U. S. Capitol

February 24th, 2017

The first congressional district of Michigan has a new congressperson, Jack Bergman. I began to receive an e-newsletter from his office shortly after he was sworn in. In the first one, I saw, among other things, a “survey” which seemed biased in favor of right wing issues. So I printed out the newsletter, and in the white space left on the front and back, I wrote, with pen and ink, a response to that survey, suggesting that it wouldn’t gauge the true sentiment of Congressman Bergman’s constituency. This was put in a paper envelope and mailed to Washington. No response.

The second e-newsletter I received talked about the Affordable Care Act, which I am passionate about. Again, I penned and mailed my thoughts. Again no reply… until this morning.

It was a little after 10:00, and I had just finished giving Franco his medicine, food, and water. I was slicing some onions for one of my favorite breakfasts; taters and eggs, when the phone rang. The caller id said, “U. S. Capitol.”

The caller asked if this was Ted. Yes it was. He then identified himself as Gabe Hisem from Congressman Bergman’s office in Washington. I turned off the burner and sat down at the table. Gabe was responding to my letter!

He said he appreciated my letter and wondered if there were any issues I’d like to discuss with their office. Hoo Boy, yes there were. I started with the survey. I told him I had experience with surveys during my professional life at the university, and that the survey they published seemed designed to reinforce a right wing agenda. He explained the survey was a carry-over from Congressman Bergman’s predecessor, Dan Benishek. I thought it looked familiar 🙂

Next we talked about a town hall meeting in the copper country. Gabe said their office was aware we were interested in a town hall meeting, and that they are doing their best to schedule one in the near future. I pressed him, but that was the most I was able to get.

“However,” he said, “there are two upcoming phone townhalls planned for next month.” My ears perked up. March 7th and 30th at 7:00 pm the congressman’s office will host a conference call format where constituents can call in and express their views directly. Gabe asked me for my name and phone number, and said I’d be contacted as the dates grew nearer with the phone number to dial and code so I could participate. Score!

We also talked extensively about the Affordable Care Act. I requested and received contact information from this young man, who is a resident of the Traverse City area, BTW. If you’d like to call and express your views and/or request a slot in the town hall meetings in March, dial (202) 225-4735. Anyone should be able to help you, but when I call next, I’ll ask for Gabe. He explained that 11-1 is usually their busiest time, and that Fridays are usually quietest. There are times when all 4 lines are busy, though, so don’t give up if you receive a busy signal.

We may not make an impact on the thinking of our new congressman, but at least he won’t be able to say he isn’t hearing anything from his constituents. When I was in high school I remember learning how a representative democracy is supposed to work. Occasionally, it appears that it does.

Clenched Teeth

February 20th, 2017

Alice and I made a get-away trip to Chicago last week. We stayed downtown within walking distance of the Chicago Art Institute for 3 nights. This is approximately the same time of year we went last time, and it really works out well for us. The art institute is never empty, but it is far less crowded this time of the year, and especially so during the week. We got there early enough that if we knew exactly where we wanted to go, we could have a substantial amount of time all alone in some of the galleries.

I really enjoy these trips to the art museum. Steve Jobs said you should try, “…to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you’re doing.” The Chicago Art Institute is a good place to expose yourself to the best things humans have done.

As I wandered around trying to absorb everything, I found my shoulders getting tight and my teeth clenching. There is so much, and so deep, that after a while my brain goes into overload. That said, I often find that the things I remember best from the visit are from the times when I’m just on the edge of exhaustion.

Besides visiting the art institute, it is good for us to visit a major metropolitan area now and then. The diversity of people, lifestyles, food, clothing, and habits are refreshing. We live in a small enough community that we all get to know each other pretty well, and the surprises are limited. Back in Chicago, I was walking towards the back of the museum gift shop when John Lennon’s “Imagine” came on the shop’s sound system. I was grooving to it as I was walking when I saw one of the clerks dancing to the music. I smiled and struck up a conversation and learned she was born in Scotland, and raised in Uganda and Kenya before coming to the US. Her use of the language was excellent, and she was very knowledgeable about her topics. It made me grateful I’d stopped and smiled and said hello.

We are so fortunate to be able to live in a place where we can stretch out and cherish the natural world, but after only a 7 hour drive, engage with one of the world’s great cities. And now that we are retired we have the time to do it now and then. I’m already thinking about what I’d like to see next time.

