Living - and already savoring - the Adventures across the backroads of western Idaho and eastern Oregon!

30 July 2014

What, 106 Days since last Post? Well, let me tell you about my Wildland Fire Assignment

Three weeks ago I completed the last step for my US Forest Service certification as a Wildland Firefighter.  Sounds heady, huh, but just realize I don't intend to digging line with the younger folks!  I did the full course of training so that I can be a Fire Information Officer with the same basic qualifications as those I represent.

Can you believe, three days after certification, I got called to a 'local' fire and was on-site for 13 of the maximum 14 allowable days?  I can't!  By the way, local is a 1.5-hour drive away, and that's remarkably good luck since some 'local' assignments in my 'local' national forest might be a five-hour drive because they involve dirt roads.

I hiked a grueling hour uphill to spend just 15 minutes taking these kind of photos on the fire line!

But it was worth it if I listened to the feedback from my coworkers and Joe Public.  I co-wrote some public releases, updated many bulletin boards, was on TV twice, took photographers right up to the fire line (nothing unsafe) and lots of other smaller adventures. Adventures like the 3-hour round-trip to a nearby fire, at which I got to play the sole fire information officer role.  I took lots of pictures (two were published in Boise's main newspaper) and even met with a county commissioner at her home.  

15-hour days but packed with a variety of activities and chow hall meals.  Even got to shower every 2-3 days.  Sleeping in a tent is so much more fun when you don't have to get up at 0530, but no complaints.  I came home Sunday night and am still feeling tired because my regular job has been brutally busy, but at least today I got back in the groove by doing yard work in 89-degrees of happiness.

A helicopter filling a 100-gallon bucket of water (aka "a pumpkin")

A firefighter from the Sho-Pai Hotshots (native Americans and awesome firefighters)

I'm soon on stand-by for nationwide assignment, and that will be a new type of adventure since it may include putting two weeks of gear onto the flight with me.  Talk about sensible yet full packing!  That will be my life through September, outside of that week-long volunteer adventure in southern Montana (on Continental Divide Trail) and a biz trip to Missoula, Montana -- looking forward to visiting with son Chris, who's a junior at Univ. of Montana!

I don't want to bore you with details, so email or call me if you'd like to know more.

Cheers ~ Jose

15 April 2014

The Privilege of Eating

That sounds crazy.  But I again hear tonight on PBS Newshour that 1/7th of our population, of the Vaunted and Exceptional US of A, is enrolled in SNAP (aka, the newest comfortable pseudonym for Food Stamps).

For just a moment, I’ll rail … One-seventh of our fellow Americans are hungry?! And one-fourth of senior citizens eligible for food stamps (aka, the real term vs. the charade of the innocuous “SNAP”) do not even apply due to the social stigma and person shame of having to rely on government to feed them after a lifetime’s work?


My hot dogs are all-beef and the buns often not the bottom-dollar pasty stuff.  And I have a choice of yummy condiments, stuff that soured in my belly when I thought of seniors eating cat food.  And folks eating only what's dirt-cheap or on sale.  Yeah, not polite, tasty conversation but c’mon, it does happen way too often.

Liberal or Conservative, your flag doesn't matter when it comes to hunger.  Unempowered children, the elderly who have done a lifetime of honest work, and the mentally ill who never will get a fair shake:  these are the folks we need to think of when the Boy Scouts arrive at the front door and when our churches and food banks implore us to donate.  I’m shamed tonight to think it’s hard for me to remember that monthly United Methodist clarion call to bring in food donations ~ where’s my brain, my compassion, my ethical fortitude?


Enough railing.  I hope my spontaneous frustration-with-self translates to even one of you dropping off a bag of goodies this next week.  Make it Real Food, my friends, not swill you’d never eat yourself.  Me, I case out the local Albertson’s clearance carts because they only carry decent food and the prices are at most 50% of regular retail.  And one $10 bag of donations might make someone happy for a whole day.  Now let’s see if outraged Jose can remember more than once a month.  “Et tu, Brute?”

P.S.  I mean it.  Tell me if you dropped off some food for someone else, not out of guilt but just because YOU felt it important to be a Good Mensch.  

