Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Degrees of Freedom

On this I think we can all agree
The secret isn’t found in a degree
Embracing challenges each day brings
Provides us with many interesting things
It’s Living while Learning that sets us free

We had an enjoyable weekend motoring south to Corvallis to celebrate Cody’s graduation from OSU on Saturday. We met everyone at The Original Breakfast in Albany at 7:00 AM and beat the graduation rush before consuming a weekend’s worth of calories. We all parked at Cody & Amy’s place and strolled over to Reser Stadium for the ceremony. It had rained on us on the way down and lightly misted for a half hour as we were settling in to our seats, but the weather improved as the morning went on and we were unlayering by the end. The graduation speakers covered the usual turf successfully and succinctly: the student body president open with the Helen Keller quote ”When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us”; the Alumni Association president reminded everyone of the network available as alums, which set the tone for the keynote speaker, Jen-Hsun Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA. He offered 3 wishes for the class of 2009 – Love your work, Embrace failure (don’t play safe), and Think like a Child, which echoes Einstein’s quote that “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I ‘m proud of Cody’s accomplishments and was glad to be in attendance with family for the celebration. I know he and Amy are entering an amazing phase of life with plenty of possibilities, and I look forward to watching things unfold.
It’s the 34th anniversary of my Stanford graduation and I was reflecting on the differences and similarities of graduations 3 ½ decades apart. Like now, the country was dealing with an ill-advised military entanglement and had just seen an out-of–favor President leave office. The Dow Jones was languishing in a bear market at 858 and inflation was 9.2% Oil had just recently rocketed to $13/ barrel resulting in gas of more than 50 cents/gallon. A stamps was 10 cents, but leaped to 12 cents on New Years Eve 1975. Minimum wage was $2.10/hr and I was soon to start a job @ $1200/month and my rent was $165 for an apartment overlooking Washington Square. Tiger Woods and Angelina Jolie were born during the year and the big inventions were the digital camera, laser printer, and the dueling formats of Betamax & VHS for video recording. This was a time of typewriters, turntables and 8 track tapes. Jobs and Wozniak were stil two years away from introducing the Apple II – the hot technology was calculators from HP and Texas Instruments. My senior project with Vince was working with the first programmable calculator the HP-65 which cost $795 (the average new car cost $4500) so when HP introduced a $150 unit, much of my early paycheck went toward that.
I graduated on a Sunday June 15th, drove to Medford on a Monday, woke up to a phone call inviting me to interview with FMC in Portland on Thursday ( where I was headed to a Gordon Lightfoot concert), and found myself starting my job on Monday June 23rd. I then get a call enticing me to come to Reno to work for Bill Harrah & Bill Lear (of Lear-Jet fame) as a workforce planner for the Casino for 50% more pay. I thought it would be bad form to quit after 3 days and I never could imagine myself as a “casino” guy. This just points out that I had no clue as to the opportunities that would show up once I headed out into the real world, and still don’t have firm control of the steering wheel of life – thank goodness for metaphysical GPS….

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

C'mon Get Happy!

It’s not caused by McCain or Obama
Nor passed down from Papa & Mama
Connection and fun after a fashion
And a purpose that stirs passion
Yields true happiness, says the Dalai Lama

Our current book reading is based on David Wann’s “Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in A Sustainable Lifestyle” ( ) Taking a page (leaf?) from the Slow Food movement, we’re using the Slow Read method, reading a few chapters per month of this book and bringing in related articles to discuss. Our first session, with required potluck, introduced to the book and posed the questions, What is true wealth, and What is Happiness, and why do people crave it? We had the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama when he came to Portland a few years ago, and his message was that the one thing all people want is to be “happy”. They just disagree in how to accomplish that.
Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness” postulates that happiness contains elements of pleasure, engagement or connection with others, and meaning, such as altruistic or service related activities. Modern consumptive societal patterns tend to wade in the shallow end of this pool, trying to find happiness in “stuff” while deeper and more resonant results come from connecting with others and using your unique gifts and talents to benefit more than just you.
This topic came up in another context when I heard about the 72 year longitudinal study of Harvard students which was seeking to find the secret to what makes a “good life” 268 Harvard underclassmen, including many powerful people such as Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, and JFK were interviewed, measured, and recorded throughout their lives and a review of the archives is fascinating. George Vaillant was the long time director, and his personal story shows the challenges of trying to find a simple answer to the question of what can we do to be happy. In the end though, it shows a mechanistic view of happiness or life in general can't explain the mystery ( )

I reflected on these things after a number of relevant events in the last week. Dianna & I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Memorial Day weekend at Oceanside with Ted & Meg & Rick. We had great food; great weather, and great company. Rick & I even assisted Ted in some productive work. (You can see our "Pathway to Happiness" in the photo above)
I also got to see Sean and his band before they headed off on their 5 week 20 performance tour of the country and was reminded once again how pursuing your passion is priceless. Also, last night, I co-taught the last class of The Center for Earth Leadership's “How to Be an Agent of Change In Your Circle of Influence”, and was inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of the participants. We went to see "Star Trek" tonight and the same message of fun, connection with others, and a higher purpose played out with great special effects and a clever nod to the memories of those of us who grew up inspired with Star Trek ideals....
I think among all the events, I had plenty of evidence to validate Seligman’s hypothesis.

In coming weeks, I’ll share more on any insights that come from our readings or any other randow nudges I get.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

STP #29

As May 20th ended, I was quite STumPed
Until to a logical conclusion I jumped
A poetic tribute would not be hard to STooP
As long as I highlighted Reeble Jar, his musical group
I knew it would be hard to know when to SToP
But I had to mention his Glass-blowing shop

It’s rare for him to encounter a hill that’s too STeeP
Though one once caused the demise of his first early Jeep
He’s always been one to take the next STeP
Since he’s a happenin’ guy who’s always quite hep
Who continues to leave his unique STamP
On the Eugene city that’s quite damp

So, in closing, it is with much glee
As the last year approaches of his decade three
That with the coming dawn
We celebrate all that is Sean
On the occasion of the 29th birthday of STP

Writing a blog entry as a tribute to Sean is like describing a symphony in 4 notes... it can be done but it leaves out a lot of highlights and nuance... (Try G-G-G-Eflat....)