Good Joints

February 6th, 2017

About a week ago, I stopped postponing a trip I’ve been wanting to make, got the bus ticket online, cajoled my surprised wife into dropping me off at Michigan Tech at 10:30 pm, and settled in on a very cold bench in a Plexiglas shelter on campus. The bus was scheduled to leave at 11:02 pm, so I had plenty of time to sit and think about things.

A young male walked up to the shelter after I was there for a few minutes, and asked me if this was the right place for the bus, and what time I thought it might arrive. He was smoking a cigarette while we talked. After the pleasantries, he asked me if I’d watch his duffel bag for a few minutes. I said sure and he walked away. He was gone for quite a while. I was thinking I might like to walk around a bit myself, but I had to stay and watch his luggage for him.

He did come back in plenty of time for the bus. My efforts to engage him in a conversation led to fairly short answers. He had a cigarette going most of the time we sat together. His speech was quiet and slurred enough that I had to listen carefully to be sure I understood what he was saying. He sat on the bench next to me, got out his smart phone, and scrolled around silently while we waited. I did glance over once and looked at his face. He had the look of someone that has smoked a lot, and I doubt he was 20 years old. Since it is a habit of mine to look for stories, I spun one for this young man.

The story I made up was this young man wanted to be cool and starting to smoke when he was young. He quickly and firmly became addicted. There were probably other drugs in his repertoire. He looked lithe and slender, but his posture indicated to me that he did not exercise methodically.

As someone in his mid 60s who has become limited physically due to bad knees, I secretly envied the young joints this young man possessed. I really wished I could have had a conversation with him about choices he was making, but in the couple of minutes left before the bus came, I decided not to start anything. If he would have listened to me, I’d have said a few things:

“I firmly believe your body is your most important possession. And just like any piece of equipment, it needs good care if it is going to last. You have your whole life ahead of you, are an adult, and the decisions you make today will ripple through the rest of your life. Especially decisions that might result in addiction.

Be skeptical of any bad habits you observe in other people that can lead to addiction. Make an honest assessment of your potential for addiction, and the higher the potential, the more careful you should be.

On the other side of that coin, look around at your friends for examples of positive habits. While not as addictive as some chemicals, good habits will serve you well once you get them under your belt. Here are a few to chew on:

eat good food,
drink lots of water,
read and/or experience something that challenges you every day,
cultivate friendships with people you admire, and be a good friend to these folks,
get enough sleep to keep yourself healthy,
make being active outdoors an important part of your life,
choose your life-mate carefully, and cherish that person,
establish an exercise regimen that both keeps you fit and looking good.”

Not very exciting I’ll admit, but if you make an effort to lift yourself up instead of corroding those good joints, yours might just last longer than mine.

Fake News (Part 2)

January 22nd, 2017

The 2016 maple syrup season was unique, in that life intervened at the end of it, forcing us to shut down more sloppily than other years. I like to get things cleaned and put away soon after the last tap is pulled, so I’ll be ready for the next season. I did get my buckets and lids in the basement early on, but unfortunately they sat until today.

I’d been playing a phycological game with myself for the past many months.

“Tomorrow”

“Come on Ted, how bad can it be?”

“etc”

The more I tend to put things off, the bigger the wall becomes keeping me from getting started. So they sat and waited, patiently, in the basement, mocking me each time I walked by. And once I put my Muck Boots ™ on (the floor in the basement is cold this time of year) ran the water, and started working, the job was completed in a couple of hours. I had to scrub harder due to the elapsed time, but that was my punishment.

I have a couple of habits when I’m doing relatively mindless repetitive tasks. Franco helps with the first one… he brings his rubber ring over, lays is on the ground hopefully in front of me, and stares at it with a slow tail wag. I kick the ring for him numerous times during the session, and to date, I’ve never managed to tire him out.

The second habit is to grab my Bluetooth speaker, pair it with my iPod, and listen to some podcasts while working. For a guy that can typically only manage one thing at a time, I sometimes surprise myself by keeping these three juggling balls in the air at once.

The project was moving along well. My rubber gloves kept a reasonable seal. I changed my water/chlorine bleach washing solution often, and the clean buckets gleamed as the finished stacks grew. I was listening to “This American Life ™ when an episode came on titled, Tell Me I’m Fat.

