Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Introducing the newest line of O'Connor...Liam

On November 18, 2006 the world got just a little brighter. On that day, despite the common belief that it would never happen, I became a daddy. Liam John Hays O'Connor was born at 9:39 AM in Missoula's Community Medical Center.
Liam and his mommy were both fine and the little guy took to her right away.

The past month has been an unbelievable journey, both surreal and exhilarating at the same time. Liam is a good little boy; he sleeps, poops, eats and coo's in no particular order.

My mother and father were able to be here for the delivery and my brother and his girlfriend came the day after. So we had our first Thanksgiving together as a "recomposed" family, in our own house we bought together in October, with our new son and family all around. Pretty grand experience, that is certain.


When I catch my breath I will share some of our funny stories and my feelings on going from zero to family in 6 short months.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A dream realized


Montucky Recipe Corner

MTF Surprise

Ingredients:

3 Full Sarasota days (partly cloudy to sunny is best)
32 Finely manicured fields (with Frisbee central, gear central, first aid, food and beer tents)
60 Ultimate teams (using 16 mixed teams leads to the sweetest taste)
200 + Missoula Ultimate community supporters
7 Family & friend support crews on-site
26 Mental Toss Flycoons players (big smiles, big ups and hot defenders required)

Directions:

Start by nurturing free-spirited, athletic and Ultimate Frisbee loving players in the early spring to begin training (this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, so mix gently at this stage). Next, slowly add conditioning and some structure to the mix; blend well with Ultimate tournament appearances in Montana, Utah, Washington, Alberta, Wyoming and Oregon: for best results win as many of these as possible. While some recipes in the past have called for setting this mix aside, to get the real surprise, throw in some activities like parties, hiking and camping trips to remove any lumps. Now add a sectional win and a fabulous showing at regionals to get the Mental Toss Flycoons batter ready for the rest of the recipe.

Gather the players from Missoula, Helena, Cody, Edmonton, NYC and Jamaica and show incredible support (this often overlooked and never thanked enough component of the recipe is crucial) by helping to send them to the Sunshine state. Set them up in a team hotel near the ocean and allow the mix to bubble for 12 to 24 hours. In the early morning, while dew is still glistening on the Sarasota Polo Club fields, throw the team into the 16 team mixed division of the UPA championships; allow this mixture to be in contact with the other 44 teams playing in the Open, Women'’s and Masters divisions while the sun dries the dew...begin to stir in an intense fashion.

Now taste the fruits of your labor:


Missoula'’s Mental Toss Flycoons(MTF) team represented our town, our State and our section in a big way over the past four days, exceeding seed and coming within a hairs breath of making the championship bracket. In the topsy-turvy world of elite Ultimate, MTF managed to finish the season 11th in the country; not bad for a Montucky team predicted to finish no higher than 13th at the start of the tourney and predicted not to qualify at all by many in the Northwest region.

MTF was placed in what turned out to be the toughest pool to start the tourney, with both the eventual runner-up ("‘Slow White"’ from Boston, Northeast region #1) and 3/4 team as their first and second games of day one ("Gendors" from Santa Barbara, southwest region #2). The first game was against Slow White and they rolled us; of course we helped them immensely with 7 unforced drops and 5 throw-aways in the first half alone. They were disciplined, patient and used their talent well all weekendÂ…we were their appetizer. First game jitters, a slight wind and mental toss breakdowns ensued, allowing Slow White to hand us our worst defeat of the season, 15-6. Game two matched us against the #4 team in the tourney and one of the top teams in the country, Santa BarbaraÂ’s Gendors, a team loaded with talent. The first half was a complete opposite of our first game, with everyone clicking on all cylinders; amazing catches by Skyla Sisco, the darling of the tourney photographers, sick defensive plays and cool heads allowed us to go ahead 8-6 at half. After the break we came out strong, scoring twice more, the last score coming on a blade to go up 10-6;it looked as if we were ready to post a major upset. Alas, there was a good reason the Gendors were ranked so high and had been winning tourney after tourney all summer; they don'’t get rattled and they don'’t give up. With a chance to go up 11-6 we stumbled, allowing them to get the disc back and drive the length of the field to make it 10-7. They never looked back and we only realized later that we totally changed our game plan. Our player rotation tightened, we got nervous and they ratcheted up every aspect of their game on the way to a 15-1 run and a15-11 victory. It was a shocker but not a downer for this well mixed surprise. With one more game to play on day one, any other team might have simply mailed in the last game of the day to allow the tourney seedings to play out, but MTF is not any other team.

The last game of day one pitted MTF against Atlanta'’s "‘Rival"’, the #1 seed out of the south. Rival had two hard fought games and was also 0-2 on the day, so they were determined to hold seed. What they did not know was MTF was about to open up a can of Big Sky sumpin'’ sumpin'’ on them (USA, USA). I have to say this game was simply tremendous. Kerr "“I'’ve been sick as a dog but am on the upswing" Rasmussen was incredible and put on an athletic performance that was to be mirrored throughout the rest of the tournament. The team clicked, all the jitters were gone, the sting of the Gendors loss was put in the back of our minds (thanks to the ever present encouragement and positive attitude of all around all-star Fast Johnny McLean) and we showed those Peach city folks what mountain Ultimate is all about; gut, grit and determination. The first half was nip and tuck, back and forth with MTF breaking Rival and Rival breaking back but there was just a sense that we were in control. Rival has some amazing athletes, including a great core of women with serious disc skills, and it appeared to me they felt confident they would win the game, so it came as no surprise to me they began to melt down in the second half as our defensive intensity increased. In the end, we were way too much for them and pulled away to win the game 15-12 and finish our day 1-2 with a shot to fight our way back into the top 8.

