30 April 2011

The Doorbell - A Rememberance

Fare thee, well.

A long-serving doorbell suffered an ignominious death today at the hands of its archenemy, the ill-prepared husband with a long "honey do" list.  It should have been a pain-free retirement event for the doorbell.  He was being retired after years of faithful service.  His replacement, an eager new design doorbell, was ready to serve.  The tragedy unfolded rapidly as the ill-prepared husband learned he had to drill into the door jam in order to make room the new doorbell.  The ill-prepared husband confidently made his first contact with the power drill and it went fine.  This led to a state of overconfidence and within seconds, tragedy ensued.  One of the trusty wires that had for many years powered the old doorbell was suddenly ensnared in the spinning drill bit.  That 5/8 inch bit was unrelenting in its rapid assault on the faithful bell.  Its wiring torn to bits, the last tragic cries of the doorbell were imperceptible.  The cries of frustration of the ill-prepared husband drowned out everything else.  We mourn the loss of the doorbell today.

When will I learn that I have no business handling power tools?  Seriously?  I killed a doorbell in less than two seconds today.  It should have been so easy.  Really.  Easy.  But it wasn't.  I'm still shocked (no pun intended) that I wasn't somehow electrocuted.  I have to go now.  I need to go put a Post-It over the dead doorbell.  May it rest in peace...

29 April 2011

Sprucing up the den

I feel like the den has needed to be wrapped in CAUTION tape over the course of the last few days as I've tinkered with the look and, dare I say it, theme of the den.  It's been a bit of a challenge to get it where I wanted (the button creation liked to have killed me), but I think it's pretty much there.  Initially, when thinking about the theme, I really wanted to find an image of the den in this house:
If you don't recognize this house, I can only surmise that you were raised by wolves.
I thought that the den of an architect who designed a house for a perpetually blissful blended family of eight and their live-in maid with no working toilets would make for interesting conversational fodder.  But no workable image of the den was to be found.  So, the sofa theme made sense.  Feel free to grab a sofa button and post it!

I'm a little hesitant to use the word "theme."  You see, my mother was, and still is, the Queen of Themes.  This theme obsession of hers only makes her more awesome.  Anyway, there was not an event growing up that wasn't themed.  Nothing.  As an example, when I went on my mission, the Mission Farewell and Open House was second only to a wedding in its production values and associated hysteria.  Mine was no different.  Since I'd been called to serve in Florida, oranges (Editorial Aside - I'm still kind of surprised that Anita Bryant didn't make an appearance.) played a significant role in the invitations (yep, invitations were mailed out).  At the Open House itself, the theme continued with the alligator-shaped bread centerpiece.  I kid you not.  All I can say is, God bless President Hinckley for putting the kill order on the farewell/open house shenanigans.  I think Mom finally stopped asking me for theme ideas several years ago when she asked me how she could incorporate lemons into her Relief Society lesson on service.  Feeling a tad testy that day, I shot back with the following: "Mom, how about this?  Service is like a lemon.  It sucks."  It was not my finest hour and certainly not a reflection of my true feelings towards service.  I promise.

My paying job gives me the opportunity to be a part of my Company's work with non-profit organizations across the United States.  I am in awe of what people across this country are trying to do for their fellowman and for the planet on which we live.  It's actually hopeful and inspiring.  I saw some of the fruits of that labor last night at a dinner.  Four of the most well-spoken fourth grade girls I've ever heard spoke to the assembled crowd about their goals and the association that was hosting the dinner had helped them.  There are so many people of different backgrounds, faiths, and colors that are doing good in the world today.  No one group owns the keys to doing good.  We all have an opportunity to do good in this world.  So let's go do something good.

27 April 2011

The MixPost - a play on the mixtape

For many of us of a certain age/generation, the mixtape was a rite of passage.  Especially the first one you made.  If you were like me, you cast aside any homework you had to concentrate on creating the perfect mixtape.  Hours were spent in "mixing" the songs that would express what your awkward teen-age self could not.  In short, mix tapes were awesome.  And ridiculous.  But, I would venture to guess that if you ever got one, you still have it.  I stand guilty as charged.  Of course, I have no way of playing it since all we have are CD players but that is neither here nor there.

