The FOS and DST

To Whom It May Concern:

As a cat owner, if that term can be used, I have become aware of a certain aspect of the Feline Operating System (FOS) that seems in need of an upgrade or at least a patch. The FOS has five main operating modes: Exploration, Observation, Expectation, Anticipation, and Procreation. For the sake of household tranquility, the Procreation module has been disabled in many domestic house cats but remains functional in those residing in feral status. Although there may be some hand-wringing and consternation about certain aspects of the Procreation module, that has nothing to do with my current letter of concern to you. There is also a sleeping or resting status that has some bearing on the other FOS modules and my predicament.

There seems to be at least a sequential hierarchy in the FOS based on my observations.

The Exploration module seems to be the first to kick in whenever a cat is introduced into a new household. This sometimes takes several days and during that time the cat seems to be largely invisible. In fact, the cat is not invisible but selects a particular hiding spot, a vantage point for exploration of the premises when the resident human or humans are not awake. I know this because the dish of cat food is empty, there is evidence left in the litter box, and my kitchen cabinet doors are open when I get up in the morning.

The Observation module is the next stage, based on my experience. The newly introduced cat will make its presence known and will carefully observe the human activity in the household. This module is the backbone of the FOS and the one most often in use. The cat will position itself in a location where it has unobstructed sight lines of household activities. In some cases, this will be on top of the refrigerator or the middle of the kitchen table. The cat seems to be programmed, or hard wired, for watching from an elevated position. Human attempts to modify this behavior are met with opposition on the part of the cat and are sometimes accompanied by retribution in the form of scratching on upholstered furniture. The human or humans soon learn to ignore the elevated observation position as much as possible. The cat soon learns every aspect of the human routine from feeding, sleeping, waking, resting, bathing and grooming, and even waste disposal. The Observation module seems to provide data, stimulus, and a feed-back loop for the Expectation and Anticipation modules.

The Expectation module is triggered when the Observation module sends a message that the human is preparing to do a specific task or that the cat has a basic need for food, water, or waste deposition. This module allows the cat to invoke pre-learned responses to events happening around it. When the human picks up car keys the cat will wait respectfully for a pat on the head which soothes the human as he or she leaves the premises. This is most commonly followed by the cat going into sleep or resting status. There seems to be a special function built in for hairball expulsion, but this is a less common and occurs at night and on the human’s bed. As you may recall, I’ve written to you before on this particular issue but your response (“A cat’s got to do what a cat’s got to do”) was somewhat unsatisfactory.

The Anticipation module is also triggered by input from the Observation module. It is similar to the Expectation module but with a higher degree of intensity and speed. For example, when the doorbell rings the cat will automatically go into this module based on behavioral cues learned from the humans and its pre-learned responses. In some cases, the cat might revert to the Exploration module and become invisible to all but the trained human eye. In some cases, the cat might become stalled in the Observation module. In many cases the cat’s movement will become swift and erratic and accompanied by a tripping episode or some other loud encounter with the resident human. There are many other examples of the Anticipation module coming into play, especially around the human’s feeding time or other expected activities. The cat will respond quickly to certain cues such as the human shaking the edible cat treat container. Cat treats, once dispensed as a gratuitous gift by the human, will occasionally be reciprocated by the cat with some form of dead household vermin or pest left in a conspicuous place as a gift for the human. These gifts, and occasionally the expelled hairball, will elicit a loud reaction by the human the next morning.

Of particular concern, and the reason for my letter, is the FOS and the cat’s failure to anticipate and respond to Daylight Savings Time (DST). It would seem to be an easy fix to adjust the FOS to spring forward or fall back on the appointed days. My telephone and laptop computer have this figured out. True, I must go and adjust my clocks twice a year and replace the batteries in smoke detectors, but I would think that something as sophisticated as a cat behavior module would be easily adjusted based on the calendar setting. My cat insists that I wake up and perform all my tasks and bodily functions on its pre-learned schedule rather than the DST clock-time that governs my work and relationships with other humans. The cat is slow to adjust to the DST schedule changes and can be downright obnoxious, especially in the morning when I hear slamming of cabinet doors, upholstery scratching, and the sound of hairball expulsion as I’m trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. Licking, biting and pulling of my hair is not welcome at 7 AM, at least not by an irate cat. So, in closing, I respectfully request that you take this respectful suggestion and my plea on the part of cat owners everywhere and provide a DST fix to the FOS at your earliest opportunity.