The hotel was about an hour from the fields and many of the 1300 plus players and support people were staying on or near Siesta Key. The ride home that night was raucous, with various team cars passing each other, exchanging players, dancing at draw bridges and generally letting it all hang out,so to speak. MTF had a team dinner in one of the efficiency rooms (Pablo is a mean cook and the burritos were on the money) and everyone headed off for some much deserved rest. Because of traffic and travel time, we were up at 6:30 each morning ready to do it again.

Day two put us in the "“H"” bracket, reseeded as the second seed ahead of Minnesota'’s '‘Salsa Police'’, and Rival but behind New York'’s '‘Puppet Regime'’. The brackets allowed us to carry over our win from the day before, so we started the day 1-0. The Salsa Police had quite possibly the most obnoxious jerseys I saw in the whole tournament but this team was the eventual Spirit Award winner for the mixed division. We knew they were made up of some young guns, many from college Ultimate Mecca Carleton College. IÂ’m not sure what they expected, as they got to the fields late and seemed to be surprised by a team from Montana warming up, stretching and actually getting ready to play; it showed in the first half of the game, with us rolling, and I do mean rolling, to an 8-1 halftime lead. We were on top of our game and executed both our structured offense and our Markie Mark huck game. Despite a call from one of their captains to “show some pride”, the MTF machine just kept a rollinÂ' and we crushed them 15-6. This set us up to play our second Northeast team, Puppet Regime. ItÂ’s funny how nationals works, because despite the fact you can only have one winner, teams from pools, regions and other divisions all give each other tips and suggestions on how to beat other teams, rivals and so and so'’s from other pools or sections. Our game against Puppet was a fantastic game, with both teams fighting hard and desperate to climb back up the bracket. We both played huge downwind hucks and traded points through the first half. The second half started much the same way, with both teams trading break points but some incredible defensive plays by our ladies and stick to you like glue defense by Russ and Will allowed us to start to spread the game open. Puppet tried valiantly to counter our precision offense, but our defensive line never let up and we won the game 15-12 and the pool 3-0.

So there we were, exactly where we wanted to be and ahead of where all the prognosticators expected us to be. We were sitting in the pre-quarter final play-in game against the overall 8 seed, Tandem (the last place finisher of the spirit award if that tells you anything). All three of the other Northwest teams were cheering for usÂ…as a matter of fact everyone we talked to was cheering for us. It seemed Tandem came with a reputation for bad-spirited play. We heard they liked to huck and they showed it on the first play when they hucked deep to one of their tall dudes and he showed us what Tandem would bring by chasing the disc down and laying out the back of the end zone in an attempt to score; he was out but his effort set the tone. This was one of the better games of the tourney, in my opinion. The level of play was outstanding and we were able to amp up our game to match their intensity. Kerr and Nate, in particular, for the guys and Skyla and Kasi for the gals were just plain nasty on defense. Skyla matched her defensive efforts with superior offense. She was joined by Fast Johnny, James and many others who stepped up big in the game. As in the puppet game, the first half was true to form, with Tandem taking half 8-7. After a pep talk from the wise sage (Michael Faris) we actually came out strong and took the lead 11-10 and again at 13-12, but Tandem scored and then broke us off of a costly turnover to get to game point. At game point we decided to huck and the disc just barely went off the fingertips allowing them to work up the field and huck for the win. It was a devastating loss that knocked us from the championship bracket for good. The van ride back to Siesta key was not quite as eventful as the night before, but we managed to have a good team dinner and regain the feeling of why we were at nationals; to fight another day.

Day three, the final day of Ultimate for us, was placement day. We were two points away from being able to compete for the championship and all knew we'd probably have finished in the top 6 had we won the game against Tandem. This effect showed on us Saturday morning, as we came out of the gate slow against the central region #1 seed, flaming Moe. they were young and fast and our hearts weren't in it. To their credit, they had a sweet isolation offense and used the long game well. Despite our lackluster effort, we stayed in the game the whole way but lost 15-12 dropping us down to the 11-12 game against another central region team, this one from Chicago...Mr. Briefcase. this was a game for pride and we weren't about to leave Sarasota with a losing record. We trounced them, 15-5 and I was lucky enough to get a defensive block and the winning score on the final point.

Afterwards, we all had time to reflect and be satisfied that we went to Florida and faced the best teams in the country and competed well. We finished higher than seed, showed great ahtleticism and spirit and maintained our great feelings towards each other. A dream come true indeed.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And so begins another chapter...

Avid readers of "My Mind: Lifesized" (all three of you) have undoubtedly noticed the lack of musings from me this past month and further, a trend of longer time between posts over the past 6 months or so. I feel bad about that. Frankly, I feel bad because it's not as if life has stopped for me or thoughts aren't racing around my brain anymore, but life certainly has changed since February, that is for sure.

In my own mind I've always thought of myself as a free-spirited adventurer and at some point in the past decade or so I sort of gave up on the idea of settling into a life of marriage, kids and becoming a "consumer". I started thinking more in terms of my future as one filled with loads of solo travel and possibly even becoming a traveling vagabond. I imagined villages and trek's and late nights in new friends homes and ruins and becoming a culture sponge.