I listened to this podcast with great interest, since I’d just written a piece in my blog about the obesity epidemic. What I heard changed my opinion about the previous piece I wrote, and made me hope I hadn’t offended anyone with the ideas I’d expressed. The point I’d tried to make was that many of us are overweight because our bodies had evolved needing more exercise than many of us currently get. I still believe this to be true, but I regretted the edge the piece had to it… that overweight people were the way they were because of some fault of their own. It was not what I meant to say, but I’m afraid it may have came through in the piece.

A couple of things struck me about the This American Life ™ episode. One statistic stuck in my mind, “Fewer than 1 in 100 obese people get thin and keep it off, according to one recent study, which tracked over a quarter million people for nine years.” A woman was interviewed for the program was in that group of people that have kept the weight off. She explained that phentermine (an amphetamine-like drug) had helped her with the original weight loss, and that she still took them “…for a few months at a time a year, or sometimes it feels like half of the year.” So among the few that have kept the weight off, the price at least one of them must pay is a long term addiction to drugs.

I finished the episode confused and unhappy. And I felt determined to share a belief about psychological well being. Try to start each day with a goal of something doable that you hope to accomplish. End each day by taking a look at what you’ve accomplished, and pat yourself on the back. “Good job, tomorrow is another day.” We all have things we could improve in our lives. Some of our problems are obvious, some not, but everyone has room for improvement. These things happen in numerous small steps. Be your best cheerleader for the steps you make in the right direction, and never quit trying to make that next right step.

Fake News (Part 1)

January 18th, 2017

Here is a fake news article:

You People Are Too Light!

Statistics gathered for the 2010 census declared that about 1/3 of adults in Houghton County, Michigan, need to gain some weight. Local physicians have been hounding their patients to no avail:

“I told Dean he needs to spend more time on the couch with his remote in one hand and the other hand inside a bag of potato chips. But he insists of biking winter, spring, summer, and fall. He only eats low fat, and just laughs at me when I tell him a good full bodied beer before bed would help him sleep better.”

“But Doc, if I have a headache in the morning, I may not be able to do my 3 mile treadmill before my flax and oatmeal hot breakfast.”

Local doctors are exasperated and some claim they may seek other professions due the stress of seeing such healthy people for their annual physicals.

Now for the real news:

Over 1/3 of all adults in Houghton County, Michigan are obese. Of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, 6 have a component in obesity. Unless you smoke, probably the best thing you can do for your health is to lose weight.

But how? Weight gain/loss is a factor of two things, exercise and diet. I grew up in a suburb, and can attest to the lack of physical exercise available. You drive everywhere you go. When you are too cold, you turn up the thermostat. You buy your groceries at the market. Entertainment is delivered to your home.

Life here in the country is a bit different. During the summer we are outside a lot working in gardens, cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood for the next winter’s heat, cutting grass, walking, and all manner of physical activities (yes, those activities include swatting mosquitoes.) Winter sees snow to be moved, firewood to be carried, roofs to be shoveled, ashes to be dumped, and dogs to be walked. If we owned farm animals, the physical chores would increase.

Come spring, the most physical season of all, maple syrup time arrives. Much of it is on snowshoes in the early part of the year. Some years the snow leaves early and the walking is easier, but some years there is snow to the end. There are buckets to empty into the storage barrel, firewood to carry, specific gravity to be tested, and finished product to be carried out of the woods.

I’m suggesting a couple of things. The old model of factories surrounded by suburbs is rapidly becoming outmoded. Many jobs can be done from home. Homes could be spread out such that some acreage would be available. Firewood could be grown and harvested sustainably. Food could be grown in gardens and a few farm animals could round out much of a family’s diet.

Like a lot of people, I’d sure rather just stay inside and rest all day. But when there are outside chores to be done, I’ve found that once I’m outside, one thing leads to another and pretty soon my heart rate is up. I get addicted to the flavor of our own squash, green beans, dried tomatoes, and garden onions. Besides the flavor, there is the satisfaction of knowing we’ve done a lot of it by ourselves.

Humans are smart. We can do a better job designing the communities we live in. Some communities are already bike and pedestrian friendlier. Let’s figure out a way to live that encourages us to get outside and sweat a little. It would probably do most of us some good… except for Dean.

Jump Start

January 13th, 2017

We just got home from a very nice 5 day visit with Steve and John in West Virginia. We flew from our local airport to Pittsburgh, rented a car, and drove about 1 1/2 hours to their place. I’ve rented a lot of cars, so know most of the drill when it comes to the questions they will ask.

“Do you want additional insurance?”

“No”

“Would you like us to fill the car up with gas for you, it is only $40?”