Most Sincerely Yours,

A Cat Owner



Speaking of Gratitude

One of the things I struggle with sometimes, and what my New Year’s Resolutions always try to address, is showing gratitude. I’m not the best at showing gratitude and when I do it seems contrived and fabricated as often as not. It doesn’t come naturally, and I don’t always know where to draw the line with expectations of other people. When is gratitude appropriate and when is it gratuitous?  Huh… Isn’t it odd that gratitude and gratuitous come from the same Latin root word: Gratus – meaning “grateful“ or “pleasing”? Gratuitous morphed into something like “free” or “without expectation of benefit” and then, after a while, to “unwarranted”.  Gratuity – as in a tip to a waitress – tends to retain some of the original meaning.

Um…But let’s get back to the topic of gratitude. (You see how my mind wanders, right.) I don’t consider myself to be an “ingrate” because if that was the case I probably wouldn’t even recognize my dilemma. I have seen and reacted to other people treating waiters, attendants or employees very badly when some expression of gratitude was called for. I’m a pretty big tipper in restaurants and bars because I’ve seen some deplorable patron behavior in this regard. That doesn’t seem to be the issue. I’m more uncomfortable with showing gratitude in closer or more personal relationships.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a brief class/lecture on “Exploring Gratitude” offered by a local Rabbi. This was unfamiliar territory for me as I’ve never been around a Rabbi except unknowingly maybe on a bus or simply in a casual encounter. This was a Rabbi doing Rabbi stuff and it was a woman Rabbi on top of that. My little traditional Lutheran head was prepared to spin but I came away with some very thoughtful and helpful ideas. There were about forty people in the room and the session was a somewhat interactive experience.

There’s internal gratitude and external gratitude and we most often think about external expressions of gratitude. That’s what comes to mind when out in the public world. Saying thank-you when someone opens or holds the door or tipping might be common and casual expressions. But what about internal expressions of gratitude. Part of the discussion focused on some Old Testament phrases from the Book of Isaiah or other passages that brought home the concept of being grateful internally and to oneself. In most cases it isn’t exactly a gift from God to have a roof over your head, clothing, ample food, the most recent iPhone, and a Lexus…those are details. Instead, we are given certain gifts and talents and endowed with the means to put them to good use. An intellect and a recognition of right and wrong and how to interact with others.  Maybe God has a hand in that broad stuff or maybe it’s good genes and good parenting — you can be the judge. We can be grateful for waking up in the morning and for the gifts and talents that we have found within ourselves or have been revealed by others. The Rabbi’s talk partially focused on chanting as a personal practice of gratitude and before long she had forty people chanting in Hebrew with only a slight understanding of what was being said. This was a practice of mindfulness and most of the reactions were positive. Some of the discussion that followed compared the chanting to meditation or Tai Chi which I and a dozen or so others in the class were familiar with.  When I practiced meditation (I was an early practitioner of TM) and Tai Chi I experienced a certain healthy, clear headedness that brought some lasting clarity to my daily routine. I was more responsive and open with other people. Over the years I have gotten away from regular practice and this session and discussion served to remind me of some of the self-gifted expressions of internal well-being – self gratitude.  Okay – this might be part of the path that I’m seeking at least on the internal part.

