Sunday, December 30, 2007

Radiocatively thinking. . .

We did indeed make it home. Went from palm trees in shirt-sleeve weather to a foot of snow and booger-freezing weather. And came home to a rather gassy and incontinent dog who has really made a mess of the carpet. Poor dogsitter.

Just read one of my Christmas presents, "The Radioactive Boy Scout," by Ken Silverstein. What a story. Now, aside from the fact this David Hahn nearly really made a mess of his neighborhood and very likely shortened his life with radiation poisoning, I've got to say this guy has a lot of drive. Had he performed his experiments a century earlier, he of course would have won a Nobel prize in physics. It's too bad he seems unable to channel his intelligence and drive into constructive uses of the technology that fascinates him. (For the uninitiated, the book is about David Hahn, a Detroit suburbanite whoa t age 17 built a model breeder reactor using chamicals he took from smoke detectors, lantern mantles, luminous-dial clocks and other bric-a-brac. He never did createa austained chain reactior or breed the uranium fuel he was hoping, but he did produce massive amounts of radiation to the point the EPA had to pack up his laboratory -- a potting shed in his mother's back yard -- and ship it all to a waste dump in Utah.

I admit to having mixed feelings on nuclear power. On the one hand, it's a tremendous way to produce massive amounts of energy. On the other hand, there's the stuff left over that you wouldn't want to mix with your potato salad. But I have to wonder. With all the worrying about fossil-fuel carbon emissions spreading like cancer in the oceans and the atmosphere, why is concentrated radioactive waste that can be stored such an evil tradeoff for some people? Isn't there some place on the moon where we could rocket this stuff, or have the environmentalists and spiritualists taken that over as well? Let's shoot it into the sun. That damn thing is 93 million miles away and can still cause your skin to bubble on a hot afternoon, so a little earth-originated radioactive material certainly coulnd't hurt it. There's the cost, yes. But how much could a moon-based slingshot or catapult really cost? We don't have to make express deliveries, do we? Just toss it up there and watch it carsh, Shoemaker-Levy-like, into the Sun ten, twenty years hence.

Ear update: After two days of showering and a ten-minute session with an OTC ear-wax removal kit that put a liquid in my ear that sounded like Pop Rocks, the ear wax is gone. For now. But I'm sure it's lurking somewhere, only to return later.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Eh? What's that?

Vacation is going splendidly, except that for the past 24 hours, my left ear has been completely blocked by earwax. I've always had excessive earwax in that particular ear, but this time around I've managed to get completely blocked. I got a little relief last night after a very hot shower, but overnight it plugged up again and I wish it hadn't.

In the past few days we've:

  • Followed a GPS-equipped Honda Pilot through the spaghetti bowl that is the Los Angeles freeway system
  • Crossed the border into Los Algadones, Mexico, with a bunch of snowbirds intent on buying cheap alcohol and prescription medicines
  • Been shoved around a tiny hotel breakfast room by a bunch of Japanese and French tourists

We did go last night to see the Crystal Cathedral, which was actually pretty interesting. It's kind of hard to pin down what religion, exactly, the ahderents there ahdere to, outside some kind of evangelical Christianity. I do know that if I were putting together a brochure about the place and wanted to put up a statue of Norman Vincent Peale and then brag about said statue in the brochure, I'd sure make sure Dr. Peale's middle name were spelled right. It was weir to see the statues of these guys up in the building. Sure, they're great guys -- but on par with Moses and Jesus? That's a little odd. Of course, I'm Mormon, and probably am several miles to the right of odd myself. But it was still weird.

It's nice to have a wireless connection here in the hotel. We suffer with dial-up at home, and I've struggled to find a convenient wi-fi spot. There are a few signals I could jump onto at home if they were just a wee bit stronger, but then I wouldn't want people doing that to my signal, so I don't do it to theirs. So I'm taking advantage while I'm here. Updated all the anti-virus stuff I could update last night. Probably should look to see if there are other updates I need.