Well life is what happens when we're busy dreaming and planning what you want life to be...or something to that effect. So it goes with me. The past 6 months have been filled with life-changing events that have swept me along like a log in spring run-off. It's been scary, depressing, exciting and joyful...all at the same time. In February my life changed dramatically, when I began dating a woman who had been a friend for several years. It was a crazy strange time, as the woman was both still married (although separated) and worked with me (although part-time). Our fledgling relationship was set spinning in April, when we discovered that she was expecting. I still can't put into words the emotions and feelings I know we both experienced that day. Suddenly I went from being the quirky, single guy that had a reputation of not being able to commit to something as simple as a dinner party to being an expectant Dad.

The past 4 months have been an incredible and challenging journey. We've gone from friends to partners, we've decided to move in together, we've battled fears and overcome obstacles and are now looking to the future. She has two beautiful children and they have a committed Dad, so I'm busy trying to find a place in all their lives and discovering how to do that while respecting the role of her ex. Books help, advice helps, but so far it has been most helpful to go with my instinct. Incredibly, all my friends were 100% supportive from the beginning and my family has been unbelievable. It has helped so much to know that people care and support us, especially for her, since her life changed so rapidly and not everyone in her life supported her decision to end her marriage.

And so another chapter begins...today I sold my house and tomorrow I hope to put an offer in on a home that will allow us more space and a location that will work for all parties.

Stay tuned, things will get better and I will post more.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bye, Bye Appendix

I am home now,after spending the last two and a half days in various parts of Saint Patrick Hospital & Health Center here in Missoula. And with the help of a little Percocet (actually the generic equivalent as directed by my health plan), I am sitting at my dining room table while I wait for my pudding to set (liquid diet you know). Oh, the pudding is accompanied by prune juice and a stool softener (sounds fun, eh???). Earlier this afternoon Melanie and Jack Puckett stopped by to cheer me up with a Smith river scrap book and two great magazines.

The story goes like this...about a week ago I started feeling 'funny' in my gut but thought it was either something I ate or some kind of virus. The funny feeling slowly shifted to an uncomfortable feeling and by Monday night I left Ultimate Frisbee practice early 'cause I just didn't feel right. I was pretty crabby at work on Tuesday and couldn't sleep Tuesday night. On Wednesday I asked a nurse in the early AM what might be causing pain down in my gut and she immediately thought my appendix was on the fritz. This theory was soon confirmed by Rick and Karl who noticed "rebound pain" when they tapped my left side and I felt it in my lower right side...so off to the hospital I went(across the street) for a stat CT scan. An hour and half later I found myself laying on my back holding an enema in my boo-twa while a GE litespeed scanner said "breathe deep and hold" over and over. Holding the enema in was even harder due to the large cups of contrast liquid I consumed in the 30 minutes prior to the test. Afterwards I travesty back and forth between the bathroom and the waiting room waiting for the radiologist to read the scan...sure enough, I had appendicitis and was told I was heading over to day surgery straight away.

That was on Wednesday around 1:00 PM. I spent the next 4 hours working my way through the system, signing the requisite forms and meeting my surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the post-op care team. It was almost 'fun' since I know so many of the people who worked on me. Around 5:00 pm they popped a little Versed into the IV and the next thing I knew I was in a very nice single hospital room with a picture window view of the Bitterroot mountains and a whole team of nurses and techs at my service. I had compression hose on my legs and stockings underneath, designed to make sure no blood clots could occur. There was a cool self-administered pain pump which allowed me to pump some pretty strong narcotics into my veins every 10 minutes. I think I complied with the instructions and believe I watched quite a bit of TV but truth be told, I really don't remember much. I do know I had tons of visitors, which was quite thoughtful and I hope I seemed to appreciate their presence.

Wednesday night and Thursday morning are a bit of a blur but I do recall the surgeon drawing a picture for me showing where my appendix, cecum, colon and small intestine all intersected and then explaining how he came across a "mass" during the laparoscopic procedure to remove the little earth worm like appendix. The doctor was concerned enough with the inflammation and firmness that he removed a good portion of the cecum, had it sliced and frozen and sent off for analysis. Although this can sometimes be associated with colon cancer, he ruled it out (at least that is what I thought he said and he did confirm that for me today before discharge). Because he took out more than expected and because my body reacted in a way by essentially shutting off the poop machine, they decided to keep me an extra day.

The cecum test results haven't come back yet so I'm not exactly sure what all that means...my pooper has been percolating, which they tell me is a good sign that things will soon get back to normal. I have three incisions, one right above my tallywhacker (which is a bit bothersome as it sits at my waistline), one at my belly button and one sort of up and under my ribs...they all hurt quite a bit, but other than that and being tired and cranky as an old curmudgeon I seem to come out of this latest johhnyocasm all right.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. I hope to be heading to Indy next Friday for a quick three day visit with my family....as Paul Harvey says, soon you'll hear the rest of the story.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tester Time


I had pretty much forgotten all about active participation in a political campaign until last winter, when I met Jon Tester. Jon had announced he would be running in the Democratic primary in an attempt to become the candidate to face off against longtime Montana Republican senator (and huge Abramhmoff lackey) Conrad Burns.

