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Nope, Not Fine

My car is not a four wheel drive. I planted it in the creek on the way to camp. Tell you all about it when I’m not typing on my phone.

Today’s Post Is Called On Account Of Rain

Seriously, I’m up a canyon this week teaching boy scouts. I drive down to he canyon to post these each day. It poured rain last night. I made it down the muddy canyon in my 2001 Honda Civic with balding tires. It was a slip sliding trip. Not sure I’ll make it back up with the car. That means a five mile hike and possibly being stuck. If you’re reading this, I’m still rained in. 

Sounds exciting? I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

But, It’s Not Raining Now

a A farmer went to see his neighbor during a terrible rain storm. The neighbor invited him in but apologized that there was no place to sit down. Every table, chair and cupboard had a pot sitting on it. The man’s room leaked like a sieve.

“Why don’t you fix your roof?”


“I can’t. It’s raining too hard.” 

The men visited briefly and the man left. The next day dawned bright and clear. The man went again to see his neighbor. He was surprised to see him sitting in the shade enjoying a cup of tea. 

“Why don’t you fix your roof today?”

“I don’t need to. It’s not leaking today.”

Today I found myself about 40 miles Southwest of Pleasant Grove, down a lovely little side branch of a Spanish Fork Canyon, at the Bennion Creek campground. I along with several other men from our troop, am shepherding a group of a dozen boy scouts in our biannual scout camp. 

We’ve been planning this camp for the past two years. Unfortunately the closer the date got the busier my schedule got. And more and more of the planning and preparation fell on the other leaders. We are one of four troops. 

Last week, the week right before the camp, I was on a cruise of all things. It’s really hard to garner any sympathy from my friends when my excuse was, “Oh, I’m sorry, we were whale watching in Sitka, Alaska that day.” 

Fortunately, they like me and I’ll make up for it now that we are in camp. Because we’ll be here a week, I brought our “big” tent. It can comfortably sleep 10. My son and I are the only occupants. 

Last summer, my family went to Yellowstone National Park on vacation. Since we were taking a bunch of kids, we took the big tent and a couple of small tents. We were joined by my wife’s family from Washington. 

It rained buckets on us. 

Every “Utah” tent get wet inside. Every “Washington” tent stayed dry. I’ve taken our tent on dozens of campouts. I didn’t realize it leaked. It never came up. . .because we never camped in the rain. 

Growing up in Western Washington, every campout was in the rain. If your tent leaked, you got it fixed or you got a new tent. 

July is normally not a rainy month in Utah. But, with the hot weather, we get some afternoon thunderstorms. They came through this evening while I was away from camp. When I returned to my tent, sure enough it was wet inside. Not totally drenched like last summer, but the rain wasn’t as severe. 

I can’t really say I prepared for this possibility, but I do have to admit that I’m the farmer with the leaky roof. Why haven’t I fixed it? Because it’s normally sunny and not leaking. 

I’m just glad we decided to bring cots. Because, I can’t fix it right now. . .It’s raining. 

‚ÄčRodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Riding The Streetcar Around The Ship

There’s a Garth Brooks song about Papa Loves Mama. I can’t remember how it starts.

Papa drove a truck. . .

Of course, you would know that, Rodney.

We were sitting in a piano bar on board the cruise ship Oosterdam. It was actually a dual-piano bar. The piano-players (pianists?) were Pearson Keating (Pearson Keating Music) and Rachel Solomon (Rachelsolo.com). Pearson was getting ready to play a song during their “Salute to Country” night. A few minutes earlier Rachel had played the intro to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” but couldn’t remember the opening line.

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. . .

Thanks, Rodney.

I felt uncomfortably like some 50+ year old groupie. The fact that Pearson and Rachel both knew my name was evidence of the amount of time I’d spent sitting in a chair at the bar between the two pianos. A cruise ship is a floating city. There’s a movie theater. There’s a performance stage. There are tons of shops. There’s a pool. There’s a spa. There’s a blues bar. There’s a classical music performance area. There’s walking on the deck. There are tons of free movies in your cabin, and there is lots and lots of food. I mean, all-you-can-buffets hang their heads in shame at the sheer amount of food available on a cruise ship. And, of course, there’s a piano bar.

The cruise director (ours was a wonderful young lady named Erin) is responsible for finding stuff to keep 1900 passengers entertained during the days at sea and each evening after we leave port. And yet, I found myself spending most of my down time simply sitting next to a piano nursing a soft drink. ($2.55. FOOD, not drinks are free.) I got to thinking of why.