I'm going to have to get some mineral oil for this ear. It's driving me nuts.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Going on Wacation

Blogging will be intermittent over the next several days. Not that anybody cares, but just in case. We're on vacation from our problems. We may go sailing. ("I'm sailing! I'm sailing! Far away from the dock! Ahoy!") Work will not be missed. School will not be missed. The dog will be missed a bit. But not enough to get us to take her with us. No sir.

I've got to say one thing, though: Just read about the two Colorado teenagers who killed a 7-year-old by beating her to death using moves from the "Mortal Kombat" video game. This isn't going to be a rant about video games inspiring violence, because, in fact, they don't. At least in everybody. But ya gotta wonder about these two simpletons, and the drunk idiot who didn't intervene. It's just stupidity, plain and simple.

I have three kids of my own. Each time I read of someone hurting or killing a child, I cringe. I cringe at death in general, of course. Even for those who may "deserve" it, as many people say in justifying their blood lust. I don't buy into that. Guess you could say I subscribe to the Gandalf/J.R.R. Tolkein view: Many deserve death who live, and many who die deserve life. I also believe in that funny little commandment that says "Thou Shalt Not Kill," and don't agree with any Orwellian tinkering with that commandment, even as such tinkering appears in the Bible. Don't like that. I have a hard time reconciling it. I haven't succeeded, because it's hard to me to see how anyone can add "without a cause" to that commandment. Can we give life to people? We can't. So we shouldn't encourage dealing it out, whether through the death penalty or our own fists. Death for death, tit for tat shows weakness, not strength.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesdays with AWOL

So sorry about yesterday. Had to work "in town" Tuesday, which means fewer opportunities for goofing off. Plus we were really busy trying to get two procedures cleaned up. Not that anybody in Blogland cares. Not that I care. I just know this puts me one day closer to curtailment, where I may recharge the batteries by taking three screaming kids on a long road trip to Mexico while on the way to Disneyland.

I've asked this question of some of my friends; now I'll ask it of you: Can you think of any good reason an upstart Internet travel company would need to rent a goat? Moral reasons, I mean. I await your musings on the subject.

I do plan on working on my novel during the trip. When I'm not scraping kids off the ceiling because they're so hopped up on vacation they can't stand it. In other thoughts, I may not survive this trip. I may go insane right now just to save time.

Read on the Intertubes this morning that fewer parents are reading bedtime stories to their children. Not so for us. That is, if reading the scriptures to them counts. We do read the occasional beditme story, but by the time it's bedtime, we spend a good half hour brushing teeth, getting pajamas on, shoving vitamins down their throats (as if they need the energy and body-boosting the vitamins provide). Then there are the drinks of water, the trips to the potty, the arguing with the three-year-old over where he wants to sleep (never where he's supposed to; once we caught him sleeping underneath the Christmas tree). So I do not feel guilty if the little rutabagas don't get a bedtime story read to them every night.

Parenting can certainly open your eyes to the things your parents did when you were a kid. I remember, too, resisting the bedtime thing. We got the occasional bedtime story, but more often than not we were happy to sit in bed and read by ourselves. I remember though, resenting that Mom and Dad got to "stay up" while the rest of us had to go to sleep. Then I had kids of my own, and realize that if I'm anything like my own parents, the things I do after the kids are to be aren't as exciting as I once believed of my own parents. I wash dishes, clean the kitchen. Michelle does laundry and catches up on the mending. I'll clean up the art table in the den, where the kids have left their messes from the day. We might turn on a movie during that time, catching glances at our favorite parts, but missing most of it because we're busy. Occasionally, I'll get on the computer and Michelle will scrapbook. But those are the rare nights. When the kids ask if they can stay up later, I'm in the habit now of asking, "So, what chore do you want to do?" That usually sends the seven-year-old into a quick coma. Nothing fazes Isaac, the youngest, however. We may have to invest in a rubber mallet. . .

Monday, December 17, 2007

Short story alert!!

On occasion, I'll post an original short story here, because heaven knows no one else wants to publish them. . .