At 6:30 PM on Wednesday, May 21st 1980, Sean Thomas Ponder arrived in Portland Oregon during the aftermath of the Mt. St. Helen's eruption and just missed by 6 hours being born on the least likely birthday among the current population. (Oct 5th is the most common...) This would be a harbinger of Sean's style of being unique. Music has been a part of Sean's life since early on and most people are aware of his current performance with his band but few people know Sean is one of only a handful of people to play the Theremin under the tutealge of Leon Theremin in 1991 at Stanford (who also gave Einstien lessons, but said he wasn't very musical) and to call up and talk to Bob Moog directly when 11 year old Sean decided to build a Theremin for his science project.

Sean's integration of music and glass-blowing also has followed an unusual path. He moved to Eugene and attended Lane CC and apprenticed as a glass blower and then when his bosses decided to close up shop, they handed him their customer list and Sean became a small business owner in his early 20's servicing accounts nationwide. It's an amazing balancing act, keeping the band going while working to pay the bills, so this summer's road trip with the band should be a great adventure after a lot of hard work. Reeble Jar will play in Portland at Goodfoot on May 30th and then leave June 2 for a month long tour of at least 11 states...

As the first person to meet Sean, I've always been honored by the privilege and am proud of who he is and the impact he's had so far. His grandfather was one of his biggest fans and vicariously shared in many of Seans adventures. I look forward to continuing to cheer for him - as long as I can stay up late enough...


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's Later Than You Think (2:30)

This aging thing has never seemed nice
As no injuries for me would more than suffice
But I’m facing the truth
That I sprained my tooth
So I must elevate my mouth and fill with ice.

Brother, men can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words:
No, no; 'tis all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man's virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.
Therein do men from children nothing differ.
I pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
And made a push at chance and sufferance.
Much Ado About Nothing, 5.1, 21-39 Thanks to VagabondScholar

I understand the sequence of decline from muscle to muscle memory to memory but the aches and pains of aging still irritate. After lucking out with years of injury free athletic activity back in the 20th century except for a few rolled ankles and an unfortunate intersection of softball and eyeball, I thought the likelihood of injuries would diminish as I aged. I was embarrassed by pulling a hamstring for the first time when I was bowling with Rick 10 years ago, but I think I topped that recently. Last week I was enjoying some popcorn, bit down funny and hurt my tooth. It bothered me for a day and a half so Monday I made an appointment with our long time dentist.
Dianna and I both grew up with unfluoridated well water so we both carry amalgam accumulations that are reaching end of life, so I assumed I broke a filling. After poking, prodding & extra X-rays, Dr. Jarvis deduced I had injured a ligament holding a molar in place – effectively “spraining” it. He said it should recover in a couple of weeks and approved noshing, but no gnashing…
Thought the Shakespeare quote would add some class to the site…

On a more interesting note, I ran across a intriguing site at our monthly “Engineers for a Sustainable Future” meeting. We had representatives from newly named Neighborhood Natural Energy (nee Northwest Neighborhood Energy) , scaled district energy provider. Their ideas have interesting potential but they are affiliated with a social entrepreneur networking site for seed funding sustainable projects called The Change Exchange ( ) This site opens the door to a number of interesting projects and I look forward to following progress and reporting on ideas in future blog entries…

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oh, Canada!


Adventures to the North are the latest thing new
As Victoria provided many enjoyable things to do
We walked and we ate
As the sightseeing was great
Plus we all avoided the "Moose" flu

We were able to get away for a nice 4 day vacation to Seattle and Victoria at the beginning of May to celebrate John & Sally's 25th wedding anniversay on May 1st and John's 67th birthday on May 4th. We drove up Friday afternoon with tempertures in the high 70's - quite a contrast to last year's commute in the snow. We had a wonderful seafood celebration at Anthony's on the waterfront in Edmunds Friday night and then took the Victoria Clipper hydrofoil to Victoria Saturday morning. A comfortable 2 1/2 hours later we made the 10 minute walk to our condo at Fisherman's Wharf, dropped off our luggage and headed out to explore Victoria.
As with our Hawaii vacation, things felt quickly familar and we were able to locate some favorite spots although we did add a new ice cream shop to our itinerary. A lunch choice from last year was closed so we had Chinese instead and then after browsing and checking in, we had dinner at the Marriott. We all gave positive reviews to our meal including the clam chowder and prime rib I had and our leisurely meal provided refuge from the storm that blew north from Portland and Seattle. By the time we walked home, the rain had stopped and we only had to fight the wind on the way home. The Church of Truth across the street from our condo was hosting Argentina Tango - and here I was without my shoes... We poked our heads in, but they could tell we weren't part of the in-crowd - Evan would have enjoyed it though..
Sunday dawned with possibilities as the weather system had moved through, so we booked a tour of Butchart Gardens and as the pictures above indicate, had a wonderful day of strolling through the flowers. Our dinner out was just across the street from our condo at the Superior, a hip jazz club with great food and unusual decorating style.
We originally had planned on staying until Tuesday, but John had an important conference in NYC that started Tuesday, so we arranged to take the 6:00 ferry Monday night. Since we didn't need to check out we lounged around our room and watched the DVD "Mame" and packed in fish and chips from Barb's on the Wharf. Packe dup and headed home and once again the weather hit during our commute but had stopped by the time we disembarked. Heavy rain hit Seattle overnight, but John made it to the airport by shuttling off at 6:30 and Dianna & I headed home by 10:00 AM. Smooth sailing by land through light rain got us home by 2:00 PM and we were able to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Merry with dinner and cards Tuesday night.
I highly recommend a Canada visit - exchange rate is good ( 82 cents US to Canadian $), sights are plentiful and Canadians are friendly. We're already planning next years visit in early May before we head off to Iowa by May 23rd to celebrate Evan's graduation.
Still waiting for May weather to kick in before it turns rainy for Rose Festival - stay tuned...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy" *



