Tuesday, February 21

Good Energy and Random Thoughts

Four times a year I make my way to my oncologist's office for a checkup and a preventative drug treatment. You would think that an oncologist's office would be one of the most depressing places around. And you would be wrong.

I've given lots of thought to why this is. Certainly there is no one simple reason. At least not one I can articulate.

The staff is great. That's part of the atmosphere. But only a small part of it. I think it's mostly that there is a really powerful sense of shared humanity between and among the patients. Empathy, certainly. But more than that. Maybe it's the shared knowledge of what a valuable gift life is. A cancer diagnosis makes it very easy to remember the joy in things that might otherwise be taken for granted. Or the feeling you just naturally have for others who are dealing with similar things. For whatever reason, it's a surprising place.

As I was driving back from Iowa yesterday, I was listening to a Colin Hay song in which he was considering the question if you could go back to an earlier part of your life, would you? His answer was no - or maybe to when he was seventeen.

I took his question in the sense of "going back for a visit", not "going back and starting over." I don't have many regrets, and don't want a "do over." But what times would you like to "refresh your memory" of? Perhaps oddly, the two times of my life that popped into my head as the two I am most interested in visiting were my undergraduate college years and the couple of months after I was diagnosed with cancer. The college years were great fun, at least if you overlook my pitiful dating career. But intuitively I would think the time when I was diagnosed with cancer would be the absolute last time anyone would want to revisit. But I promised myself then that I would never waste another day or hour of my life. It's a promise I've tried hard to keep. But I'm far from a total success in that endeavor. A reminder of that would be a good thing.

I also think the reason for my interest is that those are the two times of life where I was growing the most (it's also two times in my life when I was relatively thin, but I don't think that has anything to do with my interest).

Anyway, those were the strange thoughts that were popping into my head while driving through rural Iowa.

PS - There are lots of days I'd love to revisit. Our wedding day (but who would want to relive the weeks leading up to that?). The birth of our kids (but who would want to relive the sleep-deprived periods after those two wonderful events?).

Wednesday, February 15

Murder Murder?

A follow up to the Murder on the Mississippi - this morning on my ride to work there was a dead crow on the road. Was this the result of a murder in the murder? I saw no sign of fowl play (or owl play for that matter). There was definitely a murder in those trees last night. But were there two?

Saturday, February 11

Murder on the Mississippi

My bike ride to and from work takes me along the Mississippi River near the University of Minnesota. This winter, each night as I've been riding home at or near dark there have been thousands and thousands of crows congregating in the trees on either side of the bike path. A murder of crows, as they are called (not quite as complimentary as a creche or huddle or parcel of penguins, or an ostentation of peacocks, or a convocation of eagles; but on a par with a scold of jays. So it goes. I like crows. They're smart and adaptable. I guess they haven't become as popular as warblers, though).

I've been wondering why there are so many at night, and basically none in the morning. So I decided to try to see what the experts think is going on. It turns out there are lots of theories.
The Hotel Theory: The crows are simply congregating in the most favorable spot (protected from predators and the elements), and they don't mind doing it with a bunch of other birds. Like in a crowded hotel: every crow has the same needs being met at the same place, but no one is really interacting with anyone else.

The Wagon Train:
The crows get some protection from predators by being in a large group, safety in numbers. Crows are most afraid of large owls, and sleeping with a bunch of other crows could afford some protection for an individual crow.

The Information Center: Groups form to get
information about profitable foraging areas. The idea is that an individual that did poorly foraging for itself on one day can watch for other individuals coming in to the roost that look fat and happy, that obviously found some rich source of food. Then the hungry individual can either backtrack the happy ones' flight paths, or follow them out first thing in the morning to the good food source.

Apparently these roosts are moving to the cities for a couple of reasons. Cities are warmer. And there are fewer owls in the city. So those are the explanations for my winter friends.

Friday, February 3


I read this poem this morning, and it really made me smile. Maybe it will do the same for you. It is reprinted without any permission whatsoever, but you see this is just a bundle of cyber light anyway, and who owns that? I know, I should have asked.

"Explaining Relativity to the Cat" by Jennifer Gresham

Imagine, if you will, three mice.
Contrary to what you have
heard, they are not blind
but are in a spaceship
traveling near the speed of light.
This makes them unavailable
for your supper, yes.

So these mice, traveling near
the speed of light, appear
quite fat, though there is
no cheese aboard. This is
simply a distortion of mass,
because the mass of a mouse
is nothing more than a bundle
of light, and vice versa. I see
how this might imply mice
are in the light fixtures,
undoubtedly a problem, so
let me try again.

If two people attempted
to feed you simultaneously,
no doubt a good situation,
but you were on a train
traveling near the speed
of light, the food would
appear unappetizing, falling
to the plate in slow motion,
an extended glob of protein
that never smelled good,
if you ask me, train or no.
The affinity of the food
for the plate, what we call
gravity, is really just
a stretch in the fabric
of a space-time continuum,
what happens when you
have sat in a seat too long,
perhaps on this very train.

Oh kitty, I know how you hate
to travel and the journey must
have made you tired. Come now,
lick your coat one more time
and let us make haste
from this strange city
of light and fantastic dream.