Jon is not your typical politician, which is one of the things I liked about him right away. He is a farmer from Big Sandy, Montana...and an organic farmer at that. One of the first things I liked about Jon was his candor and demeanor. I soon found out he was a third generation farmer and that he had gone organic way before organic became cool or corporate...the chemicals were making his wife sick. I also liked how he conversed and his straight forward attitude. Jon is the kind of person you meet that you like immediately and can tell is a "straight shooter". He's served in the Montana legislature and has worked hard for rural Montanans.

Here is a link to his campaign home page. A friend of mine was heavily involved in the campaign and encouraged me to get involved. It has been a good 20 years since I worked on a campaign (Modissett in Indiana???) but I must admit, it was super fun to be part of. Last night it all paid off. I was at the Missoula Tester camp and Jon was there as the results started to come in and when Morrison conceded...it was an electric atmosphere with smiles and hoots abound. It was an amazing feeling to listen to Jon's speech after being declared the victor and to think about the campaign ahead to unseat Burns.

Awesome!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bozofest 2006

So this past weekend I headed over to Bozeman, Montana for the 21st annual Bozofest Ultimate Frisbee Disc tournament. Bozofest is always a super fun time, even for a Hoosier who grew up with the belief that Memorial day weekend was about two things, honoring those who died defending our country and the Indianapolis 500. When I moved to Missoula 4 years ago I went over to Bozofest and spent much of Saturday on the telephone with my Dad, getting updates on who was leading the race.

Missoula took two teams over to Bozo, the Flycoons and the Killer Bees. Both teams had great talent, with the team I played on (Flycoons) hoping for our second win in three years (we placed second last year). Saturday was quite possibly one of the most miserable days I've ever played Ultimate in, with temperatures in the high 30's to low 40's (F), constant rain and just enough wind to make your teeth chatter. Despite the weather, we had a great day, going 5-0 against teams from Minneapolis, Moscow/Pullman, Salt Lake City, Kalispell/Whitefish and Jackson, Wyoming. Despite the cold, there were smiles all around. Our team has some new players, who are pretty fast and very skilled, making old guys like me look even slower and older than before.

The tournament party was located about 30 miles west of Bozeman at an archery club near Buffalo Jump State Park. It was super fun. There was a great band, excellent food, a bonfire under the stars and loads of whacky games Ultimate players love. From what I heard, the party raged until 3:00 AM, although by that time I had been in bed for many an hour.

Sunday was a nice surprise, weather wise...the skies cleared and for a majority of the day we played under a mixture of cotton ball clouds and bright blue sky. Unfortunately for us, we lost to one of our main rivals, Salt Lake City, in the semi-finals 15-14. As if to voice her disapproval with the outcome, Mother Nature started dumping hail and rain again after our loss.

The second Missoula team had a great comeback day on Sunday, after losing too many close games Saturday. They fought their way through to win the consolation bracket.

Fun weekend!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good River, Dude

I am sitting in a hotel lobby in Helena, Montana's capital, winding down from a three week whirlwind tour of work and fun. Yesterday I moved from President - Elect to President of the Montana chapter of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) ...nationally there are 22,000 members, so now I am a true muckity-muck. I came to Helena on Tuesday, after arriving back in Missoula Sunday night from a 60-mile float trip down the beautiful Smith River. It was strange, having been on the river and in the wilds for 5 days, to turn back around and head over here and be "professional" again...I still have a faint "floating" feeling 5 days post river. The Smith River really is amazing, flowing between the Little Belt and Big Belt Mountains of Montana, through canyons and open spaces full of wildlife of all kinds.

As my friends and I said throughout the week, it was "good river, dude."

My friends Andy & Melanie Puckett have been trying to convince me for months that this would be a trip of a lifetime...and I am the kind of person who gets skeptical when I feel like someone is working too hard to convince me of why I am going to like something. So I entered Tuesday with a feeling of excitement but also wariness...after all, being a single man who enjoys his freedom entering into a 6-day trip where I had no control over anything was a daunting challenge.

We were slated to leave Missoula at 3:00 PM for the 4 hour drive to the Baker Camp put-in near White Sulphur Springs (WSS)...we left at 6:00 pm. Getting ready was a major chore, mostly for Andy & Mel who had to pack for their family and two bachelor's who had no clue what a river float down the Smith River would entail (Steve Larson came out from Providence). Mel, Andy, along with Pocatello, Idaho friends Tad & Paula Phelps, basically planned all the dinners & breakfasts and obtained all the cookware and other accessories that make a float a true experience. Andy strapped boats, packed coolers, arranged dry bags and prepared snacks as Mel crossed off her check list and gathered all the kids stuff. Our drive over was beautiful, even when we crested a butte only to see a huge snowstorm sitting right over where we were to camp. Arriving in WSS we happened upon Tad & Paula, their kids Megan and Julia and Steve, who flew to Salt Lake City, hopped a shuttle to Pocatello and then rode up with the Phelps clan...we ran into each other in the one gas station/casino in town. The attendent painted an ugly picture...it snowed twice that day and she predicted snow that night...ugh, thought I as we purchased night beers for the chill.

We sat our camp up in the dark and soon were joined by the final two in our party, "Mike Dude" and his 17-yr. old son Adam. It did get cold so we huddled by the fire, drank a few beers, stared in awe at all the stars in the night sky and then went to bed hoping there would not be snow on our tents in the morning.