It's never bad form

To question the norm

It doesn't matter if you're six

Or wait until 47 to get your kicks

Even if you go through life named Storm

Thursday night we had a chance to see the one woman play"Crazy Enough" which was the autobiographical musings of Susan Storm Large, a self-described 6 foot blond "Glamazon" rock & roll singer and actress. She had performed to critical aclaim as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" last year but this current play was really an amazing production. Although I would need to use ampersands and apostrophes in unusual ways if I quoted some of the lyrics or dialogue, it was one of those most poignant performances I have seen. As a nine year old, Storm was told by a doctor that she'd be as crazy as her mother by 21, and having no reason to disbelieve an authority figure, she decided to make the most of the next two decades. Sex drugs, and rock & roll were her currency and she spent with abandon, but now as she approaches 40, she's comfortable with being "crazy enough" to deal with life. She astutely observes that getting outside the box is what's need to creatively and succesfully negotiate the ups and downs of our existance.

A couple of YouTube videos that have been circulating also seem to reinforce the theme of what is normal and acceptable and how important it is to stay true to your talent and dreams.. A few months ago,, a British 6 year old named Connie Talbot wowed the judges of "Britain's Got Talent" ( the inspiration for American Idol) and just recently, a 47 year old Scottish woman, Susan Boyle won over skeptics with her performance. If you watch both of these singers, the most interesting thing is their complete focus and belief in what they are meant to do and how to do it. I would assume a degree of discomfort or nervousness when being in front of an audience but both singers seem amazing calm and in control.



I guess that's one of major questions we get to answer while we're here - what unique talent or gift do I have, and how do I express it in its highest form? We need to ask ourselves these questions every day - it would be crazy not to...

*The title quote refers to Jack Buck's call of a walk off home run by Ozzie Smith in the 1985 NCLS aginst the LA Dodgers.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's My Birthday Quote, Unquote...

April 11 brings my 56th birthday

Which could be a cause for dismay

Although the candles increase

The wonders never cease

As long as I remember to play

When you're young, birthdays are a good excuse to invite friends over to play... has pin the tail on the donkey ever been played outside a birthday party? My favorite parties when I was young usually involved rounding everyone up for a baseball game - I asked my dad if I could burn off one of our two acres to build a baseball field in March 0f 1963 and celebrated with a true sandlot game and, as a result, that field was the site of hundreds of games over the next 2 decades. In college, I was kidnapped with a pillow over my head, put in a car and delivered to homeplate outside of our freshman dorm for an impromptu game with friends. I tried to organize a game for my 30th birthday, but Portland weather isn't as amenable to mid-April basking as Stanford's is.

(A nice postscipt to the day came with Albert Puljos hitting a grand slam and a 3 run HR as the Cards beat Houston 11-2 and at least for a day are in first place!)
These days, my celebrations aren't as active though nice weather will lure me out for a round of golf, but today's forecast is mixed. As a result, I'm inside posting. I've decided for this entry to collect some of the more approriate quotes regarding birthdays and also include a nice poem that Deborah wrote for me - my transcedentalist high school English teacher, Edna Stewart would have approved...


Methinks time spent in soft repose
Is oft mistook for idle doze.
But here we’d have some hard debate
Does one daydream or cogitate?

Reflection on the past to date
May be to some, to ruminate
While others find their thoughts best spent
Toward future plans of high assent.

But neither here nor there, not up nor down
Is where ideals and dreams must crown.
For thoughts, like roads, are seldom drawn
Intending they not be traveled on.

In any trek detours are found
Amid deep thoughts our dreams abound.
So now and then, one supposes
we must stop and think of roses.
-- Deborah Huxley
April 2009

I’m 56 years old. That’s 13.33 Celsius

Of late I appear

To have reached that stage

When people who look old

Who are only my age.

- Richard Armour

My birthday!--what a different sound

That word had in my youthful ears;

And how each time the day comes round,

Less and less white its mark appears.

- Thomas Moore

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.

The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.- T.S. Eliot

The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.- Muhammad Ali

Life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while.
-Groucho Marx

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.”
George Harrison

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.
-Mark Twain

Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.
-Bob Hope

Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician.

Happy birthday, you’re not getting old,

Stay in the game, it’s not time to fold.

Wrinkles and grey hair, are just a new look,

Countless experiences, you should write in a book.

A birthday is seldom, a serious occasion,

Try not to take it, like the D-day invasion.

Laughter and jokes are within sight,

Stock up on both, all through the night.

The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left but as you get older, it turns back to the right….

I still have a full deck; I just shuffle slower now.

If we could be twice young and twice old we could correct all our mistakes.

Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair

Monday, April 6, 2009

Everyday is Earth Day!

It's time to discover some change to effect
While showing the planet some long overdue respect
As we all recognize the true worth
Of this blue-green jewel known as Earth
We move toward becoming sustainably correct
I just finished co-teaching the first of a 6 part class on"Becoming a Change Agent in Your Circle of Influence", a course created by Dick & Jeanne Roy of the Center for Earth Leadership (a link is listed under Sustainability) This class helps provide suggestions for encourging change within the groups we live, work & play. This class fit's nicely with all the April Earth awareness activities such as the currert Arbor week, the PSu Symposium on Water Use and the Earth Day festivities that occur in 2 weeks. I thought I would include a photo from my high school days at Earth Day #2 where we planted some tree, and the famous Apollo * photo that reminded everyone of the need for a unifying vision for addressing the Earth's ecological challeges.
Over the next few months, I'll highlight some of the many resources available to those who want to make incremental changes in their environmental footprint. At the bottom of this entry you'll find a few suggestions thanks to the Energy Trust of Oregon (
On a completely unrelated note, I am reminded that TS Elliot said "April is the cruelest month" and he clearly was referring to today's opener for St, Louis. I listened as StL took a 4-3 lead to the ninth inning with 2 outs and an 0-2 counts before losing 6-4 on a bases-clearing double. I'll hope the sun comes up tomorrow with a different result...
No-cost Projects
Ten tips to save energy that don’t cost a dime

A lot of savings can be generated from personal choice and actions.