Tonight, I give you a mixpost, a play on the mixtape in a few lines:

"Beethoven (I Love to Listen)" because it helps me relax.  Relaxing is good in a world where "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."  And when I think about that, I get so cranky that I am no longer "This Charming Man" and "I Hate Everything."  The fact is "People are People" and we'd all be better off if we tried to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."  At least that's what my Dad tried to teach me.

When I think of my Dad, I can't help but think of my own family.  I think of my oldest and how she tries to bring "Honor to Us All."  I think of CAL and her own "Private Idaho" that she'll soon be creating as she goes off to university.  And then there's the Boy, our own "King Without a Crown."  He really does rule his own world and it looks like it would be a pretty awesome place to be.  I'm glad all three of them have learned to "Dream Big." Then there's the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML.  To this day, she still leaves me "Breathless" and I know I must have done "Something Right" to have the life I have with her.  I'm dang glad that "She Sees a Diamond" in me, even after nearly twenty-three years.  Ours is a "Love Without End, Amen."

So I'm a lucky man, not one "Born of Frustration."  I've spent more than "One Night in Bangkok" but I've not been "Across the Universe" and I haven't stayed in the "Hotel California."  Yet I have been to five continents, where I've listened to "Russian Radio," "Mexican Radio," and even a "Bohemian Rhapsody."  We've flipped a coin and said "Heads Carolina, Tails California" and wound up in Chicago so I could earn a little more "Legal Tender" and five years later, we are still "Holding On To Good."  The Chicago "Rush Hour" still pales in comparison to what we faced in SoCal and it's not bad driving it in the "Avalon," not a "Cadillac Car."  It's a "Simple Kind of Life," I guess.

To remember it all, "Every Day, I Write the Book," or the blog.  That way, when I'm old and that's coming faster than I'd like because I can't be "Forever Young," I can read this stuff and say, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" and that it was "More Than a Feeling."  It was "Good Stuff."  So "Stop Your Fussin'" and "Come Back and Stay" and enjoy your time in the Den.

And there you have it, the mixpost.  Try and figure out who sang what.  I don't have anything cool to give away if you name them all but go for it!  Enjoy!

25 April 2011

YouTube's Uses - A word of caution

If the modern interweb has taught us anything, it's taught us that YouTube is a veritable mine field of, well, steaming garbage.  It's a treasure trove of lip-synching narcissism, and that's being kind, and a haven for people of all stripes who would do a lot better if they just left their dark, dingy rooms every once in awhile.

YouTube does have its intuitive moments.  Like when it comes to medical procedures.  If you are having to schedule a medical procedure of any kind, simply enter the procedure into the YouTube search bar, and for better or worse, you'll know what's coming your way.  I did that in advance of a procedure I had today and after watching one of the videos of the procedures, I was in full dread mode.  So  you may want to rethink getting sneak preview of any upcoming invasive procedures.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

By order of the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, I am not at liberty to discuss the nature of the procedure.  This is, for the most part, a family-friendly blog, and she fears that my inability to censor myself would turn this blog into an R-rated bonanza, were I to discuss today's shenanigans.  So, being the good husband that I strive to be, I will honor her request/edict and refrain.  She gets all kinds of points for being my "wingman" though today.  She's some kind of awesome.

Anyway, I'll say this, that Valium makes everything better.  This is not an endorsement of prescription drug debauchery.  All it took was one.  Although it's done nothing to assuage my sadness over the fact that the CowBros got tossed off "The Amazing Race" last night.  Not cool to see them go.  Not cool at all.

24 April 2011

He is Risen!

There is little more that I can add to this message other than my gratitude for Christ's redeeming  sacrifice.  What a glorious Easter it has been today!

23 April 2011

Good Saturday.

OK, I get it.  There is no official "Good Saturday."  Although, I understand Hallmark is always looking for another way to sell greeting cards...but I digress.  Yesterday was Good Friday and it was a good day and for that I was grateful.