On Wednesday morning we were met with chilly wind and weather, but the skies were clear and bright...a good omen. As with the getting packed, it took us a long, long time to get the 4 rafts ready for the river. I was surprised at how narrow the river was at the put-in, a confluence of what looked to me like two streams moving fast with winter run-ff from the mountains. I quickly discovered that a river float can be quite luxurious, and you can do so many things you can't do on a back packing trip. And because the Smith is a coveted wild place, access is limited to 8 groups a day and campsites are assigned. We got on the river late in the morning and our adventure began right away...it was a beautiful day, despite the wind and I got my paddling arms loosened up immediately. The river took a sharp 90 degree left turn 30 yards after put in and I nearly slammed into a downed tree as I got used to the current. Steve and I were in one boat, the Puckett's and Phelps in two others and Mr. Mike Dude and Adam were in the 4th.

Click here to see what we experienced.

What transpired over the next 5 days was nothing short of magical and stupendous. 5 days of paddling, floating, relaxing, fishing, eating, playing, hiking, bird watching, partying, talking, and unwinding! No email, no phones, no cars, no noise other than the river, the birds, the crackling fire, laughter and good conversation.

In short, the trip lived up to all the hype. We saw falcons, eagles, hawks, and all manner of bird. On the second night we ran across the remains of a deer, which had obviously been munched on by some unseen predator (that was a little eerie). We caught fish, ate elk, lounged in the crisp mornings and late nights and generally got refreshed.

More details in part two...for now I need to make the two hour drive back to Missoula and do some work. I'd rather be floating.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Special Easter

Easter has always been a special time for me; growing up it meant Easter egg hunts in the morning and at least two more (at each set of grandparents) with special meals along the way, new clothes for church and lots of candy. As an adult I've gotten to share the fun of Easter with my family and especially my two nieces, but since moving to Missoula my Easter's have been rather uneventful...until yesterday.

I thought my Easter would consist of a leisurely morning, some yard work, some exercise and then a nice dinner with my second family, the Simmons. Little did I know when I woke up how much fun and what a great day it would turn out to be.

First I was happily surprised to get an invitation to breakfast from my little friends, Macy and Coley Schmidt (and their Mom, my friend and co-worker Jen). We watched ducks swim in the creek below and I got to hear all about what the Easter Bunny brought the two kids. Quite enjoyable and a fun way to start the day.

But then the next surprise; my friend Phil Gardner called asking for help. Phil never ceases to amaze...he's involved in the Missoula community in so many ways, is a great Dad, is well-read, finds time to exercise, is a well respected surgeon and is an all around great guy. As it turns out, every year Phil donates a dinner for 8 to his daughters' school for their fundraising auction. This year it was Indian themed and the folks who purchased the dinner asked if they could have it on Easter. So Phil rounded up his friend Rom, who is quite the interesting character himself, to prepare the meal and asked me if I'd help prep. I had no idea what an undertaking this would be or just how much fun a guy could have cutting up ginger, garlic, onions, tumeric, cilantro, eggplant, tomatoes and other bits of goodness.

We started at Noon, with Phil and I talking about the menu and waiting Rom's arrival. I made the mistake of bringing over some of my favorite Indian spices, not knowing Rom is not only a former restaurateur, but also of Indian descent and he makes his own Indian spice mixes from scratch. Yes, he made his own Garam Masala (pictured at right)using coriander, cumin, anise, black peppercorns, cardamom and other "secret ingredients"!

While Phil got busy cutting the lamb (for Lamb Masala), I started on the ginger, onions and garlic. Everything from scratch with no shortcuts and no recipes...this is Rom's way and I loved it. My hands still smell like this crazy mixture of peppers, garlic, ginger and onions, but it was worth it. Over the next 5 hours we cut, diced, mixed, tasted, seared, rolled, minced, simmered and strained our way through to some amazing dishes.

Under Rom's guidance we made saag paneer (making our own paneer along the way), Lamb Masala (pictured left), Dal Makhaani, Bhangan Bharta (pictured below, right)and Kheer for dessert. We also made the most aromatic saffron rice I've ever smelled and homemade Parantha bread.

But it wasn't just the cooking that made the day, although I've always enjoyed the business and mess of making a grand meal. It was everything...Phil & Julie's kitchen is a great place to cook, his daughters, Mabel, Lorraine and Stella (the paneer maker) are awesome kids I love to be around and there was just a great flow of energy throughout the day. There were great stories about Rom's family coming to the US and his grandfather, the who was assassinated in San Francisco during WWI. Stories about his relatives in India, about travel and dreams and about the joys of life. We also had plenty of time to discuss our shared views on the leadership of our country and what we feel are the dangers of religious fundamentalism (including Christian). Fabulous time.

Needless to say, II didn't want to leave. But they had to go serve the dinner and I had an invitation for traditional Easter ham dinner at the Simmons' house. I couldn't help but grin every time I lifted the fork to my mouth and got a waft of all the spices and smells emanating from my fingers!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fundamentalism in Government

Recently I finished reading Jimmy Carter's latest book, Our Endangered Values. Carter is a unique person...he is a Christian man of great faith, but he served in a way that his personal beliefs were known but did not interfere with his ability to fulfill his role as President. I found the book to be extremely well thought out and quite extraordinary.

Chapter 10 of his book is entitled Fundamentalism In Government...something Carter feels is threatening our way of life, despite his personal beliefs. I thought I'd share an excerpt:

Among America's senior political leaders there are examples of threats to our country's basic separation of powers. Some of the more conservative officials in Washington demonstrated their frustration with the independence of the judiciary by injecting themselves at the last moment into the highly controversial Terri Shiavo case after nearly twenty judges, most of them conservative jurists appointed by Republicans, had maintained their fifteen-year refusal to extend her life artificially.