The Body of Hector Salazar

By Brian Davidson

The road through the dunes crusts with ice welded to the asphalt by the deep freeze. Wind pushes the falling snow like a plague of fallen dendrite stars. Field stubble and roadside weeds not buried by the snow dance and tremble. A horse, head bowed, leaning into a barbed wire fence, shies as a goat sideswipes its horns at the horse’s chest, bullying, pushing the creature into the wind.

There’s no reason to fight over that particular patch of stubble and snow, Jimbo tought. But the goat persists.Worrying the horse, cut on the barbed wire, freezing in wind blowing 20 miles per hour.

Two other horses watch.

They always watch when you’re hurt, Jimbo thought.

Through the snow, a mile to the east, lies the city of Parker, its cemetery perched on an odd hillock, its water tower proclaiming proudly the city’s name.

The pickup crawled over the ice.

I hope we’re not in the junipers, Jimbo thought.

Walking through the sage brush will be hard enough.

The junipers, conical blots of black on the hills north of the dunes, look like soldiers.
But the junipers pass. The road, red in the summer from the cinders used to pave it, climbs hills, dips into hollows, weaves to the west, to the east, past the junipers, through the fields of sage brush and lava rock and cheat grass and other junk not quite buried underneath the scanty snow.

Two miles past the resort, the message said, there’s a sheep corral. Not sure what side of the road it’s on, it said, but there’s nothing else out there, so you won’t miss it.

He felt nervous, white-knuckling the four-wheel drive on the slick roads. The tires didn’t slip, though the wind pushed the truck over the ice. He drove slowly. He was used to driving on such roads, even if, for the past five years, he’d slid off the road at least once per winter. The radio played, but he didn’t hear it. He didn’t hear the wind. He heard the heater blasting warm air, felt it on its face, on his toes loose in his leather boots.

He saw the horse trailers. An eighth of a mile off, to the left, a cluster of trailers and trucks, all rugged, making the corral look like a used car lot. Past the corral, the road wasn’t plowed. The county probably plowed the road for the search.

Seeing the men strutting around the trailers, harnessing horses, talking, made Jimbo self-conscious. They wore Carharts and Dickies and outfits with the names of Polaris and Yamaha emblazoned on their backs like football jerseys. He saw cowboy hats and boots, face masks, hooded parkas, gold- and purple-tinted sunglasses, beards and moustaches, blankets for the horses, dogs, ski poles, snowshoes. Men wearing bright orange vests directed trucks backing up with trailers of four-wheelers, more horses, cases of water and pop hurried into a tent, bales of straw. Men wearing survival yellow vinyl coats set up traffic cones, directed sheriff’s vehicles, an ambulance to which someone in a moustache attached a hand-lettered sign reading COMMAND CENTER with two strips of duct tape once the vehicle parked.

“It’s amazing where you’ll see qualities of leadership emerge among people you don’t expect it in,” said a small man in a blue parka and grey ski cap. He had clear plastic lenses in his glasses, and teeth. He knew him. Director of marketing at a local credit union, where Jimbo was a member.

He felt more at ease.

Most everyone else who knew he and his wife stayed apart from Jimbo, friendly smiles never reaching their eyes when they said hasty hellos. But he was used to the whispers, the snickers. The frowns. This man tolerates me like a bad check, Jimbo thought. Something to be corrected. He dared use the word redeemed.

Neither one of them had a moustache, though Jimbo hadn’t shaved that morning.

They stuck together in the crowd, standing side by side, Jimbo canting his body in a way to keep his face out of the stinging wind, and out of his companion’s conversation. His chin quivered.

“What a nasty day for a thing like this,” his companion said.

“Yesterday was a lot sunnier,” Jimbo said.

“A lot sunnier.”

Yeah, too bad. So sunny. So sunny. “No wind at all,” Jimbo said.

He felt his incompetence showed enough in the denim pants he wore, through the lack of a face mask for the chin he could no longer feel. He wore layers like they taught him in Boy Scouts: long johns and a pair of pajama pants under the pants – he was at least proud they were Carharts -- long johns and a sweatshirt under the winter coat, with the too-short sleeves. Two pairs of gloves. Fleece hat with a fringe on top and two straps to tie under the chin.