When I was 12, my parents took my brothers and me to Disneyland. The same two brothers I was on the cruise with. My dad passed away years ago, but my mother was on the cruise with my wonderful step-father. When we were at Disneyland, my parents let us three brothers loose with the instruction that we could go on any rides we wanted, but we needed to stick together. My younger brother and I promptly ditched my older brother on Tom Sawyer Island. As we were sneaking away, my younger brother slipped away in the crowd. Yes, he was 8. No I’m not proud that I contributed to the delinquincy of an eight year old. He was fine.

I soon grew tired of standing in line for rides. I hit the big ones, but an hour of line standing for a 4 minute ride seemed like a poor bargain, no matter how exciting a ride. I found myself eventually on the horse-drawn streetcar. You could hop on or off the streetcar at any point. At first, I simply sat in seats like everyone else. But, eventually, I was invited to sit with the driver. He didn’t really drive the streetcar. It was on rails. The horse had made the circuit around Main Street enough times that the driver was really only needed to let him know when he was done and to keep him from running over guests.

I sat and talked to that driver for hours. Even now, 40 years later, I can recall the conversation. The driver was hired personally by Walt Disney to work in the themepark. He talked about how Walt knew every person’s name, even down to the janitors and concession workers.

I don’t remember how much my parents paid for the all-day passes all those years ago. I think they were in the $150 range, although that was probably for two days. Whatever it was, I’m sure it was a high price to pay for a ride on a streetcar.

Nothing against Disneyland. It’s a wonderful place with many interesting and exciting attractions. But, I can honestly say I remember the day and a half on that streetcar as a highlight of my childhood. I thought of that experience as I sat and listened to Rachel and Pearson work their way through classics such as Great Balls of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues, and new songs from Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez. Some I didn’t know, others I could sing along to every word. The highlights were on the first day when Pearson played my all time favorite Billy Joel song, Summer Highland Falls, and at the end when Rachel played an original composition from her CD, Right On Time.

Sitting at the piano bar was easy. I set my iPad up on the bar and typed blog entries between sets. I enjoyed the other cruise activities. And getting to spend a week with my wife and my family was a rare treat. But, when the rest of the activities were winding down, I found myself back at the bar with my iPad keyboard, a coke and maybe a request slip with Devil Went Down To Georgia written on it to hand to one of the people at the keyboards.

Rachel and Pearson meet a lot of people, I’m sure. Their act requires them to be personable and approachable. The key to a successful piano bar performance is to connect with your audience. Most times, I wasn’t necessarily interested in them connecting with me. I wasn’t part of the act, and I felt no need to be included in the show. Again, visions of “creepy old guy groupie” sprang to mind. But, I enjoy getting to know performers. I work in IT, but could certainly see myself taking a different path and ending up a performer. Still, I tried to not let familiarity confuse me into thinking I was more than just one more enthusiastic fan in the crowd.

I realized I’d struck the proper balance, or at least avoided the “creepy old guy” tag as we were standing in line to be processed through customs in Seattle after disembarking for the final time. A voice from behind me said,

Rodney, so good to meet you.

Pearson! Where are you off to now?

A flight to LA.

When do you next perform onboard?

I really don’t know. They’ll call and if my schedule is open, I’ll be back.

With that, we took a quick picture, exchanged contact information and he disappeared back into the crowd. You can find Pearson’s video blogs here. And you can find Rachel’s music here, or on iTunes.


Me, Pearson Keating and my Lovely Wife

I very much enjoyed riding that horse-drawn streetcar this week. Thanks, Rachel and Pearson.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

And That Was On A GOOD Day

A guy died and went to the afterlife. He was somewhat surprised when he was met by his Spirit Guide.

Isn’t this heaven?

Well, you actually get to pick your eternal reward. But, you were kind of jerk in life, so you choices are somewhat limited.

What choices do I have?

I’ll show you.

The Spirit Guide took him to the first location. It was the classic picture of hell. Fire and brimstone everywhere constantly burning, but never consuming the poor souls condemned there.

What else have you got?

Next, the Spirit Guide took him to a frigid wasteland. The land, if there was any was buried under ice and snow. The wind howled incessantly as the wretched souls huddled together, freezing, but never frozen.

Is that it?

There’s one more choice, but I have to warn you, it’s pretty bad.