Today was a good Saturday.  Why?  Well, spring made an appearance here.  April has been pretty much one miserable day after another and I don't think we've been out of the 40's all month.  Until today.  The sun made a glorious appearance and we quickly found ourselves looking at temps in the 60's.  Such a day let me welcome spring by doing this:
This is NOT how I felt when I was done!
Our lawnmower, which is now 12 years old, spends about seven months in the garage, thanks to our winters that never end.  The Boy has been hinting - who am I kidding - pleading for a new lawnmower for the last two seasons.  Well, I hate to disappoint him on this (actually, I don't), but that thing fired up after only one tug on the starter.  I was a bit surprised.  I figured it was going to fight me more.  So I mowed and it was nice.  The smell of freshly cut grass was great.  Until I hit a heaping mound of dog poo.  That was not great.  I know it didn't come from our nutty dog.  The pile was a big as she is.  This is one of the drawbacks of living in an area where there are no fences.  So, let me just say "thanks" to that person who thought it would be cool to let their dog drop what it did in my backyard.  Thanks.  Thanks a lot.

22 April 2011

Good Friday

I had one plea as this day started - let this Friday live up to its name.  Let it be Good.  It's been a good day.  It's not quite over but as I've contemplated what this day means, I can say it has in fact lived up to its name - it's a Good Friday.

How could it not?  When you think about the significance of this day and what it ushers in for all Christendom, this is a momentous day.  It's a good day.

21 April 2011

"Your car is terrifying!"

That is a refrain you really don't want to hear.  Especially when it comes from your teen-age daughter, calling from her cell phone.  Let me back up...CAL had called a few minutes after leaving the house in the Official Kids Car of the Den, the Taurus, saying her battery light was on.  Or at least what she thought was the battery light, and I quote, "Dad, it's the battery light the thing with the little plus and minus right?" Sigh.  So I told her to just keep going.  I never have claimed to know the first thing about cars and their various sundry problems.  Less than two minutes later, she calls shrieking that her car is shaking.  "Turn around," I said.  One minute later, she calls, "No I'm stuck.  Oh wait.  Now the car started again."  A couple of minutes later, she was home, needing my car so she could get to dinner with her friends.

This is the first time I've let her drive my car.  It's not like I have the nicest car in the world.  I don't.  It's a nice car, and big, compared to what CAL is used to driving.  I counseled her to be especially careful when parking it since it's a whole lot more front end than what she's driven previously.  That, and I've seen CAL use her car as a basic battering ram when she parks.  None of that foolishness in my car.  None.  So off she goes, and ten minutes later, she's on the phone yelling, "Your car is terrifying!"  Once she stopped repeating that, she explained that it was terrifying because it was hard for her to park.  Because she wasn't used to driving a big car.  Umm...Princess, did I not warn you?

Oh, and can I just repeat, my car is not terrifying.  I don't think I'll be suggesting to Toyota that they use that descriptor in their advertising.  They've had enough challenges.

From the journal 25 years ago today: I felt so good when this P-Day ended at 5PM today.  I felt I had really represented the Church well.  I swear we should get a degree in Public Relations for all this!  Spent the day at Miami Int'l again.  With someone leaving legally.  For once.  J. left for Colombia.  It was just a little sad.  While at the airport, a 2nd Officer from British Airways read my tag in perfect Spanish.  We talked for about 30 minutes.  He could not believe I was doing this because I wanted to, that I wasn't being paid, and that I would help people because I wanted to.  He was shocked.  He had lots of very frank questions.  I didn't hesitate on one.  My mind always trips me up though because I think in Spanish.  Anyway, it all kind of flew by. 

20 April 2011

It's Wednesday. Meh.

It's Wednesday.  It's the middle of the week.  It appears that Spring has decided to go into seclusion and I'm really over this lingering winter.  It's one of those weeks with too much to do and too little time.  Like preparing my talk for Church this Sunday.  Easter Sunday and I'm one of two speakers.  Yeah, no pressure there.  So it's all made for one heaping order of, well, meh!  Just meh.  Not much else to say than that. 

From the journal 25 years ago today: Another Sunday.  The past few days have just gone by.  I have been plagued with bike problems the past few days.  I fear that I might have caught the Nolan (editorial aside - Nolan was my first companion/trainer - bikes were not his friend).  We shall overcome even though I spent Saturday fixing it.  So ran around all morning with the transporte disastre that is Sunday.  But we got it done!  Church was good today.  What a joy it was to baptize C. and B.!  It has been a good day...so much to learn from everyone.  Each person I meet has something to offer.  Even our neighbors who are having a dance right now.  It's kind of obnoxious.

17 April 2011

Seen. Reading. Heard.