Vivid memories of frigid winter camping, being forced to camp in a snow cave in the scoutmaster’s back yard while “The Wizard of Oz” was broadcast on TV. Of the hike when he forgot his gloves and had to crawl up a snowy embankment to get back to camp and he ended up crying with his frozen hands stuffed into his armpits, while the Scout leader, who pulled him up the embankment, walked in front of him, shaking his head. Of waking up with the stink of spaghetti dinner puke from a Scout who couldn’t find the door to the wall tent and had barfed on everybody trying to get out to go barf in the snow right by the tent door, snow already yellowed by many previous Scouts, bitter that the hot springs they’d hiked five miles to swim in were behind a padlocked gate in a chain link fence. The fence the Scoutmaster hadn’t known about. The fence he wouldn’t let them climb because that would be trespassing.

And colder memories. Much colder.

He liked to be bundled up, hiding his face from the cold. From the stares. But this far from home, some twenty miles or so, in another county where people had others to recognize and to whisper about, he felt almost unrecognizable.

His companion with the glasses and teeth poking out of hat and parka spoke easily, recalling the time he and a brother-in-law – A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy – were lost with wrecked motorcycles God knew where. “He was mortified when I called for search and rescue,” he said. “’You’re mad at me, aren’t you?’ I asked him. We started walking. We got out before Search and Rescue found us.”

Jimbo didn’t tell the tale of being lost on the highways of Los Angeles. Of having his wife call her mother at Disneyland for directions as he went into an Office Depot in Corona to buy a map.
They did find their way, he thought, smugly.

“Is that you, Jimbo?” A brown corduroy coat, hunter’s vest, snow pants, thick Russian hat and moustache greeted him. He recognized Bill, a high school friend of his wife’s. “How’s your wife doing? See her much these days?” The man smiled, stood feet apart, hands balled inside stiff green leather gloves.

“’S me,” Jimbo said. “And I don’t.”

“Good,” the man said. He walked away.

If only we’d start, Jimbo thought, sheltering from the wind between two Fremont County Search and Rescue trailers. One of them bore a cryptic message: To our Lost Members: 45, 64, 87, 90.

We’ve been standing here a long time. Waiting. The snow is falling faster and the wind, which was only gusting this morning, now blows strongly. There’s a lot more standing around to this search and rescue thing, Jimbo thought.

Jimbo didn’t brag he was going to look for Hector Salazar.

He refrained telling a friend in Pennsylvania that he’d have to wait for Jimbo’s copy-editing of his travelogue along the Snake River until Saturday afternoon because he, Jimbo, was off to find Hector Salazar, a despondent man last seen on Thanksgiving Day, driving a mini van, wearing only a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.

He didn’t tell his wife. She didn’t answer the phone any more when she saw his number on the caller ID. He did not leave messages. Once and a while, when his mother wasn’t home, his oldest son, fourteen, would answer. Talk briefly. Agree to relay messages. They joked, stiffly. Jimbo asked how school was going. Fine, his son replied, invariably. And your sister? She’s fine. And the baby? He’s seven, Jimbo. You can still call me Dad, he said. Mom doesn’t want us to.

Someone found Hector Salazar’s van, stuffed with papers, dirty magazines, books and clothing, abandoned in a sage brush-filled hollow three quarters of a mile north of the sheep corrals a week ago. The sheriff’s department was convinced Salazar was a suicide. They’d searched for a few days, before the temperatures dropped to twenty below, before the winds blew. They stumbled though the ragged terrain, a cluster of lava bombs, pumice, juniper and sage brush twisted by the cold and heat and wind and rain.

“We’ll concentrate our search within about a mile of the van,” said the search and rescue leader, shouting into the blizzard with a crowd of rescuers surrounding him. “Most people, when they’re committing suicide, will only wander about a half mile from their vehicle.”

Jimbo turned. He’d parked his truck – a tiny Toyota, four-wheel drive but dwarfed between massive Fords and Dodges -- where protocol called for.