Making it clear he was speaking as a heart surgeon, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pronounced to his colleagues that he condemned the judicial consensus, "based on a review of video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office here in the Capitol. And that footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state." This diagnosis contradicted the subsequent medical examiner's autopsy performed on Mrs. Shiavo, which reported that she was blind and her brain was "grossly abnormal," less than half its normal size.


Enraged with judges, Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay issued threats of imposing legislative control over state and federal courts. He ordered a congressional investigation of the judges and made a series of irate proclamations: "Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy.""These rulings are not examples of a mature society, but of a judiciary run amok." He added, "Congress, for many years has shirked its responsibility to hold the judiciary accountable. No longer. The response of the legislative branch has been mostly to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts."




Carter then goes on to discuss John Bolton, in great detail and to discuss the term neoconservative as it is applied today:

Some neocons now dominate the highest councils of government, seemed determined to exert American dominance throughout the world, and approve of preemptive war as an acceptable avenue to reach this imperialistic goal. Eight years before he became Vice President, Richard Cheney spelled out this premise in his "Defense Strategy for the 1990s." Either before or shortly after 9/11, he and his close associates chose Iraq as the first major target, apparently to remove a threat to Israel and the have Iraq serve as our permanent military, economy, and political base in the Middle East.




Funny how these so-called neoconservatives, who are fully responsible for our domestic and international government policies, can't recognize their folly...they've done exactly the opposite of what they claim to stand for by creating a ridiculous deficit, by forcing the federal government to intruded into state and individual affairs and by their imperialistic actions disguised as either protecting American lives or bringing democracy to the world.

As Carter points out, and I agree, it is the combination of far right conservative politics and Christian fundamentalism that is creating deeper divides in our own country and a hatred for us throughout the world. Combine these actions with like actions from countries whose fundamentalism is Islamic and you have a recipe for worldwide warfare, hatred and despair.

That's why I'm going to do my part to live by a different credo and why I'm going to try and vote the bastards out of office.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lubrecht Experimental Forest



I was feeling so guilty about not getting outside to exercise and have fun this weekend, that after my post yesterday I piled Allie the wonder dog and my gear into the car and headed about 45 minutes up the Blackfoot Valley for some cross country skiing at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest.
The Missoula Nordic Club has a great website which shows locations, conditions and directions to places all around the area for Nordic skiing. Lubrecht happens to be one of the few places where dogs are still allowed (I guess all that yellow snow and messing up the trails was their undoing everywhere else) and it is within easy driving distance of Missoula. They offer beginner, intermediate and difficult trails.
It was a beautiful day and the wind died down just enough to make the 3.4 mile loop (5.5km) exhilarating. I have absolutely terrible form and am slow as molasses, but I have a good time and work up a sweat every time I slap on the skinny skis. Allie had a tremendous time, running up ahead, playing in the snow, hunting for mice and voles and generally enjoying being outdoors.

The loop was a bit confusing for me, as the trails weren't quite as well marked as they could have been; at one point I thought I headed off into the wrong direction and was sure I'd be getting back to the trail head after dark. There weren't many other people and the ones I did see were mostly skate skiing and didn't stick around for a chat.

It took me about 1 hour, 45 minutes to complete the loop and I worked up a nice sweat. The loop passed through the forest, around a like, over a dam, up a nice hill and then back through the forest. Quite refreshing.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Brrrrrrrr.....

It has been an awfully strange winter in the northern Rockies. It was very cold in December, unseasonably warm in January and was spring-like just a week ago. Just last weekend I enjoyed a 'bluebird' day up at Snowbowl, with great temperatures and a bright, sunny sky. But it was -19F here two nights ago and -11 last night (at 9:00 AM this morning it was a balmy 0 degrees), causing Snowbowl to close the upper mountain (-50 wind chill) and putting a damper on outdoor activities for most people.
Today I was scheduled to travel about an hour and a half northeast of Missoula to a place called Holland Lake with my friend Phil Gardner for some cross country skiing and hiking. The lake sits in the Flathead National Forest and offers views of both the Swan and Mission mountain ranges...it is absolutely breathtaking (here is a photo). Unfortunately, the cold and wind forced us to cancel. It is very strange, as the sun is burning bright and there isn't a cloud in the sky, but the wind and temperatures can create danger, especially out on the ice, exposed, in the wilderness!
So instead I'll sit indoors and watch some more Olympic action...it's been exciting to watch so far.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cheney-gate

You know, I don't consider myself a pinko commie or bleeding heart liberal but I gotta say, I am so damned fed up with the way our country is being administered right now that I'm ready to start the no justice, no peace chant again (oops...I blew it. Yes, I did march on DC in April 1987 for peace and justice in Central America and south Africa). Our President has successfully eroded so many civil liberties that one could argue we aren't even really a democracy anymore.
And Cheney...what a lout. This business of him not letting anyone know about his shooting a fellow hunter for 24 hours and then controlling the release of information smacks of a complete disregard not only for the public but for the rule of law. But then again, the law doesn't mean much to Cheney, who consistently skirts rules and regulations for his and his fellow fat cats benefit (lets not forget the secret energy policy meetings attended by his buddies). I think it is ironic that President Bush's own memoirs talk of being open and up front with the public so they will like you when his vice President does nothing open or up front...he refuses to meet the press openly (his latest meeting with the Republican News Channels...errr....Fox news' Britt Hume was a complete joke...Britt should have just given him the blow job and been done with it)...he never meets the public and worst yet, he refuses to even admit he's human! Let's not forget it was Cheney and his lackeys who leaked Valerie Plumes name to get back at her husband. And worst of all, he and his understudies have encouraged an atmosphere of corruption in the Republican dominated Senate that is scurrilous ant best.
I can't wait to kick these SOB's and their corrupt and shameless party out of the White House.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Royalfolio