“No thanks, I’ll bring it back full.”

“Would you like to rent a GPS?”

“No, we brought our own.”

As the clerk went down her list, I had the feeling she wished I’d be answering differently. I think they earn bonus money when they sign you up for these unnecessary options. By the end of our interaction, she was not at all friendly or helpful. Sometimes that is the way it goes.

Our drive down was uneventful, and we had a very nice visit. What had seemed like a pretty long holiday when we planned the trip ended very quickly. Our flight home from Pittsburgh was to leave a little after 7:00 am, so we set our alarm for 3:00, got up and going with well practiced efficiency. (Hint: if you’d like to consult with an expert in packing up and getting ready for a trip, contact Alice.)

We left extra time because of our background travelling the roads in the unpredictable UP of Michigan weather. Although it was pitch dark this time of the morning, the roads were clear and dry and we made good time. At about 5:00 am, about 10 miles from the airport, we spotted what looked like an open gas station, so we pulled off to gas up. I made a mistake coming off the interstate, and wound up driving away from the gas station. Our GPS, as they will do, was yelling helpful suggestions about how I could get back on the interstate. I was trying to find a place to turn around, and none were presenting themselves. In the middle of all that, it started to rain, and it took me a minute to find the wipers on this rental car. I was getting rattled.

We did turn around and get the GPS turned off. We found an open gas station in a pretty seedy setting. As I pulled in, a fellow at the pump next to mine looked up and stared at me. Thanks to the little arrow next to the gas indicator on the instrument panel, I realized I was on the wrong side, so swung around and parked at the pump. As I was filling up, the fellow next to me walked over and very politely asked if I could give him a jump.

If you are like me, you like to get to the airport plenty early, get rid of the checked baggage, go through security, and find the correct gate. Once that has been done, little can conspire to keep you from your destination. The last thing I wanted was to get sidetracked in a stressful time. I told the guy this was a rental and I wasn’t even sure how to open the hood (true.) He seemed close to panic but was very polite and quiet. He explained, almost in a whisper, that the people in the cashier station said they could not help him. I walked up to the cashier to get my receipt for the gas, and determined that the people in the booth were probably not capable of jumping a car. By the time I got back to our car, I’d made up my mind.

“Let me just open my hood to see what side the battery is on,” I told him. Once I figured it out, I pulled the car around to face my new friend’s car. He had a cheap set of jumper cables. He hooked up his end and I hooked up mine. He tried to start his car. Nothing but sparks.

One quick word to the wise. When a car battery is completely discharged and you put a lot of current through it, it can explode unexpectedly. It doesn’t go off like a bomb, but pieces of plastic and drops of battery acid can fly around. It is preferable to stand aside as the driver is cranking his engine.

He tried several times but all we got was sparks and smoke. A sure sign this poor fellow had very dirty battery cables. The clock was ticking. My friend was sweating bullets. I walked up to the car and tried finding a better ground connection in the engine compartment. No good. I tried pinching the jumper cable clamps with my hand and rotating them on the battery terminal to clean off the gunk and come up with a better connection. Nothing, nothing, then vroom! “Yay!” I said. My shy friend, whose car was now running, was grinning. “Thank-you,” he said over and over. “You are most welcome,” I told him as I removed his cables and closed the hood. We were on the road a few minutes later, none the worse for the wear.

We made it to the airport with time to spare, got checked in with only the normal amount of hassle, and found our gate. As we were relaxing, we looked at each other and felt like our troubles were over. And they nearly were. An ice storm in Chicago delayed our arrival home by 3 hours, but we met some very nice people as a result of the delay. I hope our new friend didn’t shut his car off the next time he filled up with gas.

Fire Watching

January 6th, 2017

This morning, while attempting to get through my morning chores, I caught myself just sitting and staring… probably for a pretty long time. When I came to, I felt like I’d awoken from a trance.

It was below zero outside when we got up this morning, so my first order of business was to get the fires going. I started with the kitchen stove, and soon had the cedar kindling cheerfully crackling. Then I moved on to the big Jotul stove that sits in the center of the livingroom. We usually don’t run the big Jotul unless the temperature is below the mid 20s. It had a fire all last night, but there were just a few coals left, so I had to split up some kindling and some hardwood into small slabs, and pile them criss-cross on top of the coals. Then I did something else for a few moments. When I returned, I blew on the coals, and the flames erupted. That is when I zoned out.