The man wanted to know how many had brought horses.

Some in the back of the crowd couldn’t hear him. Someone handed him a bull horn. “Is that better,” he shouted into the device.

“Better,” someone in the back of the crowd shouted.

Jimbo had visions of being the one to find the body of Hector Salazar, lost somewhere in the snow-blown sage brush.

“What you’re going to do is this,” the man said. “We’ll walk abreast, about eight to ten feet apart, so what you see and what the people next to you see overlap. When you get to a hill of snow, you’ve got to kick it. Now, remember what we’re looking for. What conditions we’re in. It’s going to be hard. Frozen. So you’ve got to kick it until you know it’s not a rock. It’s easy to forget. I was out here yesterday, and I kicked a few hills. I walked away from one, then walked back and kicked some more, because I wasn’t sure if it was a rock or not. We want to make sure our first trip is a thorough one. Once we feel out trip is good, we’ll do it again. We don’t want to miss anything.”

Some in the crowd had brought poles, ski poles, or long pieces of PVC pipe, to poke any snow hills they found. Jimbo had a long-handled ax in the back of his truck, along with some rope and a mason’s trowel. Maybe the ax. If nobody else was watching. He looked at his leather boots, which he wore to the office. They might kick a dead body today. His toes were cold already in his damp boots. He didn’t have any wool socks. Wore only one thin pair of cotton socks, already wet.
They started to break up into groups of six, five volunteers with a trained search and rescue man as leader. Jimbo and the marketing director hung back, watching as crowds of a dozen or more walked up each time the man asked for five volunteers.

He had visions of finding Hector Salazar. Kicking a snow-covered mound and finding he was kicking a snow-covered buttock. Suspiciously eyeing a lump underneath an exceptionally large sage brush, spotting the hand, poking out of the snow, clinging to the trunk. Even tripping over what he thought was a log only to discover it was a limb. He imagined the Search and Rescue pro with him exulting at Jimbo’s sharp eye. “I’d have missed him,” he’d say. “Glad you were here with us.” He could show his worth, that he was a worthwhile human being. If he did enough good, some day, he might be able to look his family in the eye again.

He resolutely decided to be humble with the news media. They were there, taping the preparations, coaxing shy Search and Rescue people into talking on camera.

“Who’s gonna talk,” the reporter from Channel Five asked.

As a man, the group took a step backward.

“Gotta talk to him,” said a pair of eyes wrapped against the cold. He pointed to a man with a clipboard.

“Thanks, Henry,” he said. He stepped forward.

Jimbo knew he was in the line of sight of the camera. He stepped aside. “I don’t want to be in the background,” he told his friend.

“You’re a journalist. You ought to be used to this,” he said.

“Haven’t been in the business for a year and a half,” Jimbo said. “Besides, it’s always better to be behind the camera, not in front of it.”

His friend agreed.

Snow swirled through the air like water in a river. Wind blew it into fluffy icecaps. Jimbo could no longer feel his chin. He zipped his coat up as far as it would, jammed his chin into the coat’s closed collar. As he breathed, he felt his chin growing warm again.

He thought of the Hot Hands. Packets of chemicals, activated by air, which each rescuer was given to activate and put in pockets as a source of heat as they walked and kicked and searched. His friend had already taken two of the packets, ripped them open and stuffed them in his boots. “They’re not working as hot as I thought they would, but my feet are warmer,” he said. Jimbo kept his in his coat pocket, unused. His feet felt as if he were standing barefoot on ice.

His coat bulged uncomfortably. A sack lunch, two water bottles handed out by the Search and Rescue crews. He felt a little uncomfortable carrying them. He felt thirsty. But drinking the water now would be a waste.

Finally, after two hours of standing around in the snow, the groups began to move. Trucks hauled them off, butts perched on the slick sides of pickup beds as the trucks bounced and rumbled over the packed ice. Some groups walked the hundred yards to the road, anxious to be underway, if only to warm up from the exertion.

