Friday, October 27, 2006

Unintended consequences of the obesity epidemic

Friday, October 13, 2006

New photos

Check out the links below for new photos from a recent family gathering and, of course, pictures of Jon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New poem

I wrote this poem for a class, but had written about the incident it's based on in journal form a few years back. I was the first on the scene of an accident along I-90 when I was a reporter for the Beloit Daily News. I was coming back from my daily trip to the Rock County Courthouse in Janesville when my boss called and said there'd been an accident. I was there moments afterwards and beat the rescue, fire, and police crews. I saw the dead man, saw his dead gaze upon the lit up can of chili. Every time I drive by that spot I think of him, and think how indiscriminate death is, how tenuous life is, and how the smallest of decisions, such as not wearing a seatbelt, can kill you.

Post Mortem

He died on the median
His eyes open
His last vision
A lit up can of chili

Hormel (with beans)
With a red-lit frame that
Lightens on a track
Builds to red and recedes
To black

Life and color still
In his eyes
His skin
Gapers slow to see
A Hispanic face
A wisp of a mustache

Broken and bloodless
Thrown on impact
An overturned truck
So...far... away.
Bleeds fumes and waves

The workers talk
And smoke
The flares go out
Traffic unsnarls
Shards swept up
The ambulance drives away slow

And the red-lit frame
Builds and recedes
Hormel chili (with beans)

Friday, October 06, 2006

The sombrero's in the ring

The past few weeks I've been jonesing for some mountains. I have not backpacked in almost two years, since a weekend trip in Olympic National Park just after a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in 2004.

Since then, a whole slew of changes have occurred in my life -- school, teaching, and the double whammy of fatherhood and divorce.

But I still have the gear, the legs, the desire, and available credit.

This morning I plunked down $200 for a round trip flight to Tucson. My plan is to hike the Arizona Trail from the Mexican border at marker 102 in Coronado National Memorial as far north as I can in the time allowed. My flight leaves Dec. 14 and returns Jan. 13.

This decision is difficult for many reasons: (1) I feel bad spending this much time away from my son. He may start walking or say his first words in my absence. That would/will suck. Plus, I miss the boy dearly after only a day apart. (2) The trip, while cheap compared to most vacations (no motels and avoidance of civilization as much as possible), is still going to be deficit spending, which I hate to do. (3) I haven't backpacked alone in over four years, and have only done it once. This activity is something I strongly associate with Esther because we love to hike together, so it will be tough to do it post-divorce without her. (4) This also means I will probably spend Christmas and New Year's alone. I did this last year for the first time, to mixed results. Christmas alone was fine. It felt more true to the meaning of the holiday because I spent the day in quiet contemplation . But New Year's sucked, partly because it's my wedding anniversary too.

This decision is easy because: (1) I'm long overdue for adventure. (2) I need to get the hell out of DeKalb, especially over winter break. All that downtime without something to do or someone special to spend time with would send me into a deep, depressive funk. (3) Did I mention that I love mountains? (4) Did I mention that I love desert almost as much? (5) I will still get paid every couple weeks over break, so my finances won't be crippled from not working. I love not being an hourly employee. (6) I would probably spend more money at home because holiday obligations tend to demand that of a person.

I will use Dave Hicks' Arizona Trail ebook, available at: as a trail guide. There is an official guide available through Amazon, but one of the user comments says this book is out of date and Hicks' site is more helpful.

I also plan to get maps through the Arizona Trail Association and supplement them with USGS survey maps printed off

I may have to rent a car and cache water through particularly dry spots, but will avoid this extra expense if possible. I may also have to mail myself food, but will try to buy as I go, again to save extra expense.

My friend Dave Long has promised to give me one of his older GPS units for about a year now. I will press him for it, or buy one if he gave it away to someone else (which I doubt, Dave is good on his word). But I prefer to use a compass and maps because electronic things break.

And although I intend this to be mostly a solo journey, I am open to hike with anybody who wishes to join me for a few days. Because I am doing all the planning, it could be a good opportunity for a novice to get a taste of the backpacking life or to reunite with old trail friends. I hope Tucson resident McGruff, an old AT buddy who visited us on the PCT as well, has time during that month to join me for a stretch.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New Robert Frost poem discovered by grad student

You never know what cool things you'll find at the library.

Jo Nathan

Jon Allen update. Stardate Oct. 5, 2006.