1. Practice thermostat control. During the heating season, it’s estimated that you can save about 2 percent on the heating bill for every degree you lower the thermostat.

2. Night setbacks pay off. A 10-degree night setback while you’re in bed can work wonders on the bill.

3. Use hot water as required. If you have a choice on your clothes washer or dishwasher, use the Energy Saver mode. A cold water wash or rinse can be just the ticket at times.

4. Turn down a too-high water heater thermostat. For most households, 120°F water is just right… about halfway between the low and medium setting.

5. Don’t heat or cool rooms that are not in use.

6. Take shorter showers. You’ve heard that one before as well — but it works.

7. To keep your home cool, adjust shades, blinds and draperies to block the sun's hot summer rays. Let hot air out with attic vents and make sure soffit vents are not blocked. This keeps you and your attic cooler and it also extends the life of your shingles.

8. Clean heating system filters regularly.

9. After your fireplace fire has been “cold” a couple of hours, close the vent. Warm air rises… so will your bill. Why heat the great out-of-doors?

10. Turn off lights, computers and home electronics when not in use.

A relatively small investment can reap big dividends.
11. Programmable thermostat — You may need to upgrade your existing thermostat to maximize energy efficiency. Newer models have “smart” features built in that can automatically provide night setbacks and other important features. Before purchase, make sure you review your heating system operations manual as there are many types of thermostats and each is tailored to specific systems. If necessary, ask a qualified heating-cooling contractor to install your thermostat to ensure optimum performance.

12. Compact fluorescent bulbs — High quality compact fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of models for just about any use. They cost more than incandescent, but they last a whole lot longer… and can save energy but please recycle properly. A typical 100-watt incandescent might be rated for 750 hours, while a comparable 25-watt fluorescent is 10,000 hours. The outdoor models are perfect for those porch lights that are on long periods and often awkward to replace.

13. Caulking and weatherstripping — A small investment in caulk and weatherstripping around exterior doors or windows can make a difference. Take half a Saturday, your trusty caulk gun, and stop energy waste. Pay attention to pipes, telephone wires, anything at all that enters the house. Make sure they are sealed tight. Pay particular attention to exterior doors. There are a variety of ways to stop air leakage around doors. Your local retailer will have a good choice of threshold weatherstripping, door sweeps and jamb weatherstripping materials. Carefully measure and follow installation instructions carefully.

14. Summer cool down — A window exhaust fan is a good idea, but a larger attic whole-house exhaust fan, thermostatically controlled, is a real plus in summer. It can help cool things down without central air conditioning.

15. High-efficiency showerheads and water control devices — New showerheads are required to meet a 2.5 gallon-per-minute standard, but there are many older models still in place. If you can squeeze the gallons per minute lower than 2.5, it means you’re saving even more money. Also, faucet aerators, including the types that have a shut-off valve built in, can stop waste of water while you’re rinsing dishes. And, don’t forget leaky faucets: It doesn’t cost much to fix’em, and they can be big energy wasters.

16. Water heater wrap — Despite all the advances in better insulated water heaters, it still pays to wrap a water heater, especially if it is located in an unheated space. Special water heater kits are available at retail hardware stores where heaters are sold. Just follow the instructions. (Tip: While you're wrapping up for energy savings, strap up for earthquake safety. Securing your water heater against earthquake tipping is a smart move.)

17. Fireplace pillow — An open fireplace can be a giant energy waster. Today you can purchase a plastic, inflatable “pillow” that inserts into the chimney to stop heat from escaping. You blow it up (usually just by mouth) and it is easily removable when you want to build a fire. Find out more by contacting your local fireplace dealer or search online for the nearest vendor.
While there are all kinds of no- to low-cost ways to save energy, sometimes a larger investment is required to gain the most ground.

18. Get a free energy audit to guide major investment decisions.What you need before anything else happens is an energy audit. We recommend scheduling a FREE home energy review with the Energy Trust of Oregon. It will give you guidance on how you can save energy and money and create a comfortable living environment. An Energy Advisor will come to your home, recommend energy-saving measures specific to your home and install FREE compact fluorescent light bulbs, faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads. We strongly recommend an audit be accomplished prior to any major investment in insulation, heating, ventilation or other improvements.
To schedule an energy audit with the Energy Trust of Oregon, call 866-ENTRUST or 866-368-7878.

19. When replacing appliances, buy premium-efficiency models.There is no question that an energy-smart major appliance purchase (refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, heating systems) can generate significant dollar savings over the lifetime of the appliance. Why pay $20-$30 more per year than is necessary?
There’s a ton of good information on energy-efficient appliances from the Oregon Department of Energy Web site. But here are some basics on shopping for an energy-efficient model:
· All major energy-using appliances are required by the Federal Trade Commission to include a yellow and black label on each appliance that gives consumers a good idea how that respective model performs. Look for these labels on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters, furnaces, boilers, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, heat pumps and pool heaters. The estimated annual operating cost posted on the label is a composite price based on national averages. Always calculate your savings using your local utility’s prices.
· On many appliances look for an “Energy Star” logo. The Energy Star program is operated by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy Star labels are on those appliances that these government agencies feel meet high levels of energy efficiency than the average comparable model.