His group seemed to be at the end of the line. Apparently, even with the deteriorating weather, they had all day to search. They scheduled the search for a Saturday when many would be off work. It sounded like a good idea to volunteer when his pastor called. It was safe to say yes in his warm study in the basement at home on a Thursday night, when his work was done for the week and Saturday seemed very far off.

They were at the end of the line.

He and his friend left the group, entered a wall tent where they’d seen people emerging with doughnuts and cups of steaming liquid. He had a chocolate doughnut and some hot chocolate, squinting at both as he’d had to remove his fogged glasses in the tent’s warmth. He squinted at the tent’s occupants. They all wore hats and snowsuits and seemed to be cheerful and mostly female. One woman stirred an enormous pot of something on a propane burner. “Watch you don’t burn your butt on that heater,” she cautioned. Jimbo felt the warmth streaming through the seat of his pants into the layers underneath.

Outside, snow fell, determined to bury Hector Salazar until spring.

Why wander off like that, Jimbo thought as he gulped the hot chocolate, stirring lumps with a plastic stick bending precariously in the heat. The police thought Hector Salazar had guns, and hadn’t wandered off into the desert to freeze to death. “Sure, we talked with the family,” the man had said as the groups huddled around him outside. “But what they said has only a 20 percent chance of being accurate. It was a long time ago he disappeared. People have funny memories, even of what happened yesterday. With finding the van, and with what we got from the family, we figure we have a ten percent chance of finding him today. And that’ll go down if the weather gets bad.”

The tent’s flaps billowed in the wind. Jimbo peeked out and couldn’t see the road, all of a hundred twenty yards away, through the migrating snow.

Why wander off like that, Jimbo thought as he held his empty cup. I ran off like that, my wife would be hysterical. She doesn’t like it when I’m fifteen minutes late getting home from work. But then, Jimbo, he said to himself, you have no idea how Hector’s family reacted. Some of them were here today, no doubt, hoping they’d be the ones to find him. To put minds to rest. But not as restful as the mind of the man they searched for.

That’s an odd thought, Jimbo. Hector Salazar left home troubled. Drove his van north, drove off the paved road onto dirt roads, off the dirt roads into rock and sage brush, out of the van, walking, into the desert, thinking, thinking. Maybe he went into the desert to drink. Lots of people did, Jimbo imagined. Too many eyes around here. Nobody buys that Nyquil story. Maybe he was a cross-dressing drinker, like the guy whom the police found hanged from a cottonwood on the banks of the Teton River a few years ago. Maybe he hated his job. Hated himself. So he wandered into the desert. To stop hating.

A woman stirred chili in the huge pot. She was there with the other women, preparing lunch for the searchers inside a wall tent insulated from the wind by walls of straw. She cackled like a witch.

Jimbo went back outside. The other groups were gone, it seemed. A few minutes standing in the snow, and his group began marching toward the road from where they’d begin their search.
His brother would say it was colder than a tin toilet on the shady side of an iceberg.

Rebel, the yellow lab, was there leaping at hands, sniffing crotches.

His owner, a pair of round-lensed glasses poking out of a hat, hood and Dickies, scolded him. “Rebel, leave him alone.” Rebel ran off, sniffing the snowy ground.

First-time volunteers talked like the professionals. They listened in on the radios, conjectures whether the first group, dispatched an hour ago, had already traversed their two miles to the point trucks would pick them up and bring them back for another trip.

Their leader – Jimbo never remembered names – chatted with Jimbo’s friend about the cost of concrete, the merits of pouring concrete in heat versus cold, the cost of hot water and calcium.
Last summer, he and his wife brought their three children to the sand dunes, a few miles south from where he stood, freezing. The sand, littered with charred wood and bits of exploded fireworks, burned their feet. But the kids shrieked with joy and ran across the landscape, pausing to dig holes with their toes to reach the cool sand a few inches under the surface, then racing off again once their feet were cool. Even the two-year-old loped up the dune to the crest to watch the ATVs crawling on the distant hills. And the dog – an 11-pound Dachshund – darted from campfire ring to campfire ring, sniffing, licking rocks, tongue lolling freely. They watched black beetles work their way across the sand, followed lizard trails.