The big Jotul has a glass door which, while not perfectly transparent, does allow a view of the fire. And what a view it is. Ever since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed watching fires. But when the house is cold and your feet are close to the fire, there is something extra special about just sitting and staring at the flames. When I recovered from my trance, I wondered how far back on my ancestral tree we have been doing just what I was doing, watching the flames.

You’ll notice I was not alone at the hearth. I think if anything, Franco likes the fire more than I do. Tonight his head was almost touching the stove. I felt him just to be sure he hadn’t burned his brains out, but he just whapped his tail a couple of times to tell me all was well.

I wonder if anyone has patented fire therapy? I would think that watching a fire, especially when it is cold outside, would be a cure for any and all known maladies.

Moving While You’re Young

January 1st, 2017

I forget the exact number, but in the first year or two we were married, Alice and I moved many times. We were dandelion seeds bouncing over the terrain, looking for a place to put down roots. In 1975 I got accepted for an undergraduate program at Michigan Tech, so we moved to the Copper Country. We knew Alice’s parents, who had recently retired to nearby Pelkie, but were completely on our own when it came to people our own age.

I had a fortuitous encounter while doing my laundry at a laundromat in Hancock. It was shortly after we arrived, and I was busy with soap, quarters, and shuffling damp loads from here to there. A guy about my age walked in who turned out to be the facility’s mechanic, and started working on one of the machines. We were pretty much alone in that big place, so we started talking. It was Ken Steiner.

Ken knew who Buckminster Fuller was, understood about tipis, yurts, natural foods, living in the country, The Whole Earth Catalog, etc. I came away from that encounter feeling like we’ll be ok here… that there are kindred souls.

And we were ok. After I received a couple of undistinguished degrees, we both wound up with careers at MTU that lasted as long as we both wanted. We found enough acreage within commute distance from MTU so we could both work on our dream of life in the country, while maintaining our jobs and raising our son.

Ken and I had sparse contact in the intervening years. Ken got into food service and was very good at it. Like me, he found a community outlet in volunteer work at Little Brothers. Ken did way more than I did, but we both wound up as lead chefs at our respective meal sites. Ken played the blues harmonica; a skill I admired him for.

Ken learned about his heart problems a few months ago. This culminated in an open heart surgery in Marquette that would save his life. He went through the surgery with the grace of a dancer. He posted pictures on Facebook of a tired man that was well and truly on the mend. This morning we learned he lost that battle. I miss you Ken. You showed me there was fertile soil in the neighborhood for a misfit like me. My roots run grateful and deep, thanks in part to a helping hand from you early on.

Repair – Within Limits

December 29th, 2016

It is no surprise to anyone that knows me when I admit I am a sentimental slob. I am fiercely loyal to all the creatures in my life, but it goes beyond that. Some of the most memorable times in my life are the trips I’ve taken, especially backpacking trips. In the backpacking world, your body is your most valuable asset, followed closely behind by your gear. If your gear lets you down, the trip can quickly deteriorate from something pleasant to pure torture. I expend a great deal of effort finding the right gear, figuring out how it works, and taking good care of it.

The daypack pictured on the left was purchased more than 20 years ago. While it isn’t the pack I’ve used to haul all my gear on my backpacking trips, it has been my constant companion up to and after the trailhead. It has been sent back to Kelty ™ several times to be repaired, and at least twice to fix the shoulder strap. Half the weight from that strap is transferred to the backpack in a seam near the bottom. The seam started to fail on one side. I tried to fix it with my speedy stitcher, but it didn’t hold. I tried to explain to Kelty that they needed to use strong thread to fix that seam, they ignored my advice, used whatever black thread that happened to be in their machine at the time, and it broke again almost immediately.

As the years went by and the seam got weaker, I began to baby the pack for fear the seam would fail completely. Neither the pack nor I were happy with this situation. Enter Google. I typed in “backpack repair” and found Rainy Pass Repair in Washington State. These folks specialize on backpack repair, and once I sent them a picture of the pack along with a detailed description of what I wanted, we began an email conversation that convinced me this job would finally get done correctly. The cost, however, would be a few more dollars than I’d originally thought. No, a lot more dollars; about 200 of them as a matter of fact. The original bid was about $40 plus shipping. Once it was in their hands, they gave it a good going over and found several other seams that were weak or broken. So I kept saying go ahead, and go ahead they did. I got my old buddy back almost as good as new, and I supported an organization that feels, like I do, that good quality gear deserves some expert care now and then.