Here's a rundown of what's been seen, read, and heard this weekend here in the Den:
The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML saw this last night.  It's a fascinating movie.  Wrenching retelling of a tragic chapter in American history.  It's also a thinly-veiled assault on our nation's recent "interpretation" of civil rights as it relates to certain government detainees.  Kevin Kline's 'Dick Cheney as Lincoln's Secretary of War' was more than a little thought provoking.  Great movie.
I started reading this.  It's "Freakanomics" for sports.  I'm one chapter in and it's all kinds of good.
And today, two missionaries serving in our ward sang "I Heard Him Come."  (Editorial aside - I'm not even going to talk about the group that made this song famous in Mormon circles, Afterglow.  What were they thinking with that name?)  I believe this song was required to be sung at pomp-and-circumstance missionary farewells (remember those?) by a girl group, usually the departing missionary's girlfriend and her two BFF's, in the early and mid-80's.  My own farewell was no different.  This song was sung, but not my a girlfriend.  Rather three girls I'd met at the Y sang.  I'd forgotten the name of the song, so I made up the title.  Said made up title appeared in the bulletin that day.  So as these two missionaries sang today, I had a bit of a smile on my face as I recalled the day that song was sung at my own farewell.  Good memory.

From the journal 25 years ago today: Well, here we are again!  Interviews went well.  I couldn't believe how relaxed the President was.  He was just laughing it up, having a good time.  It was fun to see him like that and it eased me up.  He told me I'd be in the area another six months.  It gives me something to look forward to.

16 April 2011

Dear Runners - A Plea

To My Fellow Runners,
This morning, it was my privilege to volunteer at a ten-mile race.  More than a thousand of you, my fellow runners, braved the rain and typical midwestnern spring weather (cold) to run.  From my position on the course where I was working, I can tell you that you were an amazing sight.

Seeing the race from this angle gave me some new insight.  I guess I'd not taken into account what a bunch of runners look like during a race.  I know in the races that I've run I've been far too consumed with my own form and the overwhelming urge to not embarrass myself to be worried about what we look like as a whole.

Today, I learned something as I had hundreds of runners sailing past me.  What did I learn?  I learned about the power of support.  I'm not talking about the support you get from your fellow runners, running bloggers or from family friends.  I'm not talking about the support you get from a gel or an energy booster.  No, I'm talking about the support you get from the appropriate running gear and most especially, the appropriate under support.  Said support was sorely lacking today.  There was far too much junk, from both sides of the gender fence, flying around today and it needs to stop.  If I have to describe any further for you to understand then you have to get out more.

So, I'll keep this uncharacteristically brief (no pun intended) - let's stop traumatizing non-runners and support appropriately.  That is all.  Thank you.

A Fellow Runner

13 April 2011

Back in 2nd Grade

I found myself back in a second grade classroom today.  It did not look like this:
The classroom I was in was, well, a tad older.  I was in a school up on the (way) North Shore (nearly Wisconsin-adjacent).  I was in the classroom as a volunteer, teaching on behalf of Junior Achievement.  Can I just say how fun this was?  More fun than I had expected.

I had the class for about two hours and these kids were great.  Their teacher has created a good learning environment for a group of kids who are bi-lingual, and in many cases, somewhat new to English.  So, so glad I was able to communicate en espanol.  The kids had fun with my Cuban-tinted Spanish.  It was fun to work with these kids.  No one cried - me especially.  I must tip my hat to the teacher - she's doing an amazing job!  It takes a unique personality to teach and my admiration goes out to those who do this job so well.  Funny thing about this teacher - it turns out we both followed a horrible telenovela called 'Cristal.'  I caught it when it first aired in the mid-80's (as missionaries, we could not teach or see people when it was on.  If we did, we were told to sit in front of the TV and watch until it was over - to this day, the theme song 'Que Porque Te Quiero' still rattles around in my head) and she watched it in the early 90's in Spain when it aired there.  That was funny. 

On another note, I've noticed a spike in traffic on the blog, including the occasional hit from Bulgaria, which makes me nervous.  But the increase in readers is cool.  If you like what you're reading, follow the Den.

From the journal 25 years ago today: Another Sunday here and gone.  They just fly.  I can't believe how tired I get on that day.  And it is supposed to be a day of rest!!  Maybe one day.  No one was in Church today.  Members are so great sometimes and then other times - I'd love to just scream at them.  But instead - what else is there to do?  Just love them every one.