20. When replacing your furnace, consider a heat pump— the most efficient way to heat and cool your home.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April (in Parens)

There are moments in time when a decision
Creates change with geometric precision
So the reference to April in Parens...
Is a month specific tribute to what happens
When Life's Path bends like light through a prism
As I sit here on 04-04-09 in a month that started as a perfect square (2003x2003 = 4012009),
I was thinking about other interesting confluences and influences that have appeared in April over the years. Since the Eiffel Tower celebrated it's 120th birthday as of April 1st, it gets top billing.
This is an active birthday month as we celebrated Brenda & Bryan's birthdays Friday night and we just returned from Diane M's 60th gala with a 30th & 50th party on tap for tomorrow. I was supposed to be born mid June, but the opening day of baseball season found me arriving early(April 11, 1953) weighing 8 baseballs - 2 pounds 9 ounces so I'm part of this April birthday onslaught. The complications of this early arrival seem to be minimal but I still have trouble recognizing faces since the first 6 weeks everyone I saw was masked and I occassionaly enjoying revisiting the incubator, as I bask in the warmth of an incandescent bulb (CFL's don't work as well.)
Continuing on the baseball theme, my first major league game I saw was the Cardinals and the newly arrived LA Dodgers (April 26, 1958), two weeks before we packed up and moved to Medford and as a result, still hold a fond spot for Dodger fans though I'm a diehard Cardinal fan. I've always marvelled at my folks decision to leave a comfortable existence in LA for the unknown territory of Oregon, but I know how glad they were that they relocated.
I appreciated growing up in Medford but life shifted with my acceptance to Stanford (April 15, 1971) and fundamentally changed who my friends were, who I would marry, where I would live, and what work I would do. My freshman dorm of 50 gave me connections to the guys I would live with for 4 years, my golfing buddy for 36 years who also has been the best man at both my weddings, and significant friendships and life experiences that still shape the way I deal with the world.
Diane and I got married in 1978 after an April 1977 visit and theworst Wisconsin winter in 100 years convinced her to relocate her graduate studies to PortlandMy purchase of an Apple II (April 10, 1979) led to my 30 year involvement with computers and my opening of Oregon's first software store, Software Station (1983-1987). Armed with my computer, I joined a Pacific Power subsidiary, NERCO (April 6, 1981) and now will have had an association with Pacific Power for 28 of my soon to be 56 years.
I had attended First Presbyterian with Diane, Sean & Evan and appreciated the church's passion for social justice but never could fully embrace the theology. Dianna & I got married in mid 1997 and were introduced to New Thought teachings ( of which Religious Science and Unity are the largest denominations) after attending Living Enrichment Center (April 18, 1999) and have been drawn to the New Thought message of inclusiveness and"divinity within". The last ten years have given us plenty of opportunities to explore this new paradigm.
We now arrive at this April fraught with possibilities... Rick and I enjoyed our first day of spring golf with temperatures in the 60s and scores in the 40's per 9 so we're off to a good start. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2009 Major League Baseball Season and the Cards are tied with the Cubs for first!. The weather should be perfect for the penultimate Hillsdale Winter Farmer's market and we have it on good authority the Hillsdale's harbinger of Spring, Josh will be "jamming" at the Market. April should be "eiffel" exciting -stay tuned... MTP

Monday, March 30, 2009

The In-Crowd.. for Now

The purpose of this convoluted rhyme
Is to highlight that instant in time
When staying in the moment
Helps to focus one’s intent
Allowing for an experience that’s sublime

During this past weekend, I got the chance to experience “in-person” some enjoyable performances and I wanted to take time to reflect on the value of participating “live”. On Friday night, Dianna & I went to see the touring Broadway production of “Wicked”, a clever musical backstory of the witches from Wizard of Oz re-imagined by Gregory Maguire. The cast was top notch but we both were perplexed by the general audience reaction which seemed much more interactive than most theater performances with clapping, cheering and whispering. In some ways it was as if the audience was an extension of the cast – almost like a viewing of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Maybe we’ve gotten used to our Portland center Stage plays where we absorb the consistently high quality content quietly…

Saturday night started with a dinner outing with Ted & Rick at Clay’s Smokehouse and then arrival at the Rose Garden for a game between the Blazers and Memphis. Since the Philly loss that Sean & I attended the Blazers had comfortably beaten Phoenix and with just one game separating Portland Denver, and Utah, emotions were running high. The Blazers came out with energy and the crowd provided vocal and moral support that helped a double digit home court win. The concept of “home court advantage” applies to many endeavors beyond sports. The comfort level one has in familiar settings such as a beloved neighborhood or in a gathering of familiar friends is something we all crave. The noted philosopher D. Gale summed it up as “There’s no place like home”

Our evening ended in Southeast Portland at “The Goodfoot”, where Sean’s band “Reeble Jar” ( ) was headlining. We skewed to the older end of the crowd but it was interesting to note that it could have been the early 70’s with the dress and the vibe of Reeble Jar’s funk. The only tip-off was the ubiquitous cell phones waving as the Bic lighters of the 21st century. RJ’s music is hard to sit still for but it was fun to watch how the show was enhanced by the crowd reaction. The band is preparing for a month long tour across the Western US in June and that should be an invigorating month. They hope to return to Eugene and use some studio time to produce their first non-audience album which will be a big departure. Should be fun to watch & hear develop.

The end of the weekend brought the dramatics of Tiger Woods winning after a 284 day drought, using a script that we’ve seen before. With daylight fading and wind swirling, and a motionless gallery watching, along with the biggest TV audience since 9 months ago when he was in the identical situation, Tiger calmed sank a 16 foot putt to win Arnold Palmer’s tournament. Once again he showed not only how to be in the moment, but to seize it and define it…. Great theater that isn’t the same if you watch a replay…

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Although the most recent outcome was a pity
It won't diminish the tone of this ditty
Because while the shorts have gotten longer
Blazer fan support has gotten stronger
As the Rose City revisits "Rip City"
On a late spring afternoon in early June 1977, in front of a sellout crowd of 12,666, The Portland Trailblazers scored 108 points, beat the Philadelphia 76'ers and the resulting NBA Championship fundamentally changed its perception of itself. On an early spring evening in late March of 2009, with a sellout of 20,620 fans, the Blazers scored 108 points but lost to Philadelphia during a push to return to the playoffs after a 6 year drought. Although much has changed in form, fashion, finance both personally and globally over the span of 3 decades, it's interesting to reflect on what hasn't changed.