Which brings me to my Carhartt ™ jacket. Talk about some gear that has been with me on my adventures! This jacket is my constant outdoor companion for 6 months of the year. When I pick it up and toss it around my shoulders to go outside, two entities mesh into one. The thought, “I can’t do that job right now because I might get dirty,” never crosses my mind. As the years have rolled by, various abrasions have opened up to the point that I was getting afraid I’d hook the jacket on something and cause an injury. Looking at the extent of the damage, I decided that its useful life had ended, so I asked for and received a replacement for Christmas. Fortunately, the hood from the old jacket snapped right on to the new one.

This new jacket is stiff, of uniform color, and as yet does not conform to my torso. That will change over the years I’m sure. I kept my old jacket around so I could get one last picture of it for this post, but after today, it will live out the rest of its existence in a landfill somewhere. Makes me feel like I’m abandoning an old friend.

Bridge Burning

December 2nd, 2016

I think one of the most important habits I developed early on is tongue-biting. I get into tense situations with people just like anybody does, and am sometimes tempted to destroy these people with my great intellect(ha!) I call this “bridge burning,” because, in my experience, once a person is insulted, especially publicly, they will likely associate hard feelings with the insulter for a good long time. I’ve been tempted to relax this prohibition on occasion, with the rationale that I’ll never see this person again, so why not just let ‘er rip? Then, sometime later, that person has been reinserted into my life, and in a position where they could help or hurt me. Had I have burned this bridge, the outcome of that later interaction could have been much different.

Alongside this habit of mine lurks a couple of character traits. I do not tolerate betrayal well, and I hate to waste things. Which I think partly explains the disdain I have for junk mail. Whenever I’m asked, I always say do not add me to any catalog or other paper mailing lists. ALWAYS. Yet I get a lot of junk mail. When a piece shows up, I do whatever I can to get my mailing preferences changed so I’ve seen the last of it. And living in a world of forests, I’ve seen the aftermath of hardwood pulp logging, the kind of logging necessary to produce the glossy paper that is often used in junk mail. It is not pretty my friends. Particularly up in the Keweenaw where the harsh weather coupled with thin topsoil makes trees grow very slowly. I’ll be driving past a place that was once a thriving forest ecosystem, and see what looks like a bomb has gone off. Perhaps the logger was able to make his monthly payment plus a few dollars as a result of this day’s work, but the aftermath will take decades to heal.

With all this in mind, you can imagine how I may have felt the other day when I opened the mailbox and found a junk letter from the SETI Institute. I support these folks annually because they produce a podcast I really like called, “Big Picture Science.” It seems that they misinterpreted my wishes when I started sending an annual donation, and started a mail campaign to get me to up the ante. The first time a letter arrived, I sent an email asking to be removed from their list. I don’t recall getting a reply. A few weeks later, another envelope arrived. My blood pressure went up.

I came inside, sat in front of the computer, and composed a somewhat snotty email saying that if the junk didn’t stop, I’d reluctantly rescind my annual donation commitment. Now we aren’t talking about big bucks here, and knowing how under-staffed some of these non-profits can be, I really didn’t know whether I could expect to receive a reply from them. Within an hour or so, to my surprise, the Senior Astronomer and host of the podcast emailed me telling me he was working to get to the bottom of this problem. My blood pressure declined about 10 points. I was eventually directed to the person in the organization who is responsible for fund raising; a woman named Anne Dimock.

Anne sent me a lovely email saying she was sorry for the confusion, and had coded my membership record so I would no longer receive any further mail from them. Problem solved! Her last sentence said she’d seen a reference to my blog in the email I’d sent to her, and that as an ex-Minnesotan, enjoyed reading it. My blood pressure declined again as a smile spread across my face.

We exchanged a few more emails, and learned that we shared an appreciation of Garrison Keillor’s work, and that each of us had interacted with him in interesting ways. Then she told me, “…I too am a writer.” She went on to explain she’d convinced Garrison to write the cover blurb for her book, “Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust”. I wound up reading the introduction to her book on Amazon, and buying her book for my tablet.

So, SETI sent unwanted mail to my address. Rather than burning a bridge, I wrote an only semi-snotty email to these folks. As the situation developed, I made a connection with a very nice person that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I’ve already learned an important lesson from the forward to her book: if someone goes to the trouble to make you a pie from scratch, NEVER scoop out the insides in order to avoid eating the crust. Never!