14 April 2014

Pitch Perfect

Well, I should say, “pitch fork perfect!”  A couple Sundays ago that was my impression of country life.  Driving around the corner, I see our nearby friends out with propane burner burning some weeds.  Just down the road, here comes an elderly guy in elderly overalls, with his pitch fork in one hand, cane in the other!  Moving slowly uphill but looking pretty happy about it. 

Not that I always need inspiration, but that vision played in my head the next twenty minutes on way to church.  To go sit with quite a few similar gentlemen in the pews, albeit none of us quite as wizened as that man.  Shows you what a simple life and simple pleasures can do for the soul.

As for country, I’m getting too much of it on my now-four day/week work schedule. Working with Michele to put up several hundred feet of wooden rail fence, temp mesh fencing and way too much mowing of weeds..  Toss in some trenching and irrigation work, and you’ll see why having acreage is a mixed blessing one ought to carefully consider long before buying one’s dream property.  20+ mph sustained winds the last few days mean 1+ tired Jose.  But no regrets since maybe this is a good exercise program too!

18 March 2014

An appli-able Moment (aka, “Are you kidding me?”)

6 major appliances live in our house, as I imagine just like yours.

Washer gives up its life, after 16 noble years and just one repair.  Neptune Magic!  A simple day’s jaunt costs us only $900 for a coolio Maytag that sanitizes stuff.  Gotta love the various discounts strewn at our feet!

3 weeks later, the oven goes whacker doodles and pizzas don’t cook right.  Well, we can roll with those changes with an oven thermometer and by re-calibrating the temperature, right?

Bam!  Saturday the refrigerator just dies.  What?!  At five years of age?  Are you hosing me?  Don’t you feel the love of my bi-monthly cleanings?  What do you want, a buffing of your stainless steel ego?  Here’s $134 greenbacks to light up your life and cool my eats.  Happy?!

The nuker, dryer and dishwasher now watch, in an eerily explosive Crimean peninsular way.  What will happen next door?  Is it our turn to bolt?  Will our secession be violent, or will it be like Scotland, who keeps Sean Connery in perpetuity (but has no decent football club)?  Does The Master mean to get rid of us too? 

Damn straight.  Have daughter.  With hands.  Let’s go old school and get out that dish rag, Social Services’ human rights complaint be damned … “Soap on, soap off.  Rinse and repeat…”

16 March 2014

What inspires us?

Is it wealth?  I don’t think that one works.  Paying ahead on your mortgage, 13 months/year instead of 12, works fine only if you have liquidity and life doesn't happen while you’re planning it.  Credit card companies don’t give you squat unless I guess you argue with the lender to get relief from the endless interest.  So, it’s not just wealth, eh?

Is it drama?  As a reformed drama queen, I’ll say Maybe/Yes.   But what’s up with the Nancy Kerrigan ~ Tonya Harding replays?!  Did you know the sole videographer at that year’s US National Championships was the guy who captured that footage?  I wasn't surprised to hear the media company has earned millions of dollars on that sad footage.  But, was it worth:

$250 per second ?

$250 ??

Are you flip***’ing nuts?!?!  That doesn't inspire me, so it gets a resounding No.

Is it our paychecks?  As a supposedly overpaid Federal employee (don’t EVEN get me started on that crap), it takes me a day  to net that much moohlah.  And, too many of our I-struggle-to-feed-my-family friends earn less and deserve far more.  That disparity saddens me and lessens the American dream, undermines our vision of Christian compassion, and I think finally debunks the myth of American Exceptionalism. 

Back to the question of inspiration:  Look, I’m not railing at what we do to improve ourselves, but how much human wreckage at the roadside, my friends?  Does the inspiration to chase the easy money inevitably leave others behind?  Not to be a downer, but the question hangs out there.

17 February 2014

Word Match: Stents, Naked and Cold

(I challenge you to find the common thread I found among those items!)

A balmy G'd Day to you from sunny and clear western Idaho, where temperatures dropped only into the mid-30's.  Darn.  I've been bulking my pect's loading the pellet stove this winter, so there goes my exercise routine.