Recently I moved my office into another suite, down the hall from the other two suites our medical practice occupies. It was a long drawn-out process taking about two weeks with more frustration than trauma, as I waited for phone lines to be identified and connected, paint to be rolled on and new locks installed. Overall, I can't really complain too much about the move, there are a hell of a lot worse things that can happen than a move down the hall.
As with my previous experiences in 'moving', it allowed me to take an inventory of all my *stuff* and decide what to keep, throw out, re-organize or bury for future fun. It was in the midst of this shuffle, somewhere between throwing out some 2000 resumes (from my recruiting business which is rather shelved these days)and finding a little penguin statue sent to me in 1995 by a friend from New Zealand, that I came across a brown resume (portfolio) cover purchased for me by my Mom & Dad in 1984. Although a little faded, I could still make out the gold pressed stamp of Purdue University on the cover and inside I found a resume and a certificate of thanks...both almost 20 years old (egad).
Mom & Dad purchased the portfolio as a confidence booster for me as I prepared for my senior interviews, a rather humbling and meat-market type experience I soon found out. I know of at least three other occasions when I've run across this brown beauty (embossed with the word Royalfolio on the inside cover) and every other time I've almost thrown it away but it made its way into the save for the future 'you-just-may-need-it' pile. It seems to reappear right about the time I forget I still have it and each time it has the same effect...just like looking at pictures in an old and seldom opened photo album...I sort of lose myself in time and memory. Now I'm much too young to profess that I spend all my time looking backwards, into the memories, but I will confess that I sort of enjoy these brief stopovers that tend to make me laugh and be nostalgic more than anything else.
In the case of the 'royalfolio' it brought back memories of ding letters taped to my college room door, interviews where I completely made things up ("who would you most like to eat dinner with, alive or dead, and why? - that was always such a bullshit question) or where I didn't have a chance in hell to score an offer, a suit that didn't quite fit, a bad perm (yes Mom, it DID seem like a good idea at the time) and lost chances. It also gave me pause as I thought of friends who I've long since lost along the way after vows we'd stay in touch forever, parties that were so fun I thought I would explode and that general feeling of invincibility that was not unique to me as a college senior. I thought about friends I lost in college (Waymon Robinson and Jeff Johnson), girls I pined for during that year and long after (Ela, Jill, Kathy, Ann and that beautiful dark-haired Chi O what's her name), nights at Harry's Chocolate Shop with Eddie O, Pete and the crew and music (it always seems to come back to music with me). It was a good visit down memory lane.
I'm keeping the Royalfolio on top of my desk for a bit; if nothing more, glancing at it serves as a nice diversion for a few minutes during the day. And I do so with the knowledge I will slip it in some file or drawer, where it will disappear and hide for a few years and where, when I find it again, it will provide more chances to smile and drive slowly into memory lane.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

New Additions

I've spruced up my blog with two new additions...a guest book and a calendar. They are both simple and easy to use and I'm allowing visitors to post to my calendar (at least for now). Both items have clickable icons in my sidebar.

Monday, February 06, 2006

End of An Era

Western Union, the company known for telegrams and money transfers, sent their last telegram on Jan. 27, 2006. The widespread use of e-mail and the prospect of new technology, signaled the end of an era. At the height of business in 1929, more than 200 million telegrams were sent around the world. Slightly fewer than 21,000 were sent last year.

Out of Bounds

For those of us who grew up without mountain ranges as our back yards, the idea of hiking into the back country in the middle of the winter to ski or snowbaord is not a natural one. Sure, you see this sort of thing on the TV or have the occasional friend who escapes the frozen Midwest to hit a ski resort, but the people who undertake such adventures are looked upon in great awe.
Since moving to Montana in 2002 and learning to snowboard, I've slowly learned to take on more difficult terrain and enjoy it. Saturday was no exception to this trend as I tagged along with a group of friends and they showed me all kinds of terrain I hadn't boarded before. The biggest treat of all was an end of the day journey out of bounds that involved a 25 minute hike up the mountainside through forests full of fresh snow (powder). By the time we got to the top my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear their instructions on what to do next; we had to traverse across the top of a small cliff area to get to the drop-in point. By the time we reached this area I had fallen, hit tree stumps, veered off course (to calls of, "you don't want to go right, don't go right") and otherwise got myself so frazzled that I was spent. All I really wanted to do was find some easy way down and get back to civilization. But the drop-in point looked to me like a wall of trees and bushes...my friends called it "manglies" and suggested I get some speed up and power through the small bushes popping up everywhere. At another time I might have accepted this challenge with a smile, unfortunately for me I was so nervous that I became hesitant, soemthing you really can't be in situations like that. So I struggled mightily just to get down the mountain. Luckily these people are all very experienced and were very patient with me; two people stayed back and watched out for me, cajoled me and gave me tips on how to get down the mountainside. Probably the most fun for me was when I was standing still, watching one of them jump off a cliff or weave thorugh the tight trees with the greatest of ease. They have some amazing skills and I was just happy to be along for the fun.
We ended the day with some wood-fired pizza and laughs...it was my first experience of the kind and hopefully not my last!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union Funny

If you are here in the US and happened to watch the State of the Union address by GW last night you probably got a good laugh out of the hot news flash from our ever-truthful and forward-thinking Executive Branch - "We are addicted to oil" - it just doesn't get much more profound than that...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Survivor

Today I met a survivor of a horrific plane crash that happened in Missoula last year. At the time of the accident I recall I didn't pay much attention as it was a twin engine plane with two people on board and they both survived...it wasn't until today the story took on a whole new meaning for me.