The Spirit Guide took the man to a literal cesspool. The smell was overpowering. He saw countless people standing neck deep in the filth. Other than the smell, the place didn’t seem too terrible.

I guess I’ll choose this one, if those are my only choices.

You’re sure?

Yeah, I’m sure.

Okay, just remember it’s for eternity and you can never change your mind.

With that, the Spirit Guide disappeared and the man found himself neck deep in the muck. Just then an authoritative voice boomed:

Okay, break’s over. Everyone back on your heads.

I spent the day in Sitka, Alaska yesterday. Don’t let my leadin mislead you. I had a great time. We took the city tour. Our guide, Clint was funny, knowledgeable and very, very punctual. The 9:30AM tour left the dock at 9:10. At the first stop he announced we were leaving at exactly 9:45am. He even made us pull out our cell phones and synchronize our clocks.

At 9:45 on the dot we pulled away from the Russian Orthodox Cathederal. The two ladies who stayed to take that one last picture eventually rejoined the tour later in the day, but the trains in Italy should run this precise.

Sitka, has a population less than 10,000 and it’s the 5th largest city in Alaska. It’s located, like many Alaska cities, on an island. The airport and one of the three high schools is located on an another island connected by a bridge. In between the two were a few islands just big enough for a house. The weather was nice. It was overcast and about 65 degrees.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve lived in the Utah desert long enough to be awestruck by the greenery. We walked through forests of Douglas fir. We wandered along the pebbly beach. We watched sea lions frolicking in the bay. The salmon were running, and the sea lions were taking full advantage of it.

In short, the day was great. It was 100 degrees in Pleasant Grove, Utah yesterday. Knowing that made wandering the temperate Sitka streets even more enjoyable. I think it’s natural when you go on vacation to think, “What if we lived here?”

It would suck.

Seriously, it would be terrible.

My dad used to say,

You have to trade all of yours for all of thiers,

when we would talk about how great someone else had it. We typically pick and choose the exciting parts. We do the same thing with jobs. I love my job. It’s very challenging and I love what I do. There are times where I’m walking through our call center and I get a chance to talk to some of our agents. Many of them are jealous of my job. After all, I don’t have a set schedule. I get to take my cell phone on the call floor. (Something they would be fired for.) I can pull people off the phones on a moment’s notice to help me with a project, or a test. In short, my job looks great.

They don’t have to think about working 70 hour weeks, with no overtime, as I’ve done more times than I can count. They don’t have to be concerned with trying to coordinate 12 different projects, each with its own schedule, but all of which have to mesh perfectly with each other. They don’t have to think about the tens of thousands of miles I’ll fly between now and the end of the year.

All of yours for all of theirs.

Sitka is a great town. We visited the “old prospectors” home. We bought a couple of things from the gift shop. While there we had a wonderful conversation with the woman who runs it. A man from our ship holding a very expensive camera came in and mentioned how disapponted he was that the clouds hadn’t cleared off enough to let him take some pictures.

He didn’t realize that yesterday was a good weather day. In fact, it was a nearly perfect weather day. Think of where you live. Think of the best summer day imaginable at your house. For Utah, it’s probably 85 degrees and a mild canyon breeze, with large puffy white clouds floating in an azure sky. Anything else, is a worse day. Yesterday in Sitka was that day. It’s the height of summer. This was the best it gets.

Sitka doesn’t get a lot of snow, but it rains over 300″ per year. That’s two and a half FEET of rain every year. (EDIT: it’s not two and a half feet, it’s TENTY FIVE feet of rain! Even more a reason NOT to live here year round.) It’s a rainforest. That’s why it’s so green. And that ocean view? There are days that the folks in the houses in the bay cannot go to work because the weather is too bad. Think about how bad the weather would have to be to not be able to make it across 30 yards of inner harbor? Stand on your head, indeed.

Today we are off to Ketchikan, Alaska. I’m sure it will be memorable. It might even be the perfect Alaskan summer day: cloudy and 65 degrees.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Forced To Be A Writer

Have any of you gotten the WiFi to work on the ship?

My brother asked me as we waited for the B.B. King tribute band to start their first set.

Yeah, I used it to update my blog the last three nights.

Was it hard?

Not really. You select HOLLAND-GUEST as your WiFi, and then open a browser. If the page doesn’t redirect, type in LOGIN.COM. Then, you have to create a ship account and tie it to your cabin. After you login with your new account, just select PAYMENT PLANS. You have the option for buying minutes. I just use the $0.75/min option. Takes about 3 minutes to upload the blog.