So, let’s say (or pretend) my internal issue is solved. What about external expressions of gratitude to family and friends?  This would usually be a face to face encounter requiring an expression of gratitude. My usual approach is to assume that this is implied by my behavior or actions but there’s no guarantee that the other person sees it that way. We go through life thinking we have all our bases covered but maybe we are not perceived in the way we think. When I was working as a program manager before I retired my employer would occasionally require us all to go to various inspirational sessions or participate in team building exercises. Sometimes these would require an assessment by subordinates of the manager’s style or relationship with employees. I was usually disappointed and realized I was not always perceived as I thought I was…as I tried to be.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the most common outcome of those exercises – that managers perceived themselves differently from the employees’ perceptions — but it was still bothersome. We can be oblivious to our relationships with others. I don’t recall ever asking my wife, now deceased, if she was truly happy in any direct way over the thirty-plus years of our marriage.  We relied on the other’s verbal or nonverbal clues and we had an exceptionally strong friendship and loving relationship. To me, at least, it was an obvious deduction based on behavior and verbal expression.  I see my daughter at least once a week and we are very comfortable together and typically don’t have discussions or expressions of gratitude. We do things for each other unasked and those actions typically pass without any expression of gratitude. That’s how we roll…so to speak. My point, and the nagging little stone in my shoe, is that we should probably be more explicit in our relationships and our gratitude.

I have a friend, a retired school psychologist, who lives 1,000 miles away and we often spent time together before I moved to New Mexico. Now we speak by telephone a few times a year and keep track, but months pass between our conversations. I recently heard from her when she was in a minor crisis. It was minor to me but major to her. She inherited rental property in St. Louis and the furnace stopped working.  In the dead of winter, she had tenants in a house with no heat and no idea of how to fix it. She was panicking because she lives 200 miles away and can’t be on hand to deal with the problem. I have several good friends in St. Louis, where I grew up, and made a few contacts and got recommendations for repair companies. I passed that information on to my friend and she reported back that the problem was solved and thanked me for the recommendations. This took probably no more than an hour or two on my part. I didn’t think much of it and was glad I could help. A few days later I received a greeting card in the mail with a gift card for Starbucks and a thank-you note. What a nice gesture of gratitude. It was, maybe, a little over the top considering my investment of time and effort but I helped solve a problem that was very stressful to her. Her expression of gratitude had more to do with her relief in resolving the crisis and her hope and expectation that I could be of help. She is relatively new at this landlord situation and she wanted to be responsive to the tenants’ problems so that was also part of it.

So that is where I am with this. I’m not sure I’m closer to my goal of showing gratitude but maybe I can work on it with a fresher perspective. Maybe I analyze too much but that little stone in my shoe tells me I need to be more aware of opportunities to show gratitude where it is due. At any rate, maybe I’ll take up Tai Chi again. First, I think I’ll go to Starbucks.


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It’s a Desert Out There – Organ Mountains

I recently was visiting in Las Cruces and had the opportunity to briefly visit Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDP). This is one of several Obama-era national monuments targeted for reduction,  downsizing or other degradation by the Trump Administration. New Mexico, a “Blue” state, has two newer monuments targeted for degradation, the other being Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument near Taos. I’ve written about that monument here:


To hear the Trump administration rhetoric, one would think that President Obama ran around willy-nilly creating National Monuments. In fact, a lot of study went into the designation. The economic study for this monument is available at: .

The OMDP is in four separate parcels with each one preserving one or several important geologic or cultural features.  I was able to visit just one and the pictures posted here are from that single parcel, located east of Las Cruces. This is the “Needles” section and includes the Organ Mountains iconic mountain peaks. On the east side there are broad vistas sweeping all the way to White Sands National Monument, some fifty miles away. I wasn’t able to visit the Sierras de Las Uvas or the Protillo Mountains complex. I hope to be able to do so on another visit.




The public comment period for input into the administrations decision…for or against the monument ended in July. Supporters need to express their opinions to state and federal elected officials to fight against the proposed downsizing and/or degradation of the targeted national monuments.

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A Fork in the Road

Schoolmate shot in the head by another — playing with a rifle…

That was my first encounter with gun deaths as a kid. Absolutely preventable. There would be more — friends or relatives of friends. We are at a fork in the road. Fifty-eight deaths at a concert. We have been here before but we always take the wrong path forward. That path only leads us to another ugly fork in the road and we always take the wrong path forward — deeper into the abyss of gun violence — fork after fork after fork. We don’t have the guts to take the right path because the wrong one is the familiar way…we don’t know what we will find on the right path and there are forces at work that keep us from going that way. We seem to be running in circles but it is a straight path downward.