11 April 2011

From the Police Beat

One of the funniest reads around comes from the "Police Beat" column in the Daily Universe, the student newspaper at BYU.  It amazes me what these police officers have to deal with...seriously.  As I was reading the column today, I discovered this gem, filed under "Suspicious":

March 24: The police received a report of someone sitting naked on the cougar statue outside the football stadium. The subject was gone upon police arrival.

We were on campus that day.  How did I miss this?  I have a couple of other questions:
  • I'm thinking this was a prank call.  It was cold that day and I'm thinking that had someone gotten on that metal statue that they wouldn't have been able to pry themselves away before the cops got there.  Do you think this was for real?
  • If it was for real, what on earth was the above-referenced subject thinking?

From the journal 25 years ago today: Wait!  Did we really schedule three people for baptism today?  You bet we did!

09 April 2011

Musical Crack

It seems that most of the time when a song gets stuck in your head, it's something awful.  Like a TV theme song.  Like the theme to "I Dream of Jeannie."  Or "Bewitched."  Try to get both of those playing in your head at once....You're welcome.  You might want to have a couple of Extra-Strength Tylenol on hand.

Anyway, I've been vexed by a song for several days now.  It is now the official musical equivalent of crack:

I cannot get this out of my head.  The percussion is hypnotic.  But it's Adele's voice that just tears it.  There's some wicked power in that vocal instrument.  Wow!

This got me thinking about the strong female broad voices.  I dig them.  So I looked at some of the stuff on my iPod.  Here's a smattering of some of those voices and the songs that charge me up:
  • Adele, "Rolling In The Deep" - enough said
  • Alison Moyet, "Invisible" - frankly anything she does, from her days in Yaz to her solo work or her work on the London stage (she made for a mean prison matron in 'Chicago'), is awesome
  • Annie Lennox, "No More I Love You's" is a great one, but pretty much anything she does is awesome.  See her duet with the next artist (editorial aside - I forgot Ms Lennox in the original post and that's bad.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML reminded me of her musical importance).
  • Aretha Franklin, you name it - and her turn in "The Blues Brothers" sealed the strong broad deal
  • Heart, "Alone" - those sisters could wail
  • k .d. Lang, "Constant Craving" - hauntingly strong
  • Stevie Nicks, "Stand Back" - so the scarves have got to go, but the rasp is pretty cool
  • Tanya Tucker, "Strong Enough to Bend" - I know, country, but see the preceding commet re: rasp
  • Toni Childs, "Don't Walk Away" - brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.  
Not an AutoTune (paging Britney Spears) in sight with any of these women.  Just some powerful raw talent.  Music is an amazing thing.  I know the music talent truck passed me by and I suppose that's OK, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd have pursued that one.

06 April 2011

My time off and what I've learned

Today is the last day of my ten days off from work.  We're required to take ten consecutive business days off and I'm on my last day.  It's been a good break.  Lots of time with the family and had a chance to get some rest.  It's been good to decompress (not in a Southwest Airlines, ripping a hole in the roof of the plane kind of decompression, mind you).

If I've learned anything during this break, it is the following:  Daytime TV is a pox on humanity and it needs to be destroyed.  Now.

And the morning shows aren't even that bad.  I won't even go into all the horrors as there is no need.  I simply warn you - don't get sucked into the abyss of daytime television.  I was lucky.  I'm  glad I had the good sense to now get sucked into the train wreck.  Well, except for one.  This one:
This cavalcade of awesomeness has to be seen to be believed.  Based on a Japanese game show (so you know it's a lock for pain and humiliation.  And it is!  This show, making the rounds on MTV and MV2, never fails to bring out the 8th grader in me.  Yes, he's still in there and all it takes is the sight of the show's graphics to bring him out.  This show kills me.  And I can't get enough of it.  Ridiculous.

It's shortly back to work.  Glad I was able to meet the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML for lunch today on her lunch break.  I went back into her work space for the first time since she's gone back to work and it was cool to see her doing her thing, prepping for the afternoon patients and talking with her boss about the next set of procedures.  I'm proud of her.  Going back to work was a decision that we agonized over but it has been a real blessing to our family.  She's amazing.

05 April 2011

The slog..it's getting shorter.