The lil' piker's almost 10 months old.

Crazy how time flies. Tempus fugit. Fergedaboutit?

He's a willful child. He wants what he wants and is stubborn about it. He also has major separation anxiety from his mother. If she leaves the room for even a moment he cries and whimpers. I can distract him with a song or introducing a new toy. Esther did some reading on the common phenomena and discovered it is better to say goodbye to him and let him know you're leaving. In the past, she's snuck out to avoid the drama and tears. That's not so good, she said, because then baby never learns that leaving is a normal thing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, separation anxiety is common in babies between 10 and 18 months, and then fades in intensity after that.

He loves to wave and point. He often curls his wrists as if he's getting ready to play the piano.

Speaking of music, he is entranced by my guitar playing and reaches out to play along. When I put the guitar in reach he strums it and tries to pluck the strings.

Jonny weights approximately 24 pounds. He likes to eat. The latest new food is potatoes. It's a little thicker in consistency than what he's used to, but he's learning to chew it a little longer than most foods. He can drink out of a sippy cup on his own, but is still more miss than hit.

He has the strength to crawl, but prefers to roll and tumble after an object placed out of reach. He loves boxes and balls, and attacks new objects by pouncing on them with both hands. He also prefers to stand up and loves to play peek-a-boo. If I throw his favorite blankie over his head, he removes it, looks at me and giggles all wide-eyed and grinning.

He plays rougher with men than women. When I hold him close to my face, he beats at it with his hands. He also likes to pull on my lips.

He is very vocal at times, and enunciates vowel sounds like ba ba da da ma ma. He also loves to purse his lips and blow. Maybe he'll be a horn player like his old man. Often he does this when he's eating and sprays food all over the place.

Jonny hates to be dressed or undressed. He squirms and cries when being changed. He even hates it when a bib is put on him. He doesn't like to lay down, and if he turns over on his belly he'll cry and complain after a while until sat upright or standing. He also hates to have his feet covered. I'm the same way.

He still loves the outdoors. A trip outside cures him of the foulest of moods. He never stays in a bad mood long, even when going through the discomfort of teething. For the most part, he has a very sunny disposition and loves to meet new people and check out (i.e. taste) new objects.

Speaking of teeth, he has six teeth, with a seventh just about to burst through.

The only illnesses he's had are thrush and a bad cold. He had one bad night where he threw up a bunch of times. I'm to blame for the thrush. It seems the lad and I are welcome hosts for fungi.

He loves to throw a ball around. One of my favorite activities is an infant-modified game of catch. Instead of throwing the ball at him, I roll it his way and let him pounce on it. He prefers to throw with his left hand (Esther and I are left-handed), but I've seen him throw with his right. He loves to watch objects get tossed and has a good eye for following them in flight.

That's about it for now. I'm sure I could say more. I'm just thankful Jonny is such a healthy, happy baby. He smiles, bounces and claps with excitement whenever I see him. That just makes me feel all golden and fuzzy inside.

To quote Billy Bob Thornton's character, Karl Childers, in "Sling Blade:" "I love that boy, mmm-hmmm."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A virtual tour of my new home

I moved into my south First St. digs on Aug. 12. I'm still in the process of making it homey, but took advantage of a beautiful Sunday morning (and a clean place) to get some photos.

My kitchen. All the dishes are clean. Sunny bedroom windows.
East wall of bedroom with Andrew Wyeth and Monet prints.
View looking north from south wall.
View looking south from north wall.Living room windows (notice record player and records on display above).
This is a view in my living/dining room. The table and chairs cost me $15.

A view of my bedroom windows. If you look close you can see the cactus.

Sit down... Take a load off. The south side of the building.
This is the nice little bit of greenery I can see from my back porch (north side). This is my back porch screen looking into my living room.
This is the front (west side) of the building. I think it has 12 units.
This is a view of the lawn and garage on the east side. This is what I see out of my living room windows. I love the ivy and the flowers. I'm the only one who hangs out in the deck area.
A view of my money tree plant, some cacti, Ansel Adams pic and living room window.

I love this new place. It is so much quieter than Country Acres. All I hear is the tick of the refrigerator and sometimes (though not for long) the air conditioners. It's small, but perfect for my needs. All the other residents are either retirees or professional adult types. My age was a liability in my initial search for a roommate, but was an asset in being chosen for this place.