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A $75 Lunch

I’m a seasoned traveller. I’ve travelled all over the world; India, China, Europe, Asia, Shreveport. Very little rattles me. I have a completely seperate travel kit. I pack in about 30 minutes. Yesterday I travelled from Salt Lake City to Shreveport, LA.

It didn’t go well.

My daughter is learning to drive. That’s important because she needs my car for practice. I needed to leave my car at the train station. That meant I had to leave my car at the train station. Utah isn’t known for it’s public transportation. We love our cars, but we’re starting to get public transit religion. My flight from Salt Lake to Atlanta left at 7:00AM.

I realized that if I caught the 5:07 Frontrunner train in American Fork, it would get me to the North Temple Steet stop at 5:59am. At 6:06AM the northbound Green Line train would pick me up and get me to the airport at 6:20. Is that early enough to print boarding passes, get through security and catch a 7:00am flight?

Let’s find out.

I made it to the train station at 4:57. Ten minutes to spare. For the hour trip North I should have been writing, or reading, or sleeping. Instead, I stared at my watch. I’m not a nervous traveller. Typically, I plan the best I can and then relax. But knowing I was going to cut it that close, I couldn’t relax.

It’s moving day at the Utah Missionary Training Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The train was full of Elders and Sister missionaries headed to the airport. I overheard some of them worrying about their travel plans. I definitely could sympathize.

The Green Line train was right on time. Even though I had an electronic boarding pass, I took the time to stop and print boarding passes. As a seasoned traveler, I have TSA Prechek. I breezed through security and arrived at the gate just as they were calling for boarding Group 1. I felt pretty proud of myself for timing it so perfectly.

Yes, I’m good at this. At least that’s what I told myself.

Atlanta has a huge airport. We arrived at 12:15pm. I decided to first find the gate for my Shreveport flight and then get some lunch. Fortunately, there was a nice BBQ place directly across from gate D26. My flight was leaving around 1:00pm. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and enjoyed my lunch. Occasionally I glanced at the gate, but they weren’t calling for any boarding groups yet. I was sure I’d be able to hear any gate announcement from my seat at the restaurant.

I was wrong.

I figured it out eventually. Settling my check I stepped across the concourse, just as they were closing the door. Here’s the thing about those doors. Once closed, they never open them. You could pound on them with Thor’s hammer and they wouldn’t budge.

The plane was right there. The skybridge was still extended. But, it might as well have been airbourn already. I can’t rememeber the last time I missed a flight. And certainly not for lunch.

Fortunately, there was another flight a couple of hours later. The catch? A $75 fee to confirm my seat.

It was a really good pulled pork sandwhich, but probably not that good. The most expensive lunch I’ve ever eaten.

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. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Hanging With The Old People

There’s lots of old people here.

Sweety? We’re old people.

I delivered my wife’s Mother’s Day gift over the weekend. We drove from our home in Pleasant Grove, North to Salt Lake City, turned left and drove to Nevada. We stopped in Wendover. It’s close enough to the Utah border that you can literally use the I80 mile markers to determine how close you are. Salt Lake City is at mile marker 188. The trip from Salt Lake City to Wendover takes about two and a half hours.

I remember when I first started paying attention to speed limits, the nationwide speed limit was 55 MPH. The lower speed limit was designed to help America conserve oil during the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970’s. Eventually, the price of oil returned to more reasonable levels and an effort was made to raise the speed limits. Senators from the Western states introduced legislation to raise the speed limit. Senators from the East where freeways are more congested, continually blocked their efforts. Finally, in frustration, the Western senators invited their Eastern colleagues to come out and look at Interstate highway 80 between Salt Lake City, UT and Wendover, NV. It’s straight as an arrow. There are no towns and only a few range exits for hundreds of miles. And as for the elevation change, I80 is the nearest highway to the Bonneville Salt Flats. The place that people come from all over the world to set land speed records. Flat is an understatement.

The senators flew over it in a plane. Ground traffic only goes slightly slower. The speed limit reaches 80 MPH a few miles outside of Salt Lake City. We were pushing 90 as we headed West. Were it not for the crosswinds, I might have been tempted to go faster. We don’t have tornados in Utah. The wind, especially in the West desert, picks a direction and sticks to it. As we roared West, the wind from the North was sustained at about 40 MPH. It was hard enough that passing a semi-truck on the left required quick reflexes. As our car entered the shadow of the trailer, the wind suddenly dropped to zero. I nearly hit the truck the first time it happened.