First, some background. As most everybody knows, I run a surgical practice out here (Urology). I'm the Practice Manager. I also operate my business that I started in 1995, Motion Medical Solutions and I'm still a minority owner in a small medical supplies business in Indianapolis, eWellness (my personal joke is "one day I'll actually make some money in one of these endeavors"). In 2004 eWellness began selling a new line of cold therapy products called Game Ready in Indiana that were intended for use by athletes. Last year, the company began to focus on physical therapy and post-operative applications for the product and eWellness began to 'rent' the product out to patients. Business took off and we then picked up the Illinois territory and Montana. Late last year I began to establish Game Ready business in Missoula with the hopes of eventually hiring an employee here. I now have one doctor prescribing the Game Ready system for his knee and shoulder surgery patients...and I'm hoping to add two more in the near future. Today I noticed he had an ankle repair on the docket and so I reminded the nurses that I could supply them with ankle wraps if he wanted to try it on his patient.
The doctor decided he'd like to try the ankle unit and so I was notified and brought over the appropriate equipment. Unfortunately there was a leak in the system and so they sent the patient home and called me to say if I wanted to I could contact the patient directly and go to his home to set up the unit.

And so I did...

This afternoon I stepped into this gentleman's home up in the southern hills outside Missoula. I have to admit I wasn't thrilled about having to drive the 30 minutes it took to get there in the middle of my regular workday, knowing the result would be me at the office late again. The first thing I noticed when I entered his home were model airplanes everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE). There were shelves and cases all over the place and there were airplane placemats and photos too, along with a smattering of motorcycle models. He was watching Star Trek re-runs. I noticed his hands were scarred pretty bad and the shiny nature made me recognize burn scars. He had a jovial appearance. I began to explain how the system worked and he thought he recalled having something similar all over his body in the hospital...another sign that he sustained a serious injury. He often interjected that he wasn't sure exactly what he'd been treated with because he was in the hospital for so long.

Not wanting to delve into his private life I never followed up on his statements and just kept talking. He then said he'd been in a coma and that his back was broken and he had an awful problem with muscle atrophy. He kept offering bits and pieces until I finally couldn't take it anymore..."what happened to you" is what I think I blurted out. "Oh, I was in a plane crash", he sad very calmly. "Yeah, I broke my back, got some pretty bad burns all over my body, wrecked my whole right side, crushed my ankle and foot and pretty much was dead". I just stared at him shocked. All I could think to say was, "how'd it happen?" This lead to what turned out to be about an hour long visit with him and his sister. It turns out a mechanic left the turbo engine manual rolled up inside of the actual turbo engine filter by mistake and installed the filter in the engine, where it sat for three months before finally jarring lose, into the turbo prop and causing the engine to explode upon take-off. This man is a pilot for a private company and flew that same plane, almost daily, for those three months. He said it was a miracle he is alive. He described in detail how the accident occurred, how he fought the plane to keep it from flipping and how it slammed into the earth. It was then I noticed his ceiling fan...the blades were miniature propellers and the unit was a replica of the front of a plane...this guy loves planes.

So he started to tell me how he has loved planes since he could remember and that he built every model in his house...including the 60 radio controlled units in his basement. He claims to be one of a handful of people in the world who can fly a radio-controlled helicopter upside down. He then invited his sister to show me the basement and I of course could not refuse. His basement was more like a warehouse, polished cement floor, white walls, industrial lighting and planes of all sizes in neat compartments along every nook and cranny. In one area there was a drafting table with plans taped to the wall and all kinds of drafting utensils. There were two choppers in the base,ment and posters of sports cars and motorcycles and racing planes on the walls not covered by plane compartments. The biggest surprise of all? He is building a full-scale replica of the original test plane for the space shuttle project...he got the original plans from one of the engineers who designed the plane. I saw the fuselage, the wings...he even had special doors installed in the basement so he will be able to remove the plane, piece by piece from his basement when it is complete (It is a walk out). His sister rolled her eyes and said if I let him he'd have me there all day telling me about building that plane.

This guy is amazingly happy...not in a "Life is now beautiful because I escaped death" sort of way but like he has always been that way sort of way. Despite the fact he still appears to have many problems to overcome, he spent almost my entire visit smiling or telling me stories that obviously excited him. I told him that he amazed me and he should become an inspirational speaker or something...his response was very Montana-ish (or rural Indiana)..."oh, I don't know about that, I'm just lucky I guess".

Anyhow, I left the house...it was sunny and windy up there and very open, no trees to speak of...so I left the house and just turned and looked back at it for a few seconds with the wind whipping through me, squinting back towards the door...and was speechless. I came back to the office and have been shaking my head ever since. You geeks out there...and you know who you are...would love to meet this guy.