The slog I refer to is what I was hoping was my long slog into middle age.  That slog is getting shorter.  Precipitously.  And I don't like it.  I've spent the last couple of days of my leave bouncing from doctor to doctor for various check ups.  One visit ended better than I expected.  It did not involve, as I had feared, a scope where a scope really is not welcome.  Need I say more?

The other ended up with me getting these:
Readers, seriously...
Is it not enough that I already where bi-focal contact lenses?  No, apparently, it is not.  It is now necessary to throw readers on top of them as my eyes have decided to throw in the towel when it comes to reading while wearing contacts.    That's delightful.  No, it isn't.

Ah, middle-age?  I ask you the following:  Is this MY future?
I don't think I'm quite ready to embrace a mansierre (thank you, Kramer).  Really, I'm not.  I promise.

From the journal 25 years ago today: I am in the Hialeah Chapel listening to President Benson speaking (Editorial aside - it was General Conference, April 1986. He just posed a very good question: Is all well in Zion? It appears that things could be better...Pride really is dangerous says Presidente Benson.  It's looking after our very own interests an on one else's.

03 April 2011

Well taught

This weekend has been where we've been well taught.  I speak of this weekend's General Conference of the Church.  It has been a time of teaching, pondering, and more than a little spiritual review that I sorely needed.  I am amazed at how the talks are harmonized, which is all together miraculous given that none of the topics are assigned in advance.  And what I heard loud and clear was familyHonor your family.  Protect your family.  And don't treat it or our faith like an option.  Here's a sampling:
  • Elder Quentin L. Cook said: "Marriage and family should not be a menu option.  Family is central to our Heavenly Father's plan."
  • Elder Russell M. Nelson said: "Obedience is not a cafeteria option.  We must obey all the commandments."
  • And then there was this particularly awesome comment from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: "The Church is not a fast-food outlet.  We can't always have it our way."  Brilliant! 
And then there was this from Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
"Turn it down."
He said, "Turn down the volume of the outside noise of the world to hear the prompting of the Spirit."  We are all entitled to those promptings and turning down the noise is great counsel, regardless of one's faith or the path that they've chosen.

If you missed any of Conference or are interested in hearing or seeing it, or reading about it, click here.  It's worth it.

So, a good weekend.  As for the week ahead, I'm on leave/vacation for three more days.  Don't go back to work until Thursday.  If the weather behaves, I'm hoping to get back out on some of the neighboring trails and running again.  Yeah, I need it.

02 April 2011

So worth it

The title of this post says it all.  Our trip to Springfield was so worth it.  The Abraham Lincoln Museum was, in a word, amazing.  I can hardly do it justice in a post.  You need to go and see it.  It's worth your time.   The Museum is an impressive place.  The volunteers, whose average age must be about 900, are terrific.  They help you get your start.  The exhibitions are fascinating.  They've laid it out chronologically and it helps you to get to know the man, Lincoln.  Most touching is the final stop where you see an recreation of the room where his body laid in state in Springfield.  It's a reverent place.  The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML picked up on it immediately, as she is wont to do, as soon as we entered the room.  You truly got the sense that this man was ordained to do what he did.  I certainly believe that.

One cool thing we found out about while at the Museum is this new movie:

I'm very excited about this.  It's called "The Conspirator" and it opens 15 April.  It's about the assassination of Lincoln and the other hideous events that went down that fateful night.  It looks like a great movie and it's rated PG-13.  This means I won't have to have the taxing mental debate about whether I should see an R-rated movie or not.

The rest of Springfield...not so much.  As our fine state's capital, it's a mirror of our state's finances.  Which is to say most of downtown is boarded up, bankrupted shops.  Although the local Army-Navy surplus store seems to be doing a booming (pun CLEARLY intended) business.  When you are traveling with six boys 18 and under, such a store makes for an excellent diversion and a good negotiations tool.  I, however, did not go in.  I got the strong sense that the owners of said store can sniff out a faithful reader of the New York Times from 50 yards, and I just didn't feel up to be shot or tarred and feathered.  I hunkered down in the van and took refuge in the dulcet tones of NPR (while I still can, thank you very much, Congressional chumps).

So. I've given blood this morning and now it's time to settle down for a virtual Mormon Hajj to Mormon Mecca, Salt Lake City, for LDS General Conference.  I'm ready to learn.