My friend John Moyer is a professional comedian and hypnotist. He says that Wendover is an old Indian word meaning “Mormons who like to gamble.” It rises like a neon oasis where the freeway enters the Sierra Nevada. You exit the freeway on the Utah side of the border. There is no official marker seperating Utah from Nevada. There doesn’t need to be. When you reach the first casino, you’re in Nevada.

We were on our way to the Peppermill concert hall for a concert. Gordan Lightfoot is not only still alive, he’s still touring. At 78 years old, he looked only slightly older than most of the audience. My wife commented on the number of senior citizen streaming into the the concert hall. Are these our peers? Have we finally crossed over that imaginary boundary that marks one as old?

I thought about it as we made our way to our seats. While there were people arriving using canes and even electric scooters, there were also a fair number of “younger” people. You know, people our age.

This year we will welcome our sixth grandchild. We’ll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Our youngest child enters high school in the fall. We own a home. We have four cars and a scooter. With one of my adult daughters staying with us for the summer, we even have a dog. We have become the grownups.

And yet, we don’t feel old. We are planning a series of staycations for this summer that include visits to lakes and mountains. In two weeks my boys and I will head to the a father and sons campout. At the end of the month I’ll take a group of boyscouts to Zions National Park and hike the Narrows and Orderville canyon.

As Gordan Lightfoot made his way on stage, I considered again the fact that at 78 years old he was doing a 90 minute show without sitting down once.

I’m not sure if I’m old or not. But, I think the trick is to keep going as long as you can. Old age will catch up to us all eventually, but he’s going to have to run to keep up.

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
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Life and Death, Fact and Fiction

Happy? Sad? Both.

June 12 is a bittersweet day to me.

THE BIRTHDAY PARADOX
In a room of 23 people there is a 50% chance that two of them will have the same birthday. In a room of 75 people that chance increases to 99.9%.

I won’t go through the math. (I barely followed it, but you can find it here.)

With 365 days per year, there are bound to be significant events happening on the same day. There are bound to be births and deaths on the same day. And that’s what this post is about, fictional births and real deaths. The birth first.

June 12, 2000 – The birth of Schlock

In this case, Schlock refers to the popular web comic Schlock Mercenary. Howard Tayler posted the very first Schlock strip on this date 17 years ago. And in an amazing feat of consistency, he has posted a comic every day since then. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly two decades, 6,209 days in a row.

Many years ago, there was a contest that a group of web comics put together. Everyone threw $100 into the pot and the last person standing got the money. Each comic had a published update schedule. Some posted weekly. Some twice or three times per week. Others, like Schlock Mercenary posted daily. You got to stay in the pool until you missed a scheduled update. Last one to miss an update, got $600.

I remember that Howard declined to play. At that point he had an impressive streak of nearly a decade under his belt. He declined for two reasons. First, he didn’t want to bet on failure. He didn’t want to root for other cartoonists to miss an update. More importantly, he wasn’t playing a game. He was building a brand and a business. He didn’t hope he’d never miss a day, he expected to never miss a day. He assumed that he would be successful and didn’t want to play around with the expectation of failure.

The most impressive “non” miss that I remember was that one day the data center that housed his server literally blew up. An entire wall was destroyed in the explosion. Howard quickly switched to a backup system and was only a few minutes later than his normal updates.

Howard is a large part of the reason I write every day. He and my brother Richard, were my first two readers. Howard has inspired numerous people to keep plugging away, constantly trying to improve, and constantly trying to deliver more than your readers expect and eventually success will find you.

It speaks to Howard’s professionalism that if you go to the Schlock Mercenary site today, you won’t find any announcement commemorating 17 years. It’s just another day with a funny comic. Seven years ago, a couple of us planned a surprise party for Schlock’s 10th birthday.


Howard wouldn’t have thought to make make a big deal about it himself.

June 12, 2009 – A Death

He died eight years ago. It could have been forever, it could have been yesterday. Like many sons, my relationship with my father was complicated for many reasons. Not the least of which that he wasn’t my dad for the first 11 years of my life…or 14 if you count differently.

Lloyd V Bliss had a hard life. He left home when he was 15. He nearly died in a car crash. He had multiple marriages. He was a fur trader, a circus employee, assistant to a governor, a professional gambler and had numerous other jobs. It’s difficult to count the number of children he had. There were kids from each marriage and step kids and then adopted kids. Not sure which ones count. He didn’t much care. I was one of those step-kids that became an adopted kid.

