Sunday, June 26, 2016

Is Wyoming in the midst of a "death spiral?"

I get depressed thinking about the new state budget cuts. It's not clinical depression. More like a short-term funk brought on by knucklehead legislators.

The Gov announced a new round of cuts Tuesday at the Joint Appropriations Committee meeting in Cheyenne. Appropriate for the hottest day in four years, one swaddled in smoke from a wildland fire burning on the Colorado/Wyoming border. All the tall grass and timber nurtured during a wet spring is drying out and set afire by careless humans. Might be a fitting analogy here. State Government budgets nurtured by rising mineral royalties during the past 10 years are now undergoing slash-and-burn tactics by the careless Republican-centric legislature. I think I will run with that, even though the comparison is a bit of a stretch. Maybe a hidden meaning lurks within, as in something embedded in a Flannery O'Connor short story.

First, a few words from Gov. Mead. He's the guy in charge. He's the guy who has been saying for the past year (go here) that across-the-board budget cuts are dangerous for Wyoming and cause the state to "lose talent and skill." They will lead us into a "death spiral." Fewer state services and fewer state employees cause losses in the private sector and will send us into a spin we may not recover from. You want state parks with campgrounds and boat docks and bathrooms that work and helpful staff? You want loans and grants to help attract tourists to a revived downtown? You want roads that aren't pock-marked with potholes/ You want a professional highway patrol that comes to your aid when your truck skids off an icy road in January? You want to care for our veterans and elderly and disabled? You want someone to come in and put out that wildland fire that threatens your little house in the forest?

It takes money. "Doh!" says Homer Simpson, surprised that he didn't think of that. Homer's not much of a money manager. When he has to have an RV to keep up with the Flanderses, his request for a loan sets off sirens and red blinking lights at the dealership. Thing is, the state has a rainy day fund of a couple billion dollars. If we dip into that, no sirens go off. We do get wailing and gnashing of teeth from the same legislators who hate Obama enough to scuttle Medicaid expansion that would prevent some of the layoffs in the health care industry that we now are experiencing in Casper and elsewhere. Those same legislators despise gubment and the same gubment workers who plow their roads and clean the toilets at Guernsey and Glendo. "DOH!"

The legislature has dipped into the rainy day fund. It is raining -- hard. Legislators are being conservative (surprise!) and are taking only $180 million from the fund, believing that the energy downturn will last 10-15 years instead of the 3-5 projected by most experts. Coal will never come back, due to global warming. But who knows? A good war may erupt, causing Dick Cheney to replace his usual scowl with something akin to a shit-eating grin. His daughter Liz will be elected to Congress and immediately make coal a mandatory snack at schools and senior centers from coast-to-coast.  Laid-off coal workers can go back to work and legislators can do what they do best, socking away mineral royalties for a rainy day that they pray never will come.

In the interest of full disclosure: I was a Wyoming state employee, an arts worker, for 25 years. I now am a Wyoming state retiree. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Cheyenne Bike Week

Me and my Peugeot, back in the day. Bob Page photo.
Happy Cheyenne Bike Week.

That's "bike" as in bicycle. Bike Week as in Harley Vroom Vroom is a totally different animal (see Sturgis or Daytona).

Bicycle Week celebrates two-wheeled people-powered transportation. Sometimes it can involve three wheels, as you see in recumbent bikes for us oldsters with bad and/or replaced knees. Kids sometimes navigate the greenway on their trikes or on training-wheel-assisted bikes. That actually makes four wheels. But you get my point.

I once was a knowledgeable cyclist, riding all the time and aware of all of the makes and models and gadgets.

No more. Arthritic knees did me in. Waited too long to get them replaced and the orthopedic doc had one heck of a time making me new again. My first new knee is not so new now, replaced in April of 2015. The second knee was replaced in February of this year. For that knee, I just finished rehab. I was supposed to be finished a monthly ago but my doc decided I needed more time with the good and caring people at rehab. Their motto: "It's supposed to hurt."