The group just stared at me.

That’s way too much work!

Hey, I’ve updated my blog every day for four years. I’m not going to let a little seventy-five cents per minute charge break my streak. Next week, when I’m camping with the boy scouts, I’ll write it on my phone and then drive out of the main highway to upload it.

Why don’t you just write them early and schedule them?

I’m too lazy.

For some reason they didn’t see my current approach as the “lazy” approach. Then, they decided to “help.” Something you need to understand about my brothers and me, we are a little competitive. Okay, maybe more than a little. My younger brother brought two pair of basketball shoes on the cruise because he knew his brothers would be here and the ship has a basketball court and he didn’t want to let the excuse we didn’t have shoes stop us.

Today was a “sea” day. The ship stopped at a glacier, but we stayed at sea the entire day. They were looking for contestants for a shipboard gameshow. I met my brother at the sign up desk. Fortunately, they put us on the same team. We won fairly easily.

So, my brothers, with plenty of encouragement from my sister-in-law and my brother’s girlfriend, decided they were going to force me to update my blog early.

Go ahead, we’ll each say a word and we have to keep the story going around the circle.

My brother John is an accountant, and a really good one. He’s not really a writer. I just pointed out to them how rude it would be for me to type away on an iPad while the show was going on.

When I was in high school, I made the decision to not drink. It was just something that I decided I didn’t want to experiment with. I have a pretty addictive personality anyway and I didn’t need any encouragement. My high school friends didn’t all make the same choice. I don’t mean to say that they put themselves in dangerous situations, but they would drink a beer at a party.

But, a funny thing happened as we got a little older. I’d had the same friends since I was ten years old. By the time we got to be 17, when we attended a party, I didn’t need to tell anyone that I didn’t drink. When the host would start passing out beers, my friends would speak up,

Oh, Rodney doesn’t want one. He doesn’t drink.

It became easy for me not to drink. My friends knew it was something that was important to me. And while they didn’t make the same choice, they respected mine and wanted to do their part to help me keep the standard I’d set for myself. I’m still friends with those men today. And they will still explain to people that “Rodney doesn’t drink.”

Lots of people say they want to be a writer. The piano player on the ship, Pearson Keating explained that he wanted to be a writer. Becoming a writer is the easiest thing in the world and the one of the hardest. Pearson and his partner Rachel Solomon do a dualing pianos show. They are both amazing muscians. I tried to explain it.

Look, here’s the thing. If I wanted to be musician, I’d have to have at least a modicum of talent. I couldn’t just announce that I was going to be a muscian without a lot of work.

Yeah. . .

But, you could become a writer right now today. All it takes to be a writer is to write. You don’t even have to write good.

Writing is the easiest thing in the world. Scribble some thoughts on a piece of paper. It’s not rocket science. And yet, there are many people who, as a writer friend of mine said, “Like to have written,” but not necessarily to actually write. There are people who will spend a lot of time convincing themselves that they cannot write without a prewriting ritual. Or, if it’s inconvenient. Or, if they don’t feel inspired.

Is it inconvenient to write on a cruise ship and arrange to upload it every day? I guess so. But, it’s not really about the convenience aspect of it. It’s about the process and the content. I’m not really a great writer. I think I’m getting there. I enjoy telling stories, as anyone who’s taken a dip through the archives will tell you. I’m learning to put two or three thoughts together and find some point. I know I’m a better writer today than I was four years ago when I started posting these scribbles to the internet. And, I would hope that four years from now, I’ll be better.

I know many musicians. They occasionally play gigs. I know many comedians. They occasionally tell jokes on stage. I know actresses and actor. They sometimes perform on screen or stage.

But, the writers? The writers write. My friends who are writers write every day. Sometimes the stuff they write gets published or posted online. Other times, it doesn’t. Writing is a solitary exercise. So, I’ll take the teasing from my family. But, then, I’ll pay $0.75/min to upload these musings using the ship’s WiFi, and next week, I’ll drive out to the main highway to post five updates.

Because, if there’s one true rule that I know: Writers write.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

What Microsoft Taught Me About Whale Watching

I almost got stranded in Juneau, Alaska yesterday. Juneau is only accessible by sea and air. We arrived on a cruise ship about 1:00PM. We had a full afternoon planned. As we prepared to disembark, the captain reminded us that we needed to be back on board by 8:00PM and the gangplank was going to be raised at 8:30.