He taught me to fish. He helped me earn my eagle scout award. He gave me an understanding of how to love your spouse. I gave my first born son his name.

There’s even a stronger tie between my friend Howard and my father Lloyd. The LDS Church has a ceremony that honors our ancestors and symbolically binds them to us as eternal families. My father passed away before we could perform this sealing. Howard acted as a proxy for my father in the Salt Lake temple.

I was asked to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral eight years ago this weekend. It was the first time I’d been asked to fill such a task. How do you squeeze a lifetime into a few short minutes? Especially about someone who had their share of secrets? (What do you mean he ran away and joined the circus? How come I never heard that story before?) I did the best I could and I think he would have been embarrassed by all the hubbub.

I miss him every day.

June 12 kind of sneaks up on me every year. The summer starts and then one morning I wake up and I think, “Oh yeah, that’s today.” It’s not surprising that important and memorable events will pile up on the same day. The calendar only gives us 365 days to have these events on. Today I’m happy for my friend, whose comic is more popular than ever. And I’m sad for the loss of my dad. I’d split them off onto separate days if I could. I guess we do have February 29th as an extra day every four years. . .But, then again, it’s Howard Tayler’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Schlock. RIP, Dad.

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. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

A Tale Of Two Deaths: Part 2

I was eight years old at the time. Looking back, thought I was older. But, the faded writing on the back of the blue ribbon from Faribault County Fair ribbon is dated 7/18/73, the summer of my 9th year. Faribault County is located in Southern Minnesota, near the Iowa border. So, I must have been eight.


The most remarkable thing to me now, looking back, is how disspationate I feel about the whole thing. I had a pig that year. I was a farm kid and I was enrolled in 4H. I was given a piglet to raise. He was absolutely mine. I fed him. I cleaned his stall. I took him for walks. In fact, the walks were very important.

Did you walk your pig today?

Not yet.

You need to get out and take him for a walk.

My step-dad was a farmer. He was the son of a farmer. I knew this because his parents lived just down the road on the next farm. He was probably descended from a long line of farmers. I loved living on the farm. We shared a party-line phone. We had a barn, a grain silo, and acres and acres of farmland. We raised corn and soybeans, chickens and hogs. I remember one time complaining about the smell the pigs made. My grandfather corrected me.

That’s the smell of money.

And that summer, one of those pigs was mine. My brother, two years older, also got a piglet. We were expected to care for our pigs and present them at the fair in the fall. One of the memorable things from that summer is that I never named my pig. The surprising thing to me is that I don’t even remember it being a discussion. He was my pig and even at eight years old, I was expected to be responsible for him, but I never thought to name him.

At one point that year I adopted a baby chicken. It was a runt, much smaller than the other hatchlings. I was devastated when the dog got into the garage where I was keeping the chick and killed it. The chick had a name, but the passage of decades has faded the memory. But, not the pig. He was just a pig.

If you’ve ever read the book Charlotte’s Web, you have some idea of what going to the fair is like. It was the high point of the summer. I still remember winning a zippo lighter at the carnival. (It was the 70’s.) But, mostly I remember taking care of and showing my pig. Every animal category has it’s own criteria. With pigs, we took them to the show ring in groups of 4 or 5 kids. We were judged on how clean the pig looked, how well behaved he was, and of course, what he looked like physically. That’s the reason the walks were so important. It exercised the pig and turned fat into muscle, but it also gave us as kids a chance to learn to work with the pig. The pig should be willing to obey our commands. We had a short stick, like a yardstick that we used to tap the pig on the shoulder to get him to turn one way or the other.

While the pigs were in the arena, they were being judged by both the people handing out the ribbons and by another group of men. They were being evaluated by the hog buyers. The pigs were weighed and then the buyers offered to pay us for the pig. I don’t remember how much my pig weighed, but I do remember the amount offered by the buyer was $345. To an eight year old, that was a lot of money in 1973. It would be a lot of money to an eight year old in 2017.

I remember my step-father coming to tell me what the buyers were offering. I don’t remember if he had to convince me, or not. I do remember that I sold my pig. The animal that I had raised from a piglet was headed off to the slaugthter house and I don’t remember shedding a single tear. I think that’s why I didn’t name him. He wasn’t a pet. Our farm had hundreds of hogs. We sold them every year. At eight years old, I understood that sending pigs off to market was part of being a farmer. I remember I was excited because my brother and I both earned blue ribbons and a couple of kids from a farm down the road, who’d been in 4H forever and bragged about it, only earned red ribbons. I used the money from the sale of my pig to buy a new bike.

