Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring arrives early

We had a couple of very cold weeks in early December, and one day of snow later in December (when we were out of town). In January it never got below 35 degrees all month, and of course no snow or ice. Now here it is mid-February and the trees are already in blossom! I'm sure we are two or three weeks ahead of schedule for Spring.

Amazingly I've continued riding my bike to work every day but two or three since late November. Though it has been wet several rides it has been very tolerable.

I love our winters. Not warm like Tucson or Riverside, and not cold like Ithaca or Idaho. Just right. And I really love the increasing daylight each day as Spring descends on us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Exotic vacations

I don't want this post to come across as boastful, but I'll take the risk.

I was reflecting on the many marvelous vacations and trips I and we have been blessed to take. I made a list and then attempted to pare it down to the top ten. Here they are, in chronological order.

1976 – England, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, more: Suzanne and I were poor college students, and Suzanne was six to eight months pregnant during this two month vacation. We had a home base with my brother, Barry, for several weeks in Germany where he was stationed in the Air Force.

1990 – Ireland: I tacked this on the end of a business trip to England, and Suzanne and I spent several days in the western part of the country.

1990 – Family vacation back east: My first sabbatical from Sequent, and I think this was three weeks duration. We rented a van and drove from Vermont to South Carolina, with four kids in tow.

1996 – Alaska vacation: 2nd Sequent sabbatical, about three weeks. We started in Anchorage in a rented RV to drive the interior, then sailed the inside passage on Alaska ferries. So memorable for the adventure and exotic nature, but also for how good the four kids were.

1997 – Hawaii: An employee reward trip for Suzanne and me, compliments of Sequent, five days. Oh, to be so pampered on Maui.

1997 – Slovakia and Austria: Suzanne and I went to Europe to pick up Blair after his mission. Not all that long after the iron curtain dropped, and Slovakia still had a communist feel. Adventure and memories—at the time I thought it was the best thing ever.

1998 – Trip back east with the family and my mom. Flew to Kansas City (exciting thunder storm!), drove east through Nauvoo, Kirtland, Palmyra, Gettysburg, DC, Williamsburg, Jamestown, and more.

2002 – Russia, Czech Republic, Berlin, Poland, Slovakia: 3rd Sequent sabbatical. Wow! So exotic to visit Bridget and Jeremy in Moscow, and travel with them. Visited Teresa in Germany.

2005 – Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon: Exotic and adventure step up a notch! Suzanne and Steven went a couple of weeks ahead of me, then I joined them for a couple of weeks. Bridget and Jeremy provided home base and tour guide services from their Damascus base.

2007 – Jordan, Israel, and (for me) Germany: I joined Suzanne and Steven for a week or so in Amman (courtesy of B&J again), then returned through Germany for a few days to pick up a new BMW and drive the Autobahn.

2008 – Montana road trip; Suzanne and I took off in the BMW for a road trip through Idaho (hello, Teresa!) and Montana. Great scenery and a trip down memory lane for me.

Okay, so that makes 11, if you are counting. And I didn't include the Mexico cruise, since that got its own post. What incredible experiences and memories these trips have given us! I really do count my blessings.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Atlas Shrugged

While searching for books to read I came across a list showing Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, to be the most read (or 2nd most read) book behind the Bible. I also checked some reviews on Amazon and many commented it was the most influential book they have read. So I checked out the mp3 version.

It was a huge investment in time. It is a very lengthy book, over 1000 pages or over 50 hours listening. While presented in the form of a novel, it is really a presentation of Ayn Rand's philosophy, called objectivism. I'm not a big fan of philosophy, so I was hoping the story would carry the book, but it really doesn't. A few times during the reading I considered bailing, but since I had already invested so much time I wanted to finish it.

Rand presents her arguments in such black and white terms, often oversimplifying the antagonist argument. For example, I didn't care for her arguments against religion and belief in God, as she presented a stereotype of a simple minded believer. I also didn't care for her depiction (or lack of) of marriage and family. There were no children present anywhere in her world of 1950-ish USA. Her philosophy doesn't seem to accommodate love, compassion, altruism, service, or selflessness. Who would care for the sick, elderly, or handicapped? Her idea of sexual intimacy is pretty crass. All the characters are smokers (an artifact of when the book was written, I'm sure).

One reason the book is so long is that characters drone on and on in monologues spouting philosophical beliefs. It seems to me they keep stating and restating and restating the same ideas. Okay, Ms. Rand I get it already. At one point in the story a protagonist usurps a national radio broadcast and drones on for a three hour speech (or 60 pages in the book). What average person would listen to a three hour espousing of philosophical beliefs on the radio?

There is much of the philosophy I do agree with, though. Free markets, capitalism, less government interference, limiting "moochers" and "looters" from government dependence and manipulation.

Anyway, Atlas Shrugged wouldn't make my top ten list. I'm glad I read it, since it is such an influential book. You don't have to agree totally with a philosophy to benefit from learning about it. Would I recommend it to others? Conditionally, especially if you have time and patience, and enjoy philosophy and political science.