The day in Juneau was very fun. I’m on this cruise with my mother, my stepfather, my brothers, sister-in-law, brother’s girlfriend and my sister. Let’s just say I’m here with my family. We all had the same shore excursions planned.

We started with a tour of the city of Juneau. Juneau is a small town. There’s not a lot to do in Juneau, and with four cruise ships in port, the town’s population doubled. The city tour driver was entertaining. He’s a native Alaskan. He is an artist who carves totems and paddles. He works at Tesoro “turning on the pumps” during the winter. He also works as a plow driver. In the summer, he drives a tour bus. His name was Fred. Well, except he explained his native name translated as “Makes Wind.” Yep. He went there.


The city used to be a mining town. They took 70 tons of gold out of the mountains around Juneau. It’s the capital of Alaska and probably one of the smallest state capitals in the country. Juneau has no roads that connect it to the rest of . . .anything. The farthest you can get out of town in Juneau appears to be about 30 miles and then you run into the Juneau Ice Fields, 1200 square miles of glacier maker.

The city tour was an excuse to get us on a bus that eventually dropped us off at Mendenhal glacier. There’s nothing special about this glacier, except that Mendenhal is the closest glacier to Juneau, so it’s the one that the tour takes you to. The glacier is named for some physicist. I couldn’t find anything explaining why a glacier in Juneau Alaska is named for a physicist from Ohio.

After the glacier was the highlight of the day, whale watching. We got on another bus that took us to the waterfront where we boarded a boat captained by Jason and crewed by Jeremiah, and Carter. Jeremiah explained that we would be seeing humpback whales. Unlike the Orca, or Killer whales that I was familier with growing up, humbacks are bigger and tend to travel alone. They are in Alaskan waters right now getting fat for the long trip South.

We saw two whales in our tour. The most impressive sight was the tail as it dove in the Alaskan version of the fjords. It was amazing to think these creatures are 45 feet long and weigh literally tons.

We turned for shore about 7:00. It was about an hour back to shore. Several passengers asked about making it back to their respectrive ship in time. The ride from the dock the tour ended on to the ship was about an 18 minute ride by bus. The tour had obviously gone long and now we worried about the ship sailing with out us. Well, I should say, they worried. Personally, I wasn’t the least bit concerned.

You might find this a strange attitude. Why wouldn’t I care that I was potentially going to be stranded in Juneau Alaska?

Microsoft.

Microsoft taught me not be concerned with being left. I worked for Microsoft for almost a decade. During that time I travelled a lot. I went to United Arab Emerites, Greece, Mexico, Brazil and other countries, spending anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks in each country. But, how did this help me not stress over getting stranded?

Because, during that time of travel, several things came up that might have thrown my trip off schedule. In every circumstance, I knew that Microsoft was only a credit card swipe away. I had a corporate AMEX card. If anything went wrong, I could fix it with my Microsoft credit card. Stolen wallet? No problem. A few calls and I’d be back up and running? Missed flight? No worries. I just book a new one and figure it out after the trip.

It made my international travel almost stress free. I still had to be careful, but mostly, I could relax knowing that if something happened, I was prepared. Generally, anything that might go wrong was out of my control. If I cannot control it, why bother worrying about it? I didn’t.

As we sat on the bus yesterday, waiting for the second boat to come in and realizing that if we sprinted from the bush we’d still miss the 8:30 gangplank being pulled up, we’d still be too late, I thought about my time at Microsoft. I asked myself some questions,

Are we going to make it back on time?

Probably not.

Can I do anything to get us there quicker?

Not a thing.

No need to worry, I can’t change it.

I was completely at peace with our trip back to the cruise ship docks. I was not just pretending to be okay with the delay, I really was. I didn’t consult my watch once. We eventually made it back to the ship at about 8:31. The gangplank was still down and there were no lines since nearly everyone was already on board.

We had a late Dinner on the Lido deck and finally at about 9:10PM we felt the ship shudder and pull away from the pier. I never assumed they were going to leave us anyway. The fact we left 40 minutes late simply confirmed my suspicion that the cruise ship wasn’t going to let us be stranded in a strange city with no where to go.

No more than Microsoft would have left me stranded in some other country rather than buy me a ticket home.

I’m feeling the Zen.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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