Coworker’s son accidentally shot and killed by his father in a hunting accident.

That was my second encounter with gun deaths…some years later. Very sad, devastating indeed, and truly an accident. About one-third of Americans own firearms. About half of that number own only one or two guns. Many are hunters who are careful people when handling their firearms. Accidents happen but not all that often. Many are also sport shooters who are drawn to competitions or enjoy target shooting as a hobby. They are also very careful and usually shoot in a safe and controlled environment. I am technically a gun owner because I own a black-powder flintlock pistol that I once used in target shooting almost thirty-five years ago. It hasn’t been fired in over thirty years but I keep it in a safe place. Hunters and sport shooters are not the problem — but could be part of the solution to the gun problem in America.

Staff member’s young brother shot and killed by a confused and fearful security guard.

My next encounter with a gun death was absolutely preventable. He was a young black kid, a pre-teen, playing where he shouldn’t but was viewed as a threat by a startled security guard. The boy was with friends and they were doing what kids do. Somehow there was confusion in the dark and the security guard had a gun and used it. Guns are everywhere and fear is a great motivator to use them even when there is no real danger. About 3% of Americans own half the guns in this country. That’s somewhere around 180+ million guns. The average among that group is seventeen guns but some own many more. So many more that the average for all gun owners is somewhere around eight per owner. Some of those gun owners are legitimate collectors. Some might be legitimate gun vendors. Some, maybe more than some, are compelled by fear or some misguided notion of paranoia. I had a neighbor who pulled a gun on a fellow driver in a road rage incident. He was usually a calm person and not excitable but something happened that made him think he needed a gun. Then something happened that made him think he needed to use the gun. No one was hurt in the incident but a short time later it turned out he had a brain tumor. There is a lot of fear pushing people to own guns, mostly hand guns, and most of it is unwarranted.

A close friend and colleague gunned down by a white supremacist when he answered the front door.

My fourth encounter with a gun violence death was not that long ago. A good friend and colleague  was killed — they call it “assassinated” because he was a government official — by a white supremacy nut job who apparently acted on orders from an Aryan Brotherhood cell. The case is still open though the shooter was killed in a car chase. Someone put him up to it. There are crackpots and gun-crazy people and criminals and mental cases who should never have access to a gun. Kids should never have unsupervised access to a gun. The more guns we have the more they are circulated and end up where they don’t belong. About a half-million guns are stolen in this country every year, from private gun owners or from gun shops. Last December two guys stole a large Ford truck and drove it through the wall of a local gun shop and stole “several” guns…the number was not reported. They got away with the guns and have never been apprehended. About 1,600 guns are stolen in America each day. As gun advocates like the NRA pressure state legislatures to roll back gun possession and control laws the theft rate in those states increases. The guns fall into a black-market pipeline that funnels them into cities with stricter controls. A gun is stolen every minute in America.

A former coworker’s husband, a law enforcement officer, shot himself in the head on a quiet day on a quiet street for no apparent reason — a suicide.

A person bent on committing suicide will often find a way to accomplish it unless there is some intervention. Having a gun handy will speed things up — no intervention possible. It often destroys more than one life.  I live and grew up in a middle class community. I had the benefits of being educated and gainfully employed non-stop for 36 years. I mostly lived in “white” neighborhoods where one would not expect a great deal of gun violence. I know more people who died from firearms than I know who died from traffic accidents. I’m sure my experience with gun deaths is almost nothing compared to the experience of someone living in a ghetto or barrio or a gang controlled neighborhood.

Double homicide — jilted guy shoots and kills his girlfriend and her husband as they come out their door to go to work…an ambush killing.

This happened two doors away from my daughter’s house in a small town in rural Missouri. Gun violence is not just a city thing. The guy got away and was finally caught several hundred miles away. He had a gun and thought it was OK to kill people and figured he could get away. If he didn’t have the gun he wouldn’t have been waiting in the dark to squeeze off a couple rounds into his “problem” people. He wouldn’t have considered that to be a solution to his problem. There are about 310,000,000 guns in America with more added every day. We need more guns like we need a hole in the head.

