Archive for December, 2015

Ted’s Taxi Follow-up

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

Some time back, I wrote about a trip home from the airport that got detoured to Baraga in order to help out some stranded travelers. You can read about it here. One of the gentlemen happened to hand me his business card as we were leaving, and I stuck it up on my bulletin board when I got home, and sort of forgot about it.

The other day I noticed he had a gmail account on the card, so I spent a minute sending him an email asking how the rest of his trip went and if he made it back home to Lagos OK. I got two warning messages from gmail saying they were having trouble delivering the message, and figured that was that. But the other day, an email from him showed up in my inbox. It was one of the best Christmas presents I’ve received.

Dear TED,

I wish to on behalf of my colleague thank you immensely for your kind gesture for giving us a ride to our hotel. I also wish to inform you that we’ve enjoyed our stay in Baraga.

I was in Minneapolis in the year 2005 for World Veterinary Congress and attended International Feed Regulators meeting in Atlanta early this year, to be precise January. My Baraga visit is the most memorable moment of all my visits to US. I want to believe that the unprecedented gesture of yours was the foundation and the hospitality of the people of Baraga added a spice to the experience.

I once again wish to thank you on behalf of myself and Nigerian Government for the hospitality and warm reception while in USA.

Complement of the season and best of regards to you and your family.

You never do know what twists and turns life can take, but I’m just happy Alice and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to help these gentlemen out. It sounds like we may have scored a diplomatic victory for the United States to boot. I don’t think this sort of thing works for all people, because let’s face it, there are a lot of a**holes among us. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know, at least that is how I look at it.

Follow Your Passion

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

I just woke up an hour early from a vivid dream. For me, the sleep just before the alarm is the sweetest sleep of all, and I almost never have trouble sleeping right up to the alarm, no matter how close I am to it in the morning. But this time, try as I might, the dream kept replaying, so I decided to get up and write it down.

I was on some sort of bus tour, and wound up on a campus of sorts. Since I’ve long been interested in swimming, I found myself in a place with a large pool, and was swimming, diving, finding new sections of the pool that had huge doors that would open (underwater) to reveal other parts of the pool. I discovered a place where a class was being conducted. I was treading water along with 3 or 4 other students listening to a very fit man talk about swimming. I asked him a question, and he mentioned he was 78 years old. This man looked nothing like what you would think someone that old would be, and I told him so. He looked at me, and reaffirmed his age, and I instantly knew he was that age, and that following his passion had kept him young.

I swam away and found myself in a classroom situation, except the class was being held in the water. As I tried to find myself a place so I could participate with the class, I noticed one of my very good former student employees in a place of authority in the room, smiled, nodded, and moved on. I remember having to swim around large bundles of cables that snaked around this room (under the water!) but it didn’t bother me or seem to bother anyone else. In the next scene, I was clothed and walking around to one of the other buildings.

I walked into a room and saw another one of my friends sitting and talking to a guy, and noticed it was Steve Jobs he was talking to. I sat next to them both and Steve moved his attention to me. I asked him a question that seemed to interest him, and he looked fairly piercingly at me for a second (we locked eyes) before he started to talk. He spoke for just a short time before I noticed there was a long line of patient people waiting in line to talk to him, sitting there while I’d bumped the line and was hogging him. He just looked at me and wordlessly said it was ok, then asked me if I’d like a drink.

I said sure and we got up and led me toward a kitchen area. The ice machine was broken, and while we talked, he opened the bottom panel of the thing, grabbed what looked like a plastic one gallon bottle with a special fitting on top out of a cupboard, pulled the old bottle out of the machine, and proceeded to swap it out. I noticed there were lots of people wandering in and out of this area going about their business while Steve and I spoke. He was telling me this particular ice maker was the first one he had purchased, and now he had 3 more. He closed the access door having completed repairs on the machine. I said to him, “What about old hardware?” I meant to ask him about using old computing hardware versus buying the latest greatest. Without even looking at me he turned on his heel, said, “ask her” and walked away.

“Her” was a very young woman much shorter than me. She had granny glasses on, and was dressed like a young hippie would have, although there was nothing jarring to me about her appearance. I repeated, “what about old hardware?” and as she looked up at me she confidently launched into a very cogent answer to a vaguely worded question that she very clearly understood, and the answer she gave me completely nailed it in a very short time.

Next I realized it was time to get back on the bus, so I headed outside and over to a place near where the bus was loading. There were a lot of people trying to leave the place, and the area was a labyrinth of gates, tall fencing, and even some barbed wire. There was a busy road right beside this fenced in area. There were many people in front of my trying to get through a single gate to get to the bus. The person at the head of the line got tangled in the turnstile because she had a large shopping bag that got stuck. I looked at her and the possibility of me getting through this long line in time to catch the bus, and determined it was futile, so I turned around and looked for a better way to get through. There was none, and I quickly found myself back in the Apple Computer area, and became engaged in some project or another.

The next thing that happened is 4 people headed by the tour director walked up to me and said it was time to go. I smiled and said of course, and walked with them. The four of them surrounded me as we walked along to a large orange door. The tour leader opened the door and we were back out in the world with a clear path to the bus. I was smiling as were my escorts. The tour leader headed off on an important mission, as did 2 of the other 4, leaving myself and one young woman. We were walking along an alley that was clearly leading back to the bus. I turned to her and said, “I can’t go!” She gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. I started sobbing, backed up to a brick wall, and sunk to the pavement with my back to the wall sobbing uncontrollably.