Enjoyed listening to NPR's "Here and Now" report on Monday on knee replacements. One thing brought up several times was the crucial nature of rehab. You are moving that knee before the anesthesia wears off. Actually, a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine is doing the bending for you. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Mesmerizing to watch. Teaming up with the machine are strolls around the hospital and then around your house, usually with the help of a walker or cane. A week after surgery, you are off to rehab. Someone else drives, as you can't use your right leg and your brain is scrambled with Percocet. Once there, the dedicated therapists get you to bend your knee in uncomfortable ways. You occasionally hear blood-curdling screams. Some of them are yours.

Back to bikes. Thee only bike you rise during your recovery is the recumbent bike in rehab. You may want to get back on the ten-speed or mountain bike and ride to Chugwater. But that would hurt too much. And you are still on drugs, which they don't cotton to in Chug.

I may never ride a bike to work again. First of all, I'm retired. Second, my bike needs some serious work, or I need to replace it with a 21st century super-bike that costs more than my monthly mortgage payment. One bike I looked at online today has the following attributes:

  • New frame with updated commuter friendly geometry
  • Carbon fork makes the bike lighter & reduces some of the vibrations for a smoother ride
  • Shimano Alfine i8 internal gear hub
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Gates belt drive

  • It is beginning to sound a bit like a $20,000 Harley, although the list of goodies would be much longer. Suffice to say, this $1,100 "Raleigh i8 Flat Bar Road Bike is the apex of the Cadent line of bikes." The apex of the Cadent? It must be good. And pretty typical of the type of bike I want.

    But there's a third thing that may prevent my return to cycling. Fear. Ever had a bike wreck? I've had several. No broken bones but plenty of lacerations. In my later years, I wore a helmet now and ride mainly on the greenway. My new bike undoubtedly will be street legal and I will obey all laws, which is what retirees pledge to do when presented with their Medicare card. But a spill may wreck my knees and I am not ready to face that pain again. NPR's report said it straight -- the pain is substantial and takes time to heal. Interviewees said they knew people who took their new knees back to the jogging trail and tennis court. The producer they interviewed said it took him a year to get to the almost-pain-free stage. I am not there yet. When I reach that apex, I expect it to be all downhill from there. That used to be my favorite part, flying down hills and mountain passses. But dangers awaited around every bend. Gravel. Slick spots. Animals. Human motorists. 

    My bike adventures from now on will take place on stationary conveyances. I can still manage a great workout and, unless I get the vapors, probably will stay aboard until the timer goes off and I can move on to the weight machines. And then to the showers. And then to the brewpub. Ever tried an Apex IPA? Me neither, but I keep searching. 

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Old photo recalls 1970s-era campus hijinks

    This photo by renowned photog and my college housemate Bob Page shows ritualistic behavior in collegians circa 1975. In the mid-70s, it was all the rage to put hats on dogs. The dogs thought the hats made them look smart so began to apply in droves to major American universities such as University of Florida. Soon, canines pushed not-so-bright humans (example at left in photo) out of popular classes in the English department, such as "Romantic Poets: Proto-Hippies Blake and Coleridge" or "No Man is an Island: John Donne Goes to Vietnam." Problems developed later when scores of Canis familiaris went wild during graduation's cap-tossing ceremony, mistaking the flying caps for frisbees. Chaos ensued, leading directly to Donald Trump.

    Saturday, June 11, 2016

    Baby Boomers want to know: "Wazzup, Millennials?"

    As a proud Baby Boomer parent of two Millennials, I am pleased to offer my services as a workplace consultant. According to a report last week on CBS This Morning, consultants can earn up to $20,000 an hour advising companies on what makes Millennials tick. I automatically believe anything on CBSTM because it features mind-blowing news items, most of which I've already seen on Facebook and Twitter: monster gator on golf course, rogue gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo, cats surprised by cucumbers, updates on Trump's hairdo. These breaking news updates are sandwiched between ads for Boomers' preferred meds: boner pills, blood thinners, joint-pain meds, and so on.