The role of sports in society is widely debated as some feel it is emphasized too much in our educational system and garners more coverage in the media than other more significant issues. The role model aspect of sports has suffered as the perception of "win at any cost" has dominated recent headlines. Still, there are aspects of the sporting experience that are valuable for a society, particularly during challenging times. I've always felt that being able to identify with a team and vicariously participating in their ups and downs is valuable experience for dealing with life's inevitable ups & downs. I've been fortunate with my fan support of Medford, Stanford, and St. Louis sports teams and their level of success, so the thrill of victory has been experienced a number of times. (Medford's 1970 State football championship, Stanford's 1972 Rose Bowl and the numerous good showings in other sports, and the STL Cardinals entertainingly contending often with World Series in '64, '67, '68, '82, '85, & '06) The 1977 Trailblazer championship was another of those great memories and it's interesting to see the impact of that event still resonates with fans, many who weren't even born then.

Last night's game was enjoyable, especially since Sean was able to come up from Eugene to catch the game with me, much like Evan did when he lit briefly in Portland between foreign assignments. Sean came up with some buddies who were performing at the Mt. Tabor Theater, and he'll be back on Saturday with Reeble Jar, playing at the Goodfoot. Ted & I have tickets for the Memphis game so we hope to catch the early portion of Sean's show after the game. We settled in our seats during player introductions and after a nearly flawless 1st quarter when the 76'ers outshot their name (81%), we felt fortunate the Blazers were only down by 5 points. Aldridge kept the Blazers in the game, and Oden looked good in limited action but the Blazers still were down 58-44 at the half. A spirited comeback led by Rudy and Steve Blake made for a exciting 2nd half and with 20 seconds left, the Blazers were just were they wanted, Brandon Roy with the ball and a chance to win, tied at 98. Brandon had an off night, including his final shot and the resulting overtime only provided Chalupas for scoring 100 points, not the sweet taste of victory. The buzz in the crowd was some disappointment but more appreciation that the Blazers came back and gave themselves a chance. In the recent past of a few years ago, the team might have packed it in after falling behind by 20 but the current Blazers aren't quitters, and that sends a good message to the Portland psyche. Bad bounces, calls, or breaks are part of life on and off the court and the response is the valuable lesson. I look forward to experiencing more of those lessons… MTP

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Hep Now, Dude!"

For almost 90 years he kept a good attitude
Biscuits & Gravy was always a favorite food
A builder of things, a fan of baseball
He experienced a lot, and survived it all
Looking back, he was one cool “Dude”

March 21st 2009 would have been my dad’s 91st birthday and I’m down in Medford for the weekend to acknowledge the occasion with family. Sean rode down with me from Eugene and since we needed to gas up before we reached Medford, we stopped at Canyonville and ate at Seven Feathers Casino and bought a group of Keno tickets with my dad’s favorite 3 number combination 38-39-41 and ate one of his favorite meals, chicken-fried steak. We left before all his tickets played, but we had about as much luck as he usually did. At least I got a 3 cent discount on gas and the Prius cruised along at 43mpg.

Thursday night, Dianna & I went to Portland Center Stage and saw their production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, a witty send-up of Victorian manners aided by multiple cases of mistaken & deceptive identity worthy of some of Shakespeare’s comedies. It reminded me of my dad’s phases of identity during his 9o years of life…

He was born in SW Missouri n the spring of 1918, just missing St. Patrick’s Day but close enough for his Irish mother and was christened Thomas Julian Ponder. School records identified him as Julian, but from an early age everyone called him “Dude”. The entire family seemed to have a thing for nicknames as his brothers were Diskin (Dick), Herschel (Brandy), and David (Pete). When I asked him why, he said he didn’t know but his father George was always called Steve! Anybody who knew my dad before WWII knew him as Dude, so it was always easy to determine length of acquaintance. My mom never called him anything but Tommy or Tom, so it was sometimes confusing when relatives would visit. During college, one of our favorite phrases was “Hep now, Dude!” to register enthusiasm, so when I received a letter addressed to “Hep now, Dude” Ponder, we had to decide who got to open the letter first. I took my dad back to his 60th high school reunion in 1997 and when we stopped in the local gas station on the site of my dad’s first job pumping gas, my dad told the story of his uncle building the first station in the county on that spot. A guy in the back room heard us and came out and said “Is that “Dude” Ponder, and my dad remet a classmate he hadn’t seen since the day he headed off to join the CCC’s during the summer after graduation. He got assigned to Oregon and initially was the camp cook near Grants Pass, just about 20 minutes West of where I’m typing right now. His fond memories of his experiences in Oregon are what led him and my mom to relocate to Medford in the spring of 1958 with their 5-year old. (The photos above are 50 years apart at the apartment I left in LA-when we went down to a family reunion, he gave detailed directions from the LA airport right to the apartment – try that even if you’re not blind!) During the next 16 months, we lived in a 16 foot trailer with convenient bathroom facilities just steps away until we moved into the house as I started first grade. I special have a special appreciation for indoor plumbing…

It was a poignant drive down our street tonight, a drive I’ve made 100’s of times. In the later years, my folks would be anticipating a return from college or a visit from Portland, and would be checking their clocks to see if I met my projected arrival. Pati is now living in the house which is a good feeling, but I know it doesn’t have the buzz it once did with kids running around on the ballfield during all seasons or in and out of the house at all hours. The Fowler house is like most of us as we hit our 50’s, still recognizable, but some things sag and others are the worse for wear. Things have faded except if you’ve allowed an 87 year old blind guy to make the color choice. If you ever fly over Medford at the right angle, it will be easy to spot the day-glo yellow house on the left.