We only lived on the farm for a year. My mother and step-father split up and we moved from the mid-West back to Washington state. I was nine by that time and I was embarrassed by the tears I shed. I loved the farm life and have often thought about how different my life might have been had I grown up on that farm. It’s a time in my life that I look back on with fond rememberance. Even 45 years later, I occasionally let myself feel a tinge of emotion about that period of my childhood. But, none of that emotion is for the pig.

He was just a pig.

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
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

A Tale Of Two Deaths – Part 1

Both were very close to me when I was a child. I made the decision in both cases to end their lives. In one case it was gutwrenching, one of the hardest things I ever had to do. In the other case it was easy, almost a non issue.

I was 16 years old. Old enough to drive. With my older brother recently leaving on a mission for the LDS Church, it was my dog. I’m not sure how much time other people spend naming their dogs, but we hadn’t give much thought to naming ours Tuffy. It was because as a golden retriever mix, his hair was somewhat whispy. It had tufts. At least that was the thought behind his name. I don’t remember when we got him. My mother married when I was 11 and it was sometime after that. I just remember him always being there.

We’d moved a lot prior to my twelfth birthday. In fact, I attended 5 different schools in the 5th grade. Moving to Olympia, WA at 11 represented a stability that I hadn’t experienced before. We moved and we stayed. My mother married the man who would later adopt me and we stayed. We got a dog and he stayed.

It’s important for a boy to have a dog. I feel bad that allergies keep us from having a dog now. My sons are spending the summer taking care of their sister’s dog. My dog went nearly everywhere with me as a boy. My first job was working at a horse stables just a half mile from my parents’ house. Tuffy attended with me. We lived in an area with many trees, forests, lakes and ponds. It was a great place to grow up and Tuffy was by my side daily.

And then he started to have a problem with his skin. It wasn’t too serious at first. His back would get a little irritated and he’d bite at it as if trying to catch tiny bugs. Baths helped somewhat and we assumed it would clear up after we started treating him for fleas. Instead it got worse. The vet thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction. He suggested we try brewer’s yeast in his food. He wouldn’t eat it. He continued to get worse.

We realized it was time to start talking about ending his suffering when he got to the point he couldn’t walk from my bedroom at one end of the hallway to the living room at the other, without stopping to scratch and bite at the soars on his back.

He was my dog. So, I’m the one that made the sad drive to the vet’s office. I handed his lease to the doctor, gave him a final hug and numbly walked back to my car. Even now, 40 years later I can hear his questioning bark as I left that day.

Woof. Where are you going?
Woof, woof. When are you coming back?
Woof, woof, woof. . .don’t leave me here.

Dogs can teach boys a lot of things. They can teach responsibility. They can teach companionship. They can teach the value of friendship. The hardest lesson that they teach is how to say goodbye. How to look at someone you love and cherish and know that you have to let go. Nothing goes on forever. And growing up means learning about death and dying.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about another animal that I was close to, that I spent time with daily and I made the decision to end his life. But, I had a much different reaction.

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
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Walter is dying. It might be days, probably weeks, definitely not months. He’s old for a dog. He’s 12 and up until a couple years ago he had a hard life. My friend Steve adopted him. Walter was abandoned and Steve attempted to find a home for him. While searching for Walter’s permanent home, he stayed with Steve. Eventually, Steve realized he had already found Walter’s permanent home.

Steve is one of those facebook friends. He’s a professional comedian. He travels most of the year. Walter became his travelling companion. Steve created a “Walter poop list” to track the states that Walter had been to. Steve kept his social networks updated with the stories of Walter.

I don’t have pets anymore. I grew up with dogs. But, we have kids with allergies so we don’t have dogs at this point. I tell a joke about people who “adopt” a pet. It’s always seemed more like buying a dog. And yet, as I watch my friend Steve deal with the impending end of life for his companion, it’s easy to see that Walter was definitely adopted.

I had child nearly die at one point. The doctors told us later that 15 minutes more and it would have been too late. I was never so emotionally naked as I was that night in the hospital. I hope to never have to bury one of my children. And it’s why my heart breaks for my friend.

Shortly after we started adding to our family through adoption, one of my brothers-in-law said,

I could never do what you’ve done.

What do you mean?

I just don’t think I could love someone who wasn’t related by blood as deeply as my other kids.

You weren’t related by blood with your wife, were you?

Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood. Those who are adopted are loved just as deeply, just as passionately. Often more so. When you adopt, you choose to love. It’s not natural. It’s a conscious decision. You have chosen to include another living being in your life. And the choosing makes that bond a deliberate one and a strong one.

I’m convinced that Steve loves Walter every bit as much as I love those I’ve adopted. As a professional comedian, Steve tells a joke about parenting. His take is that it’s easier to have a baby than it is to order a pizza. Getting pizza is a choice. Adopting is a choice.

Unlike my child who had 108 degree fever and nearly died, we don’t choose to end human lives. Steve is left with a gut wrenching decision that I will never have to make. He choose to love Walter and make him part of his life, and he will ultimately have to choose to end that life.

Dogs are magical. They provide us with companionship, service and love and ultimately only ask for the same in repayment. Steve recently asked his fans to stop inquiring about Walter. A very public person, he’s asked for a little privacy while he goes through the process of saying goodbye. He’ll let us know when it’s over.

Walter was abandoned before he found Steve. Please take care of your pets. Spay and neuter them. Adopt from shelters, don’t buy from puppy mills. And when it’s time to say goodbye, send them off to God in as little pain as possible.

RIP Walter. Go run in the green fields of Heaven, for that’s ultimately the final destination for all dogs.

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
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

My Rental Car Is Stalking Me

It was a casual fling. Sure, we hooked up, but just for a couple of hours. I didn’t want a long term relationship. The car had other ideas. It has committment issues that I inadvertantly triggered. It really wanted us to be together. . .FOREVER!

I was in Shreveport, LA last week. A not uncommon experience. I rented a car. And like most rental cars it had a Bluetooth option. I don’t often use the Bluetooth option in rental cars. There’s privacy issues, but in this case, two of us were travelling together and sharing the car. I didn’t want my phone answering calls while we were both in the car. My coworker felt the same way. On Wednesday we drove from Shreveport to Dallas for a Texas Rangers game. A baseball game is typically 3 hours long and it’s a three hour drive from Shreveport to Dallas.

Right now, there are two groups of readers thinking about that last sentence. There’s a group who are not baseball fans who are thinking “Who would drive six hours just to sit through a three hour baseball game?” And there’s another group thinking, “So, who were they playing and did you get there in time for batting practice?”

The game started at 7:05pm. We were in our seats for the first batter. Well, we were in “seats.” A Wednesday game between a couple of teams that are playing mediocre baseball wasn’t a big draw. We snagged a couple of closer seats on the third baseline upper deck. It was a pretty good game. I saw a batter beat out a dropped third strike and eventually come around to score. Don’t see that alot.

Knowing we had a long drive back to Shreveport, we opted to leave at the top of the 8th inning with the Rangers holding a one run lead. As we got back to our car, I offered to stream the rest of the game from the MLB app on my phone. Naturally, I connected my phone to the car stereo system. 


It was surprisingly easy to link my phone to the car. It’s Bluetooth address was RADIO. The Rays eventually came back to tie it and won in extra innings. We were well on our way to Louisianna by the time the final out was recorded.

It was at this point that I realized I had entered a toxic relationship. I went into my phone’s Bluetooth settings and UNpaired my phone. And the car freaked out. It immeadiately asked me if I wanted to pair again. I laughed about it and clicked No.

It wouldn’t take no for an answer. After a few minutes I got another request.


I dismissed that one as well. I didn’t think much about it until the next morning when I got into the car to go to the site. I got another pairing request. My car had become a really needy former girlfriend.

Do you want to hook up again?

No.

We were great together. Are you sure you don’t want to hang out some more?

No.

Are you sure. Remember when we listened to baseball together? That was great for me. I thought we had a good time. I don’t understand why you don’t want to PAIR again. We were should get back together. Do you want to?

No.

It became a little freaky. I tried removing all traces of the RADIO Bluetooth device from my phone’s memory. But, while I might not remember it, it sure remembered me.

No. I really don’t want to talk to you anymore. Please forget this number and don’t call me anymore.

But, it was persistent and relentless. RADIO was convinced I should really hook up with it again. Finally, in desperation, I disabled Bluetooth completely. That thankfully, stopped the harressment. I had to remember to renable Bluetooth to work with my headset when I got home. There are now no traces of stalker RADIO left in my phone.

At this point I normally wouldn’t give it a second thought except that next week I have to go back to Shreveport and I’ll be renting a car.

(The Rangers were playing the Tampa Bay Rays and we caught the National Anthem, but not batting practice.)

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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