    Here's my first tip as a consultant, which I offer freely as a good will gesture: Millennials do not watch CBSTM. They are on their way to work in Portland or Denver, or they are sleeping in after the night shift at a trendy urban bistro. Lest you think that all Millennials are slackers, Derek Thompson at the Atlantic Mag Online says that there are 50 million Millennials in the U.S. workforce. I'm just guessing here but I'd say that half of them are in Denver. Last week, while visiting a friend, we ate dinner at a Thai place in Denver's trendy Tennyson Street District. We were by far the oldest people in the place. As we left, Millennials were swarming Tennyson's brewpubs and shops, ogling the new studio apartment buildings that are rising along Tennyson at an alarming rate.

    As you can tell, I'm observant despite my fading eyesight. I have other tips based on my years as a parent of Millennials and as someone who worked alongside them during my declining years.

    1. Don't ask Millennials technical questions.
    Nothing says "I am an old fart" like asking a Millennial co-worker for help with a web site, Facebook, smartphone, etc. Your best approach is to feign helplessness due to an infirmity. An example: "Greetings Millennial co-worker. I just broke my spectacles and can't see a thing. Can you help me Photoshop this photo for our web site?"

    They will only be too happy to oblige, as 97 percent of Millennials said they would assist an old lady trying to cross the street. Except on Tennyson. That's our hood, bitches!

    2. Don't use the term, "Millennial."
    Nothing pegs you as an again BB like the use of this cliched term. Better to say, "Hey there, Mr. Young Person" or "What is happening, Ms. Youth?" And don't ever say "Wazzup?" or "What's the haps, peeps?" You may as well have BEWARE: BABY BOOMER tattooed on your forehead.

    3. On the other hand, Millennials like to use ancient expressions.
    Using words coined by people long dead can be endearing. Some good works to use in casual conversations are shenanigans, reprobate, canoodling or bindlestiff. The last one refers to a hobo. Most Millennials have never actually seen a real hobo, although some look the part. I caution you here to avoid using terms (old or new) that could be construed as suggestive or sexist. Most Millennials respect other ethnicities and gender identities. I have been told by someone not on Fox News that at some liberal bastions of learning, use of the pronoun "he" could be offensive if that person does not self-identify as a male. The same goes for "she." This may explain why the Webster's Dictionary folks recently decided that "they" and "their" can now be used in the singular form.

    Here are some examples:
    Incorrect way to use pronouns:
    He: Miss Millie, would you like to accompany me to the barn dance this evening?
    She: I would be delighted, kind sir. Will our chums, all traditional couples, be at the dance?
    He: They will each be driving his or her own automobiles.
    She: We shall meet the hims and hers there.

    They: Millie, would you like to accompany me to the barn dance this evening?
    They: I would be delighted, kind human. Will our friends of various ethnicities and genders be going?
    They: They shall be carpooling or taking their preferred form of wind- or solar-powered public transportation.
    They: We will meet them there.

    4. Millennials are very keen to find meaningful work.
    Nothing bores a Millennial like grunt work. Come to think of it, nothing bores a Baby Boomer like grunt work. If you are the supervisor in charge of doling out grunt work, call it "meaningful" work, a task destined to change the world. Text or IM the details to your younger colleague as you leave work for an afternoon on the golf course or volunteering at the homeless shelter, depending on your political affiliation.

    5. Millennials will happily throw you a retirement party.
    Nothing brings glee to Millennials such as the statement "I will be retiring Aug. 1." They will throw you a retirement party featuring delicious coffee and treats from Millie's Midtown Cupcakery and Su Yee's Sushi Barn. One of them will direct and product a multimedia show featuring embarrassing photos from when you were young and not-so-young. Most, but not all, of your Millennial co-workers will wait until you've left the building to pilfer items from your desk or to stake a claim on your cubicle space. Don't be offended. As you did when you were young, they are just trying to get a leg up in this dog-eat-dog world. It's the circle of life.

    P.S.: That will be $20,000 please. I prefer cash.