Tomorrow we’ll all reconnect as Cody and his girlfriend Amy will be down from Corvallis where Cody just became an OSU grad and we’ll get to catch up with Vanessa & Kaden, and Sandi & Steve. Dad was always big on getting family together and if the topic of getting together with folks came up, he’d have his “lid” on and be out the door before you finished the sentence.. For tomorrow the sentence might begin with “Hep, now,Dude…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

We never know what tomorrow may bring
Which is why we like hope to eternally spring
It’s the best approach in dealing with stress
In which we usually can find some success
It’s all in “How One Perceives Everything”

On this “Lucky” Day of the Irish, (of which I can claim 25% heritage) I was reflecting on the difference in philosophy between those who rely on hope versus those who cast their lot with luck. “Hope” has become a buzzword in the recent political season but I think it could be a significant factor in helping us deal with the challenges with which we are currently grappling. Two Thousand years ago, we were reminded that three greatest virtues were “faith, hope, and charity (love) and the greatest of these is charity” Most people remember this quote using love, but the intent is on empathy, caring, and compassion for others, not romantic love, much to the chagrin of wedding planners everywhere. Faith is based in the present and is a belief in an outside power to determine outcome. Hope is future based and is a more optimistic mindset, encouraging one to seize opportunities though the choices made. Restoring a sense of hope in the midst of what seems like incessant “bad news” seems like an important early step to getting people to come up with new solutions. Einstein’s quote that “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”, is a good reminder that thinking differently can by itself change our perceptions of a problem and give us new options.

I’ve been reading about a number of people in the last few months that thought differently and changed the world. One is R. Buckminster Fuller (“Our power is in our ability to decide.” ), a 20th century architect, inventor, and visionary who promoted the concept of “Spaceship Earth” He came by his “transcendental” thinking naturally, as his great aunt was Margaret Fuller, a close contemporary of Emerson & Thoreau. He didn’t discover his purpose until his mid-30s when he was bankrupt and suicidal, having lost his young daughter to illness. He had an epiphany and decided to devote his life to an experiment, to find “what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity”. In the 1930’s-40’s he designed efficient cars and buildings including the famous geodesic dome (of which the Tacoma Dome is one of the larger examples). Portland Center Stage had a great one-man play about his life earlier this year. If you want to know more about him, check out the Fuller Institute ( )

The biography of Joseph Priestly (I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning...”), “The invention of Air” is a fascinating profile of a pivotal figure in the early development of America. An English theologian, political theorist philosopher, and inventor who became friends with Franklin, was much sought after for counsel by Adams, Jefferson and others. He can claim the discovery of oxygen and principles of electricity, the invention of soda water, and was the founder of the Unitarian Church. His life could be described as the hopeful exploration of scientific and spiritual principles

Two more shining examples of hope personified are Helen Keller and Victor Frankl. Helen Keller (“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.” “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”), although deaf and blind, her insights into the human condition continue to inspire.

Frankl believed that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." His experiences in a concentration camp formed the basis for his “Man’s Search for Meaning” which lead to his development of Existential Therapy, which encourages one to make new & healthy choices if desiring better outcomes.

All this rambling helps me remember the importance of choices in life and significance in looking forward to those choices. Restoring confidence in our current world is going to require people to step up and participate in new and different ways and I look forward to the adventure. “Good Night and Good.. Hope” -MTP

Friday, March 13, 2009

PI vs Pie


Sometimes a Friday and a 13 coincides
If one is scared, the result is he hides
But don't despair, rely on your pluck
Positive thinking will bring you good luck
Unless you are Roman and March has an Ides

Three point one four one five nine two
It's been around forever - it's not new
It appears everywhere in here and in there
Circumference divided by diameter, if you care
It's irrational I know but it's true!

It's lucky Friday the 13th for the second time in a month, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. March 14th is perfectly juxtaposed between a Friday the 13th and the Ides of March and is International PI Day as well. Though not well known, this holiday is deserved due to the unique nature of that famous mathematical constant. "Pi is strange because it's both an irrational number (its decimal expansion never ends or repeats) and yet the number is also transcendental (no finite sequence of algebraic functions could ever produce it)", states SF. physicist Ron Hipschman. The fact it is also Einstein's birthday adds an interesting bit of synchronicity. (Happy 130th B-Day Al!)

We've already been treated to National Square Root Day ( 03/03/09) but be sure to mark your calendar for the next occurrence on 04/04/16 (Mayans excluded) I'll be busy preparing for my 63rd birthday.

We plan on celebrating PI day with a gathering at Dorothy's to hold a masterminding session, a brainstorming /accountability process with a long and storied history. Popularized by Napeleon Hill in his 1937 book "Think & Grow Rich", it expands on the idea of a group of like minded individuals supporting each other in pursuit of personal goals.

Hill's definition is, "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony….No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind."

The acknowledgement of a "Higher Power", focused intentions of the group, and supportive accountability provide a good environment for goal attainment. This is much more successful that "New Years resolutions" or a To-Do list since it has a more consistent support structure. I've had great experiences during this century being involved in the MM process and I especially appreciate our current MM group.

Afterward, we'll celebrate with Pi(e) at 1:59 and play some cards during the afternoon. Maybe on Sunday I'll revisit a little Shakespeare for inspiration...

"No lean & hungry look" MTP

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ode to Mom

Sylvia Ponder wore many hats in her life
Mother, Gramma, great neighbor, friend, and wife
But the roles I will remember most
Were made of cinnamon and few could boast
Of a better use of butter on a knife.

Mother's Day is two months to the day away but March 10th is always a mom reminder. My mom passed away 15 (!) years ago today after a sudden stroke claimed her, at what with each passing year becomes the increasingly young age of 72. Evelyn Sylvia Silverness born October 9, 1921, parted her name in the middle, using Sylvia her whole life, as did her younger sister Agnes Eleanor. She was of hardy Norwegian stock, growing up with a brother and 3 sisters in NW Minnesota. She lost her father in 1931 in the midst of the depression but her mom and the kids continued to run the farm. We heard stories of early milkings and blizzards that would blind you between house and barn, and benefited from early skills she learned with abundant fresh homemade bread and cinnamon rolls, and the shrewd knack to stretch a buck during lean times.