She looked at me in horror and then said to me, “maybe I shouldn’t go either.” I told her, “go back,” and I could see that she understood, and was just turning to go back the way we’d come, when I woke up.

Magic Powder

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

A buddy and I were talking on the phone the other day, and he said something that stuck in my mind; if you have enough of anything, it can become a resource. While his statement didn’t make much of an impact on me at the time, I’ve since thought about it, and decided he was right.

We heat, cook, and produce hot water from wood all winter long. Making wood is a lengthy and satisfying project each year for us. When the woodpiles are finally full after some pretty hard work, and the air is scented with hard maple blocks curing, we feel like what we have is better than money in the bank.

magicpowderWood heat does have its drawbacks. It can cause the house to smell smokey, hot coals can fall onto the floor if one is sloppy, and it is messy; real messy.

When I cut and split the wood prior to stacking, I leave the chunks pretty large. The goal at that stage is to get them small enough to dry, but big enough so I’ll have big ones if I need them for an overnight fire. These chunks are carried into our entryway as they are needed and stacked in racks we’ve used for years. Much of this wood gets split inside our entryway prior to bringing it inside. Inevitably when these chunks are split, there are dribs and drabs of wood particles left over on the floor. Instead of just sweeping it up and throwing it away, we have instituted a shopping bag next to the wood rack where we store our “magic powder.”

This stuff burns really well. Sometimes I have trouble getting my fires going, and a handful or two of this lovely stuff added to the firebox will often trickle down to the bottom, find a hot coal or two, and before you know it, we have a cheerful fire burning.

Maybe we need to start taking a more critical look at our trash, and figure out ways we can utilize it rather than tossing it out. We’re often on the lookout for such opportunities, and the magic powder is one of our success stories.

Ted’s Taxi

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

We had a very nice weekend trip to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We left early (6:00!) Friday morning and arrived late (just before midnight!) Monday night. By the end of the trip we were both tired. We just wanted to go home and go to bed. It wasn’t meant to be.

While we were waiting at the Houghton County Airport for our checked luggage, a woman approached me and asked about a taxi. I said I didn’t know too much about taxis in the area since we lived here and always drove our own car to and from the airport. She briefly told me she had been routed from her destination of Marquette to Houghton due to a flight cancellation, and was trying to get a cab to Houghton to get a hotel room for the night. She’d already arranged a ride home to Marquette for the following morning.

I suggested she talk to the folks at the car rental desk in the terminal where we were waiting, and then moved my attention back to Alice. Being the sweetie she is, she suggested we give her a ride to the hotel in Houghton. I quickly agreed and looked around for her. She was standing about 6 paces from where we’d just spoken, and was sort of staring off into space… apparently not sure what to do. I told her we’d be happy to give her a ride to the hotel. She seemed quite relieved.

During all this, the overhead doors to the luggage area slid up and I found our suitcase. I told Alice I’d go start the car to warm it up, and she and our new friend could come out when they were ready. I was out there a long time, and eventually came back in to see what was going on. It seems our new friend’s luggage was no where to be found. Golly!

She was at the ticket counter filling out a form to get her luggage returned to her. At the other window were two distinguished looking men who were also looking for a taxi. The agent at their window was explaining to them something I’d read about just before we’d left last week. Our local taxi service had just shut its doors because they did not have insurance on their vehicles. There was no taxi to be had. To make things more complicated for our Nigerian co-travelers, they were here to attend a conference at the Ojibwa Casino in BARAGA! Apparently when they planned this trip back in Lagos, Nigeria, Baraga looked pretty close on the map to the Houghton County airport, so they spent 14 hours flying to the Houghton County Airport, arriving at just before midnight with 40 miles to go to their destination and NO TAXI.

I looked at them, looked at the grim looks on the faces the airport agents, cleared my throat, and said, “We’ll take you to Baraga.” So it was.

Our car is supposedly a 5 passenger vehicle, and we tested that theory for the next hour or so. We just managed to jam their luggage into the back, shoehorned our three new friends into the back seat, and with Alice as co-pilot, headed down the road. We told our new friend with the lost luggage we could take her to a hotel in Houghton, or that it might make more sense to ride with us to Baraga, since her ride was coming from Marquette in the morning, and this would put her much closer to home. The shivering men from Nigeria were not dressed for our balmy (32 degree) December weather. We tried to explain to them it would normally be much colder and a significant snow cover by this time of year, but I could tell they’d taken in about as much change as they could already handle, so we let it drop.

baragalakesideAs we approached Baraga, it become clear to all of us that due to the language barrier, these two gentleman may not have, in fact, booked their hotel room at the Baraga Lakeside. And we did not know whether there would be a room available for our Marquette friend. Alice and I said we’d walk into the hotel with them and make sure they all had a place to stay before we took off. As you can see in the smiles in this picture, it all worked out in the end. Although the Ojibwa Casino was still several miles away and with no clear idea how they were going to get there for the beginning of their conference the next morning, we felt we’d done all we could do. We said goodbye and pointed the car towards home.

As we were heading down our road at about 1:30 am, with the crunch of gravel under our tires, Alice turned to me and said, “travelling with you is always an adventure.” It was dark in the car and I couldn’t see her expression, so I took it as a compliment.