You can look at illness and hospitalization from so many angles, but color me amazed when my dad calls to say the stents insertion went very well and he's feeling 100% better.  Stents?  Ahhh, those things inserted into clogged arteries.  Or, as our pre-Med son says, open-heart surgery.  Umm, Jose says when I realized I hadn't a clue he even was a surgical candidate.  That's a man for you, not telling anyone about the problem until after the successful surgery!  I'm just a branch off that tough ol' tree but don't know that I pull the whole thing off as silently as he did ...

Did you know dreams about being naked in public actually can be positive and reinforce one's self-confidence?  Thank goodness; if one can believe websites, I apparently fit into that category of being self-aware and confident meeting life's challenges.  But, man, I just don't want another one of those silly dreams.  Can't I be catching endless fish in a tropical paradise while sipping coconut milk?

Lastly on President's Day, I applaud my fav prez:  Jimmy Carter.  He led us down a painful road toward the metric system and into greater energy conservation.  Which brings me to climate change.  What a fascinating multi-hued topic, where colder weather for us can scientifically be directly linked to warmer Arctic weather.  Whether you're a believer or nay-sayer, check out this tornado of meteorological reasoning:

07 February 2014

22 Things You Should Never Do Again After 50

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard considers her limits after a half-century of experiences

With fate and that rearview mirror in mind, here are a few things beyond ‘the Limbo’ I'm quite probably beyond doing. So, join me in just saying no to:

1.     Parkour.
2.     Jell-O shots.
3.     Karaoke after midnight.
4.     Karaoke after Jell-O shots.
5.     Trying to break a plank with your head.
6.     Mud wrestling (intentional).
7.     Crowd surfing to the mosh pit.
8.     Joining the circus. Joining the ashram.
9.     Drinking champagne from your son's girlfriend's shoe.
10.  Drinking champagne from your daughter's boyfriend's shoe.
11.  Drinking champagne from your own shoe.
12.  Xtreme bingo cruises.
13.  Collecting owls made of shells, frogs made of ceramic or lawn gnomes made of anything — really, really anything.
14.  Playing basketball in high heels.
15.  Throwing a wet T-shirt contest. Throwing a wet nightshirt contest.
16.  Getting publicly and verbally excited about the number of stamps in your passport, zeroes in your paycheck, capital letters before or after your name (unless they're H.R.H.), number of names on your phone-favorites list, number of people you could have married, the size of your acreage … or the size of your anything else.
17.  Explaining your personal role in the fact that your kids "never really got into any of that stuff …"
18.  Explaining your personal role in the fact that your kids got into an Ivy League college.
19.  Explaining your personal role in starting the rumor that Paul was dead.
20.  Single-spacing your Christmas letter.
21.  The Dougie.
22.  Giving up — ever.

Jacquelyn Mitchard, the best-selling author of 20 books, lives near Madison, Wis., with her family.

04 February 2014

In-between (and including) Love and Happiness

Do you ever get busy and not feel in the mood to do things you even enjoy?  Well, as long as it’s not personal hygiene, take a break!  I did but I think time's up.

Back to today’s blog:  after my absence, here’s what got me fired up:

85 richest people own 46% of world's wealth.  Conducted by Oxfam, one sentence screamed at me, “The top 1% have 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population.”  

Read that twice and maybe you'll derail like I did.  Even given the inherent error rates and judgment bias in most statistical sampling, this still is shocking.  I mean, how many millions of us are locked into those social ladders and angst I first learned in reading Jane Austen novels, and later in John Mellencamp’s caustic anti-war song, Love and Happiness?

Let’s flip that coin and be positive in a realistic kind of way.  Folks like you and I don’t have much in comparison of cash and ‘virtual wealth.’  But excluding those 1% from the pool might enable us to turn our thoughts to non-monetary fulfillment.  It’s clear they've schnarfed most of the wealth, and will continue to do so, with the result maybe being for us to stop chasing the money.  Yes, Mom, you’re right and it’s about being happy and not rich.  You just didn't know the being 46% right was so monumental!