Jimbo in the snow laughed at the memory of their laughter.

He remembered tellins his wife about something or other, how something worked. He was enthusiastic. He loved trivia, loved to share what he learned. He talked about this something for five minutes, ten minutes, ending with a flourish.

He remembered his wife looking at him in that was she had. “That was almost interesting,” she said.

He laughed. So did she. So did the children.

He got to see them every other weekend now that the divorce was final. The separation had been amicable, with her lawyer handling everything. He didn’t want a fight. He knew he’d hurt her deeply. He preferred not to think about it, but the thoughts always found a way to creep in. He told her he was sorry. At the sentencing, even when he got just probation, he told her. He told her he was sorry. He didn’t believe she believed him, but it needed to be said. When a man hurts a woman as he hurt his wife, there are never enough sorrys to be said. A man looks at those kinds of pictures and hurts himself. The only one hurt more is the wife, who knows she doesn’t look like those pictures. Doesn’t want to. Shouldn’t have to. But feels guilty and inadequate and betrayed and insulted. And hated.

She wanted proof he was sorry. Proof he wouldn’t hurt her any more, three times stung. She wanted proof he wasn’t an ass, a pervert, a sub-human. “Show me you’re a real man,” she said. “Then maybe I’ll think about starting to think about forgiving you.”

Jimbo thought hard.

All he could say: “I’m sorry.”

“We may not go out,” the leader said. We may not go out. He’d been listening to the radio. “The wind’s blowing too much. There’s too much snow falling. They might bring some of the other groups back.”

Jimbo and his buddy from the credit union went back to the warming tent. “They’re hauling them back in,” the cauldron woman said. She looked right at Jimbo, in his denim pants and frozen face. “There were too many not dressed for the weather,” she said.

He had more hot chocolate. He watched the woman stir the chili, others setting out cups, counting doughnuts. They laughed and were at ease with the world, though somewhere out in the frozen desert, Hector Salazar lay curled and frozen and silent in his shorts and flip-flops, on the drive of a lifetime.

Jimbo left the tent. A few seconds later, his buddy followed.

“So, whaddaya think,” he asked.

“I’m going home,” Jimbo said. He glanced into the wind, into the blowing snow. Snowflakes spun past his glasses and stung his eyes.

“All right.”

He entered the red trailer, turned in his hot hands, his bottles of water. He handn’t paid for them. He didn’t need them. He watched as the woman in the trailer crossed his name off the list of would-be rescuers. He flinched a little. He was used to having his name on lists.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be,” the woman said. “This happens. We knew looking for him in January would be a risk. We’ll just have to find him in the spring.”

He left the trailer, walked to his truck through the blizzard.

Find him in the spring. When early flowers poked through the dwindling crust of snow and rabbits and mice and foxes and coyotes come out of the burrows and run and eat and die less cruelly than during the false hope of January thaws.

He started the engine, let the defroster blast cold air throughout the cab as the engine warmed up. He removed his gloves, his hat. He took the lunch bag out of his coat, placed it on the seat next to him. He turned on the radio. Light opera.

He looked into the flying snow.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Monday morning, 7:49 AM

Foolish humans. If you thought I'd update this thing over the weekend, wrong you were. I have a life. Well, a pseudo-life that boils down to washing dishes, delivering Christmas gifts and a bunch of other stuff that I've already forgotten as this new work week comes along. My big accomplishment for the weekend? I brushed my teeth.

Went to a meeting last night where they talked about our upcoming duties at the open house for the Rexburg LDS Temple. An hour meeting that could have been summed up in a five-minute memo. Maybe I'll suggest that next time. I'm on parking lot duty, meaning I'll stand out in the cold and freeze my bejeeebers off welcoming people to the parking lot. I'll give them the comprehensive tour, including a scraping of the parking lot ice to reveal the striping underneath. Seriously, though, it should be a lot of fun. If we can avoid more meetings. And meetings. And more meetings, with a capital M.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going nuclear

I like to watch the rabbits that congregate outside the building I work in. They nibble on the grass. They sit fat in the wind, their fur ruffling in the breeze, staring back at me through the window. They're pretty sure no one is going to bother them.