    Monday, May 30, 2016

    Record number of Wyoming Democrats toss hats in the ring for 2016 elections

    62 out of 75.

    Democrats are running in 62 of the 75 legislative races this year.

    This may be the most Dems throwing their hats in the ring since the 1970s, when Democrats were not as rare around the state as they are in 2016. Unions were stronger. The state party was robust. We had a Dem from Sweetwater County in Congress! Republicans had not been driven insane by the existence of President Barack Obama. I heard one candidate say that he can't believe all of the bad blood directed at Dems in the many cozy corners of Wyo. I guess he hasn't been on Facebook much.

    I spent Friday and Saturday volunteering for the Wyoming State Democratic Convention, held in our fair city for the first time in quite awhile. Some 300 delegates gathered at Little America on Saturday for the actual convention which went on and on and on... The Nellie Tayloe Ross annual dinner followed, along with the live and silent auctions. I helped haul and display the 307 auction items, which included outstanding works of art, many donated by Barry Mercer, and at least one Donald Trump pinata, this one donated by Jason Bloomberg. A good time was had by all, even though dinner was three hours late due to the lengthy business portion of the convention. We raised a lot of funds for the state party. Best of all, I got to hang out with the best bunch of volunteers in creation or, since evolution began, depending on your POV and/or prejudices. The Jane Robinette Quartet provided the music -- catch them this Saturday at the Suite Bistro, as you will be glad you did.

    I can't speak about any of the convention proceedings. I was not a delegate this year. I was in 2004, 2008 and 2012. In 2004, I walked in as a newbie to the county convention, said I was a Dennis Kucinich delegate, and the volunteer at the desk said, "Congratulations -- you're a delegate to the state convention." I wandered up to Sheridan that May and had a great time although was pretty clueless as to the proceedings. I was an antiwar activist and kept pitching peacenik planks that were voted down. My fellow Kucinich supporters, all 20 of them, voted in the affirmative. But times were weird and Dems didn't want to look too peacenicky even though we would have an excellent candidate in John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who got Swift-Boated into oblivion in the general election.

    In 2008, I was an Obama delegate to the county and state convention and an embedded blogger at the DNC in Denver. In 2012, I attended the county convention but missed the state convention. In 2014, I attended the state convention in Rock Springs, gnoshed on pierogis and heard an excellent talk by activist Dolores Huerta -- that alone was worth the drive.

    This time I donated my time to the cause. It's good to volunteer -- people on both sides of the aisle agree on that. I also helped assemble the opening reception at Cheyenne's Historic Depot. Several hundred people attended. The liquor held out but we ran out of food until a relief unit arrived with a supply of pizza. Chris and I supervised one of the fund-raising games that were scattered across the floor. Again, a good time was had by all. Clean-up was a breeze, but that's what you expect from Democrats -- a neat and tidy bunch. A few heated arguments broke out between Bernie and Hillary delegates. They were resolved with firearms, as is the Wyoming custom.

    The Dems now have delegates to send to the DNC in Philadelphia. Also a platform. Some ill will too, I guess, although I'm pretty sure that will cool off the more we see of Republican Candidate Trump. Keep your fingers crossed.

    Now it's time for the Grassroots organization to plan the next fund-raiser. It will be held on Sunday, June 12 at Joe's house -- I have that address somewhere (stay tuned). Candidates will make short yet pithy speeches and we shall eat red, white and blue desserts for Flag Day. Raise funds, too. See you then.

    Thursday, May 26, 2016

    A competitive state convention is an interesting state convention

    All Democratic Party gatherings tend to draw bigger crowds during presidential election years. That is especially true when the race is a hot tamale, as it is this year.

