage.

The Corporate Prince, the Hairy Marquess and the others in the office gathered around the water cooler that next morning. The Hairy Marquess didn't want to explain the oven MIT sized bandage on his hand. When the truth spilled out, Nancy couldn't believe her ears.

"I can open a coconut ... with a spoon," she said.

The room became perfectly silent. The Marquess locked eyes with Nancy, searching her for a tell tale sign of a bluff.

"Five bucks says you can't," the Marquess said.

"Make it ten," Nancy said, "and I'll open two of them."

"You're on!" the Marquess slammed the ten spot onto the water cooler.

When Friday came, and it was time for everyone to gather at a local watering hole, Nancy got the keys to her father's car.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

She was almost out the door, but now she caught.

"Out with some friends," she said.

"Out? Where?"

"To the Brewery."

"Not in my car you're not!" he shouted. "I won't hear another word about it either."

He went back to reading the newspaper. Nancy burst into tears and ran back to her room and threw herself onto her bed.

While she was crying Angelique, the fairy Godmother, appeared and said, "Why are you in tears? What is the matter?" Poor Nancy told her tale.

Angelique said "Quick, fetch me a pumpkin!" When Nancy brought one, Angelique turned the pumpkin into a 1992 Cadillac El Dorado that she knew Nancy's father would appreciate because there is safety in big old cars like that. Angelique put two big green coconuts into the back seat of the car in a brown paper sack. She handed Nancy an oversize sharp ended spoon, and said, "You can open the magic coconut with this, I've put little grooves in the coconut where you are supposed to open the coconut."

Angelique then turned Nancy's business appropriate dress into a beautiful gown, complete with a delicate pair of stylish, low-heeled leather shoes that fit like slippers. Angelique bade Nancy enjoy the ball, but return before midnight for the spells would be broken.

At the Brewery, the entire corporate court was entranced by Nancy and her charming personality, especially the Hairy Marques, who never left her side. When she was ready Nancy took the first magic coconut out of the sack, slipped the spoon into the groove and pried downward. The coconut opened perfectly straight. She drained the milk of it into the Corporate Prince's cup of pineapple juice. A little dash of rum later and the Corporate Prince lifted the glass to his mouth. It was good!

Nancy opened another coconut for the Hairy Marquess. In an even shorter time, she had his cup full of milk. She poured in the rum and pinepple juice for him. She stirred the drink with her spoon. The mixture chilled into a wet slush.

The Marquess to the drink and touched it to his lips. He dabbed his tongue into the liquid. It was good! He thought. It was really good.

Everyone raised a toast to Nancy. The Hairy Marquess passed her a ten dollar bill. Nancy felt like she was on top of the world.

She saw the clock in the corner and grabbed her pursue. She left only at the final stroke of midnight, and almost lost one of her shoes on the steps of the Brewery.

"I have to go," she asked.

"Wait!" the Hairy Marquess said.

He rushed out the door after her. He was overwhelmed with curiosity,

"How did you do that?" he asked.

"It's a secret. Maybe I could tell you one of these days," Nancy said.

"I'd like that very much," he said.

He walked her out to the pumpkin colored Caddy, and fell in lover with her somewhere along the way. They were married several months later. Their first child is almost a year old now.

Moral: Beauty is a treasure, intellect is a gift, but graciousness is priceless. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything, even open coconuts with a spoon!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Tornadoes In Oklahoma

Every so often I'm reminded that Oklahoma really is a place "where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain." A few days ago, most everyone else got a little reminder too. Yes, we had a tornado in the area, but my house and town are safe. Unfortunately others weren't so lucky. Thanks to everyone, but especially dear Suzanne and Bindi, for their concern and generosity.

An old Army buddy of mine lives in a house not far from this one. For him everything is fine now - now that a few days have passed, the roads have reopened, and visits have been made to the hardware and lumber stores.

One of the things about Oklahoma that you really should know is that we are a small state. You're only one or two degrees of separation from almost everyone in the state. That means if something happens, it happens to us all. Community. This is the best part of living here.

Tornadoes are also a part of living here. This latest one is said to have been an F1. Though at the lowest end of the Fujita scale, it did come at night, when most people were sleeping. Fortunately we have the very best weather radars and meteorologists in the country, so plenty of advanced warning was given and no lives were lost in this storm. There was a good deal of damage because the storm crossed into the metro area.

I live in Norman, Oklahoma, at the opposite end of the metro from where this storm struck. Norman is the home of the University of Oklahoma, a National Weather Service Forecast Office, and the NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory. We have an extraordinary collection of French Impressionist art in the Fred Jones Museum of Art at the University. We also have a first rate Natural History Museum. Other than that, Norman is a fairly ordinary town. Some call it the most boring town in America.

Others would disagree. Tourists come here from all over the world to go on storm chasing tours that let these thrill-seekers locate and "chase" a tornado-producing super-cell thunderstorm. It is very dangerous to confront tornadoes, and these folks are willing to pay $300 a day or more for the chance to see one of Mother Nature's most destructive forces up close and personal.

Me? Nope. I've seen my share of tornadoes already. From the great May 3rd, 1999, twister that had the fastest winds ever recorded on planet Earth (318 mph) to some up and down F1s that did touch and go landings on the empty prarie, I've been there, sees that and don't want to do it again.

No, in all my expereince with storms, I think I'm typical. I've only had to hunker down and let a storm blow over me twice. The first time happened when I was about 12 years old. It was night and the tornado was wrapped in rain. The television said to take shelter because the tornado had been seen coming in our direction. The house had a basement, but you had to get into the basement from doors on the outside of the house. The rain mixed with hail when we were running to the basement. It stung when it hit your body. The tornado was so close that you could hear the storm through the rain. It sounded like moaning. It came very close. In flashes of lightning we could see it through the windows in the basement. It did a lot of damage to a neighbor's house, but ours was spared. Some cows were killed and a horse was lost. It was never found again.

The next time my wife and I were students at the University. We were living in the Parkview Apartments on campus. These apartments had no designated storm shelter, so when the storm came, you had to get into the bathtub, pull a mattress over you, and hope for the best. It was a small tornado that came up from the south through a small town called Noble. I could hear the sirens in Noble going off, but ours in Norman were sounding. A neighbor from China called me and asked what he should do. I told him how to shelter his family and that the storm would sound like a train on the railroad. The police drove by then announcing on the loudspeaker that the sirens were broken and that everyone should seek cover immediately because the storm was very close. The tornado lifted right as it touched the Norman city limits. Everyone came out of their cover, except the Chinese family living next to me. From that direction I heard two things at almost simultaneously - blood curdling screams and the air horns of the southbound 5:40 ATSF freight train.

When the tornado watches come, most people will get a beer, go out on the front porch and look for the storm. It's a social thing, so if you're not from around here, you probably not going to understand. When a tornado warning comes, it's time to move to shelter. It's that easy.

In addition to super charged Doppler weather radars and science out the wazzoo, we also have a protective Native American legend that says Norman will never be hit by a tornado. Apparently the city is on some holy ground that was considered safe enough from tornadoes to hold tribal meetings and that sort of thing. Some say that there has never a tornado that touched down in the Norman city limits, but that's not entirely true - but close enough for government work and legend.

Suzanne, I love you to pieces and thank you for your concern, but don't worry about me one little bit. I'll be fine. With the kind of advance warning these weathermen can provide if a tornado ever does come close, I live close enough to the interstate to be miles away by the time trouble comes.