They live under the building I work in, with the marmots. At least I think the marmots are still here. Maybe they hibernate, but they were here all summer.

They're probably all slightly radioactive. It's the nature of the place I work -- a radioactive waste landfill. I work on the paperwork here, with a team of writers. We don't get out of the building much, whci is a good thing. Because of the cold, not because of the radioactivity.

I see nothing wrong with building nuclear power plants; it always surprises me that this area, with its long history with the nuclear industry, is not already powered by nuclear energy. The waste we deal with here is stuff left over from research and weapons production, not nuclear energy. This stuff can be managed correctly. It's a lot more containable and concentrated than the CO put out by fossil fuel power plants. But don't listen to me. This is one man's opinion.

My boy's gonna. . .

I just don't like the idea that we're going to have to put up with presidential election rhetoric for the next 11 months. I'd prefer a Stealth Election Date, which would work something like this: Sometime during the year prior to the expiration of the current president's term of offce, the Federal Election Commission would just up and declare that the election was going to take place on any random date. We'd get two weeks' notice. We could vote for any of the bozoz running right now, regardless of the pointless party nomination process. If the vote were too close, we'd get another chance, say two weeks after the first vote, to decide between the top two or three bozos from the first round. Once an election date were declared, candidates would be forbidden to advertise, make any public appearances or collect any money. Maybe we could put them to work bagging groceries for the two weeks prior to the election and let them talk to people only after they'd carried their groceries out to their cars.

A stupid idea? Sure. But no less stupid than the process we've got right now. . .

What concerns me more right at the moment is that the "check Engine" light is on in my truck. I'd prefer the Dave Barry approach to getting things fixed: We'd both like the offending part to be waving a little sign that says "Help!" when we start poking around so we can tell if it's gotta be fixed right away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I am here but no one cares who I am

I feel better having said that. I face facts: I am blogging on a site that's sneered at by other bloggers, those who believe they're geniuses and those who are. I don't care. I've just sat on the sdielines too long and, to quote Homer Simpson (must get pop culture references in here somewhere, blogger's rule #1,298) "I saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, 'Mee too!'" So here I am.

Who am I? Admit it, you don't care. But just in case:
  • Brian Davidson, fat and happy.
  • Technical writer at the Idaho National Laboratory.
  • Washed-up journalist.
  • Father.
  • Student at Utah State University, working on a Masters Degree in technical writing.
  • Sim City 4 player.
  • Unpublished poet, novelist. (Like we need more of those.)
  • An Internet learner. Novice (Note my presence on Blogspot). But willing.
  • On the artistic side, I collect ties. Well, I used to. Now they sit in a cardboard box in the closet.
  • I have a wiener dog.

I tried blogging on Blogspot many moons ago. I think I did three or four entries, then petered out. This may last longer. Not that any of you care. Or should care. I am no genius.

I will blog regularly, however. It's the thing. It's the bomb. It's the fact that I'm ten or so years late getting into the game. So late I still have dial-up at home. Cheap, too, as evidence suggests.

Quote from the day (from (emphasis added):

"There’s a great deadness in many people, a grim harsh joy in the conviction we are just “moist robots,” to use the cynic’s phrase, living our lives in a vast factory that arose by miraculous random happenstance. Nothing amuses them more than belief, and oddly enough, nothing angers them more. It’s not even what you believe. It’s the very fact of believing in something other than Flying Spaghetti Monster photoshop contest deadlines or the enhancements on Episode IV."

He's dead on, of course. He speaks of those who commented at on shootings at a mission and a church in Colorado; those who commented along the lines that the four people who died ought to be happy because they went to their Jesus. One thing I've never understood about non-believers: You don't like it when we foist our beliefs on you. So why foist yours on us? (Must get controversey into the blog, rule #832!)