    Cheyenne expects a good turn-out for this weekend's Democratic State Convention at Little America. Bernie Sanders won April's Wyoming caucus but ended up with the same number of delegates as Hillary Clinton. And Clinton snagged the super-delegates, giving her an 11-7 edge while finishing with less than 50 percent of the caucus vote. You may have seen this mentioned during Saturday Night Live's opening skit over the weekend. It's also been a topic of conversation online and on CBS and ABC. Some commentators have posited that Wyoming's Democratic Convention may have the same uproar as experienced in Nevada. You may recall that Sanders' supporters disrupted the proceedings at that state's Dem convention.

    A bit of dissension is good for the health of the party. A lot off dissension say, the kind the GOP is experiencing this year, may not be so good for the Repubs (pause here for laughter). Some Sanders supporters are new to party politics. These newbies register high on the enthusiasm scale but very low on  knowledge about how things work. You can't really call yourself a Democrat until you get involved in the party and attend years worth of boring meetings just to get your teeth kicked during every election. You also need to get out there and support Dems running for legislative seats, city council, school board, etc. I have yet to run for office but have worked for many worthy candidates, many of whom lost to not-so-worthy Repubs in the general election. Lee Filer lost his House seat in 2014 to right-wing kook Harlan Edmonds -- Lee is back to run again this year. Ken McCauley lost in my district in 2012, and you'd have to look high and low for someone more qualified.  Same goes for Kathleen Petersen in 2014. I've also walked neighborhoods for Mary Throne and Jim Byrd and Ken Esquibel. They won, and continue to do so. Ken is running for the senate this year and has his work cut out for him.

    Chris and I will spend our Friday night date night volunteering at Friday night's welcoming reception. Come to think of it, we'll be volunteering Saturday night as well. Yes, we lead boring lives. But it's great to be around people energized by the political system, no matter its flaws.

    Come on out tomorrow night and see what's up with Democrats across the state. You may get to meet a Democrat from Niobrara County, where Dems are seldom seen and are in danger of becoming endangered species much like the sage grouse and the jackalope.

    Here's the party invitation, filled with exclamation marks to show you how damn enthusiastic we all are:
    Laramie County Democrats are thrilled to welcome ALL Wyoming Democrats to the state capital as we host the Friday night welcome reception for our state convention! We are honored to host and we've got an amazing reception planned for your Friday night arrival! Join us at Cheyenne's Historic Depot Museum as we celebrate Wyoming Democratic values! The reception is from 6:30-10 p.m. Your $20 admission includes hors d'oeuvres, your first drink, music, unlimited fun, and so much more! You'll have a chance to meet elected officials, new candidates, national delegate hopefuls, and folks who are excited to turn Wyoming Blue! National Delegate Candidates, this is your opportunity to campaign!  Come, bring your swag, mingle, network, meet Democrats from all over the state. This event is open to the public so please invite your friends! All proceeds benefit Democrats running for office!
    To get more info on the Laramie County Dems, go to our Facebook page. Go here for the Laramie County Democrats  Grassroots Coalition, the FUN-draising arm of the county Dems. Also check out the Wyoming Dems web site.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016

    A lesson in guest-posting

    Funny things happen when you're asked to write about writing. You learn stuff about your own work.

    Lynn Carlson at Writing Wyoming asked that I write a guest post about realistic dialogue. Sure, why not? Piece of cake. I dredged up an old quote from one of my writing profs at Colorado State U. Problem was, I couldn't find the original. I looked and looked.

    I decided to use a swatch of dialogue from one of the stories in my as-yet-unpublished collection, "The Department of Noticing Things." Swatches of dialogue are not like swatches of fabric or paint chips. It's tough to lift a conversation that not only can stand on its own but represent the rest of the story. It's doubly hard not to revise it. In fact, writing about dialogue makes it almost mandatory to revise, especially when you quoting writers such as Alice Munro, Ernest Hemingway and Elmore Leonard.

    So I spent about 110 percent more time on the piece that I thought. But I earned some revision along the way. Read some cool quotes about dialogue. Read three new stories. Reread Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" for the hundredth time.

    Thanks to Lynn for the request. I'll do it again. I urge my readers to read Writing Wyoming. You don't have to be from WY, but it helps.

    You can read the guest post at I appreciate comments.