Mom smiled a lot but rarely laughed although the Tilt-o-Whirl at the annual county fair seemed to unleash some girlish laughter. She didn't sing much, but possessed a fine voice during our occasional visits to church. She was an inveterate crossword puzzle fan and reader, particularly of Erle Stanley Gardner (who may have been born Stanley Erle), and Readers Digest and its associated condensed book series. Ironically, I think I got more of my introspective "pondering" style of personality and love of books from her side of the family. She tended to be quiet except when she was rooting for one of her kids or grandkids at a sporting event and her work behind the scenes to get things accomplished was common ocurrence. When I'd show up with a gang of college friends in town for a weekend of Shakespeare, a brunch for 20 would magically appear. She was as comfortable in high heels as rubber boots and could wield a gun or a hammer as easily as a needle & thread or spatula. She was proud of creating a home out of the bare land of the Agate desert in Medford when we impulsively moved there in 1958, and the trees and the yard are testament to her perserverance.

There are some people you don't notice or fully appreciate until they're no longer in your life and you realize their consistent impact. Knowing the joy she received from watching her grandkids grow, I regret she didn't get the pleasure of watching them and rooting for them as they journeyed to adulthood.

The last four days of my mom's life were spent in a coma, seemingly unresponsive though her grip was as strong as ever. I was on a Pacific Power corporate jet returning from a Utah budget trip when the on-board phone rang and said arrangements were made for me to fly directly from Portland to Medford by 5:00 PM. At 4:30, with my dad at her side, my mom suddenly sat up, smiled one last time as if seeing long-lost family, and then lay down and passed peacefully.

Thanks, Mom, for a lifetime of gifts...

You'll notice in the pictures above, the one constant thing is an arm around me - to me that's the perfect metaphor for my mom... A hug waiting to happen.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Vacation Concludes….

The time has come to return to our chosen vocation

We do so begrudgingly with little elation

Physicists have studied and know without seeing

That solid, liquid, and gas are 3 states of being

But we know only two, OnVacation or UnVacation

The last day of a vacation and the first day back in the "real" world always have a disjointed feel, so it's probably best that we lost an hour of sleep last night. We packed up, played grocery delivery person for John & Sally with our leftover food and took a leisurely drive to the airport. Since I was operating under the assumption we had a 11:30 hopper to Oahu, I saw no reason to rush our departure. Halfway there at 9:45, Mary questioned why her itinerary showed a 9:55 boarding time, and we realized why professional travel agents exist. A calm, grounded airport porter worked some magic while I rushed to drop the car off and he had us in possession of the last four seats on the 10:55 flight by the time I got back. We still had a two hour layover in Honolulu, so we ate our brown bag lunches and played a last pinochle game in the Islands for this year. Smooth flight and then a quick 30 degree adjustment to Portland weather as Merry picked us up. The cat hadn't given up on our return as he needed another heat source for a cold night's sleep. Aloha until another time..

There are many types of vacation, some yet undiscovered. Feel free to add your own…

Ad-vacation – Going someplace enjoyable while on a business trip

In-vacation – Praying for no rain

Man-cation – Usually involves golf, BBQ, and/or beer

Me-cation – A personal Mental Health Day

Medi-cation – Out-of-country travel for medical procedures

Play-cation – Fun 24/7

Pour-cation-Likely result of an Oregon vacation 9 months of the year

Ray-cation – In search of sun…

Sea-cation – An ocean get-away

Stay-cation –"Think Local, Go Local"

Suppli-cation – You just let go and relax

ZZZ-acation – Restful retreat and recreation

Friday, March 6, 2009

The S.P.A.M. Chronicles - Day 18

The vacation concludes with no sign of disaster
The pace seems to pick up and move a lot faster
We journey north toward the shores of Bali Hai
As our friends from Seattle, John & Sally sigh
Over the melodic musings of a slack key master

The final full day of our Hawaiian vacation comes to a close with an enjoyable slack-key guitar concert at the north end of the island. The morning was low key as Mary & Dianna finished up some last minute shopping and sightseeing with Merlin at the wheel. We headed out on our road trip at noon for about an 80 mile roundtrip and took the scenic route east and north. We revisited Anini Beach for some views and to stretch our legs and then checked on progress at the Princeville Westin Hotel which has been closed for major renovations since September. You usually can get great sunset views over the mountain called Bali Hai but we had no access and the clouds ended up thickening by days end. As we arrived in the town of Hanalei, the rain greeted us and kept us company as we drove 8 more miles to the end of the road to Haena Beach, the jumping off point for the hike along the NaPali coastline. We returned to Hanalei and dined at Tropical Taco where orders were placed for fresh fish tacos and “Fat Jack”s, a filling deep-fried burrito. Today’s concert was at the Hanalei Community Center. The largely famous and famously large late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, a sweet-voiced native Hawaiian ukulele player helped raise the money to fund construction of this wonderful gathering spot

Doug and Sandy McMaster have been performing on Kauai since they moved here in 1999 and performed 100’s of Sunset concerts at the picturesque Hanalei Bay until they became too disruptive. They now perform twice-weekly 2 hour concerts for 40-50 people and share music and stories of their responsibility to continue the tradition of old-style slack key guitar. As the skies opened up outside the Center, the sun was shining inside as we were treated to a wonderful and relaxing performance. John and Sally were able to attend with John’s daughter and son-in-law and grandson Gabe but were only able to stay for half the show as a 2-year-old’s priorities are sometimes different from those of the older folks.

We worked our way back toward home, pausing at a vista overlooking the Taro feils of Hanalei, with final stops at Wal-Mart and Costco to shop up and gas up respectively and then we wound down with a little ice cream and games until 10:00. Most of tomorrow will be a lost day of travel, especially since our clocks jump 3 hours ahead before we get up Sunday morning. It’s been an enjoyable and relaxing stay with plenty of good memories so we return home bearing gifts of “He mea waiwai loas, maluhia, pomaika’i, and luana” (very valuable things, peace, good fortune, & enjoyment) Mahalo -MTP