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Written on the Eve of the Next Mass Shooting

Who will it be this time?
The shooter, I mean.
My guess is it will be some guy with a problem.
His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.
He was bullied in school.
He lost his job and it wasn’t fair.
Somebody got too close or too slow on the road.
He’s a self-styled vigilante who doesn’t approve of “those people”.
His God told him to do it.

Who will it be this time?
The victims, I mean.
My guess is it will be ordinary people with ordinary problems.
His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.
She lost her job and it wasn’t fair.
He was bullied in school.
She was one of “those people”.
He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
She worshiped the wrong God.

Who will it be this time?
The person who gave him the guns, I mean.
My guess it’s someone who is clueless…and guiltless.
Was it the dad who was fascinated with fire power?
Was it the mom frightened witless for her safety?
Was it the shop owner who was just making another sale?
Was it the anonymous online gun dealer?
Was it the guy in the alley with a trunk load of weapons?
Was it the neighbor who just left it lying around unsecured?

Who will it be this time?
The ones making lame excuses and feeble explanations.
My guess it will be the same ones we always hear.
The bought-off politicians.
The 2nd Amendment Constitutional crack-pots.
The gun rights fanatics…”If only they were all armed…”
The NRA spokesmen whose cold dead brains can’t fathom what’s happening?
The goof-ball local sheriff who suddenly has a crisis.
The wannabe candidate sucking up to voters.

Who will it be next time?



Nevertheless, She Persisted

malalaPersist_zpss3lpdzjzSometimes our language fails us in both words and concepts. My wife had a term she applied to some people she admired for their persistence and tenacity: “stick-to-it-ive-ness”. Not exactly the most elegant of terms but it conveys the concept, in her mind, better than anything else. I was, on a couple occasions, the recipient of that honor but perhaps fell short more than a few times. She certainly had that quality about her and outlasted my puny capacity quite often.

Men seem to value the sprint while women go for distance. There is something that seems almost as a biological and intellectual capacity in women to move on, ever forward, in an undaunted manner. Our species would have slithered into oblivion without that quality.

Down through the ages. with few exceptions, men have held the power. Men wrote the Bible and the Koran and other religious texts. Women made the ink. Men told the history of nations and sang songs of losers and winners. Women made the beer and carried the water. Men heaped praise and glory on their heroes. Women saw them all before they had their morning coffee. Men pranced off to war in fancy uniforms. Women bound up their wounds and cared for their orphans.

Only in the last decades of the 19th century did women begin to extricate themselves from constant servitude. Women were legally oppressed under English common law and the concept of coverture. Once married, a women essentially became part of her husband and ceased to exist as an individual. If unmarried, she could own property and conduct business and enter into contracts but not as a married woman. That power and authority resided in the husband. If you think back to the decades around 1800, it is largely single, unmarried women who stand out as writers and artists.

KEN7Men, for the most part, were perfectly content with the old customs and didn’t see a problem. Everything was fine…a well oiled machine. Why change? Some men still don’t get it. Surprisingly, some women don’t get it. But, nevertheless, they persisted. Women have made progress and have come to claim, inch by inch, equality with men in many fields. There have been setbacks and ongoing battles. There have been grave sacrifices.  Nevertheless, they persist. My daughter enjoys rights and freedoms that her great-grandmother never dreamed of. We are talking of a span of about 100 years of slow and persistent progress. Women still have a way to go even in what we would consider our enlightened western culture.

In other parts of the world the struggle is just starting or is taking a slightly different path. Progress won’t look the same everywhere. I don’t advocate for many non-profit organizations or projects but I do stand behind the ideas and efforts of The Girl Effect. There has to be a starting place…if doors won’t open, use a window.






A Chance Meeting on a Train


The chance meetings or random coincidences always intrigue me. I’m travelling cross country by train and I‘ve met two writers already just as table-mates in the dining car. One, age nineteen, has two published books (what was I doing with my time at nineteen?). The other is a ghost writer and mostly now does short stories. The nineteen-year-old just started a university writing program so, who knows, she may never write again – or maybe be a great success. I knew her when…

I had lunch in the dining car yesterday with a lady from the island of Hawaii travelling to St. Louis, which happens to be my destination. As we talked, she shared some of her experiences of moving to Hawaii and what her immediate surroundings were like…plants and animals. There was also another lady sitting at a table across the aisle who was glancing over from time to time. It turned out that she also was also from the “Big Island” and they were, in fact, near neighbors. They lived in adjoining communities. So what are the odds of two people starting off on separate journeys from the same general place at different times and meeting in a dining car in New Mexico on an east-bound train? How many different things had to fall into place for that to happen? I suppose someone could figure out the odds with enough information but I’ve learned just to accept it.  Maybe a butterfly in Tibet flapped its wings and things fell into place. Maybe not.

My life is full of similar random coincidences that defy explanation. My late wife’s birthdate matches exactly with my brother’s wife’s birthdate…same day and year. They were born in the same state but not the same city. Also, totally unknown until later, my wife once worked for my sister-in-law’s mother when she was starting her career before I met her.

About a twenty years into my work life I was living in a small town and employed in government as a program manager. I had to hire a new secretary so I interviewed maybe a half dozen candidates. I hired a local woman from the small town and never really thought much about her background or family. In small towns one doesn’t pry into family connections unless the topic is initiated by the other person. My experience was that many people were related to each other either directly or by marriage and it was best not to express opinions or comments about someone. Now, realize that I was born and raised 150 miles away and had no prior connection to this town. That is what I thought until a chance conversation with my secretary revealed that we were both cousins to the same person. Somehow one of my cousins married her cousin and we were commonly related to their children. It was a second marriage for both of these cousins; both being divorced in different localities.

I also have two insurance agents, both living in that same small town that I moved to at age 27, and both of these agents share my birthday. One is exactly the same — day and year – and the other a few years later. They don’t know each other and work for different companies. There are other date-related coincidences: my dad died ten years, to the hour, before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. I could list almost a dozen other odd, seemingly random occurrences but you get the idea.

I was recently reading a short passage from Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which he questions how things happen. Often we see things as planned and managed by a talented leader (in this case, Napoleon) but maybe that is an illusion. Maybe things are set in motion in another way. Maybe a peculiar string of random events led Napoleon to Moscow with a huge army. Maybe he was just along for the ride. We plan things and sometimes the plans work out and sometimes they don’t. “Serendipity” is one English language concept – to find something good by accident without seeking it. In history, one person’s serendipity is sometimes another person’s catastrophe. I suspect that concept is not unique to English speakers.

At any rate, things have an odd tendency to fall into place in ways that, while seemingly random, also give a hint that something else is in control. My daughter says that it is the angels at work. She got that idea from my wife who attributed certain happenings to an unseen hand…”Let it be – marvel but don’t question” was her philosophy. Maybe so. Maybe the angels are bored and play these games to keep busy.

Carl Gustave Jung, a clergyman’s son and prominent psychoanalyst, was also intrigued by these chance happenings and devised the concept of synchronicity. To his way of thinking, events do not need to have a causal relationship to have meaning — perhaps meaning eclipses cause? Out of all of these events that I’ve mentioned above, or others I haven’t described, or those others have experienced, none of them really had much of an impact. I didn’t change my behavior or plans in response to the events and it made no difference to other people whose lives intersected in the events. It is just a curiosity, sometimes with meaning to the observer, sometimes there is no meaning. Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day. Other than that one fact, there really isn’t anything else to say except that they both went on to change the course of history.

For a number of years, beginning in 1975, my wife and I would take a week-long vacation each year…maybe longer some years. The dates of our vacation coincided with a number of major events including the stock market crash, the death of Princess Diana, the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., the assassination of Anwar Sadat, disappearance (and death) of Jimmy Hoffa,  various plane crashes, coups  and military invasions. We would occasionally joke about the CIA or FBI wanting to track our movements — something big was going to happen if we took a vacation. We still took our vacation and we were finally able to shake off the “curse” about fifteen years ago. Nothing would happen when we went on a trip. It was sort of a let down…we didn’t have any special powers after all.

(Revised from the original posted at The Green Room, August, 2016)