Friday, November 30, 2007

Poem #22: Backpacking

Those who know me realize my passion for the outdoors and my love of exploring it. Backpacking is one of my primary modes for doing so. I've backpacked over 60 times in 50 different wilderness areas, and below are my thoughts of the process. (For photos and info on backpacking in general and the places I've backpacked in particular, go to Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza... and More.)


Backpacking is Mother Nature’s laxative,
purging civilization’s discontentments and
jettisoning society’s cloying accouterments,
roughage for cleansing our psyche.

Backpacking simplifies existence,
relaxing Life’s pace,
opening eyes to mind and soul
and conferring intimacy to all that is observed.

A mountain climbed becomes a mountain earned
just as a burden conquered is a burden mastered.

Backpacking requires Time,
and taking Time elongates Life,
turns Life e l a s t i c and
s t r e t c h e s Life to meet the horizon--
or perhaps not meet it.

It matters not,
for that which is stretched
e x p a n d s
and understanding surges in to possess
the newfound space.

So backpack,
and grow as you go.

(copyright 2003 by Chuck Morlock)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

George Carlin's New Rules

George Carlin is renown for being acerbic and irreverent, but he sure is funny. AND there is certainly at least a kernel of truth in everything he mocks.

New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 or 30 years. Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days - he's mowing my lawn.

New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out of a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Caviar?

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky little bastards.

New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're a dope. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket, water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.

New Rule: Stop screwing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from figuring which way to slide my card, entering my PIN number, finding and pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my candy bar.

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "chicken with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule : Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the U.S. Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those celebrities playing poker was just too damned exciting. What's next, competitive farting? Oh no wait! They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&Ms. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes, graduations and getting out of rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people's version of looting.

New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don't want to be on your web cam, dude. I just want to wash my hands.

New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a cheese. And I didn't really care in the first place.

New Rule: If you ever hope to be a credible adult and want a job that pays better than minimum wage, then for God's sake don't pierce or tattoo every available piece of flesh. If so, then plan your future around saying "Do you want fries with that?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Last Straw!

We hiked at Moraine Hills State Park again with Dave and Patti and came across these rolled bales of hay and did what any kid would do...

... got up on top of one that had fallen over.
We also bushwacked off trail a bit and but saw no deer, perhaps because this state park has hunting going on over the weekends. I'd hightail it out of the area, too, if someone was shooting at me!

In one area we hiked the ridgeline and here is more evidence that Illinois is not all flat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Tree time

Today we put up the tree and Ellen joyfully joined in. She hadn't had a tree for quite a few years and was excited to see the ornaments I had accumulated over the years.

Concert Time approaches

Last night was the final regular rehearsal for our Christmas Concert performances on Saturday and Sunday.

This is my sixth year with the local community chorus, The Village Singers of Lake Zurich, and we have a lot of fun and make some wonderful music, which is enjoyed each concert by 15o+ audience members. I have sung in church choirs for over 45 years, but the types of music the community chorus sings includes show tunes, jazz songs, calypso, pop songs, and numerous other genres, which are not the same as sacred music and took me out of my comfort zone for a few years. Truth be told, I really had to stretch my comfort zone, and that included having to memorize 12 or more songs for both the Christmas and Spring concerts each year, but the mental exercise helps stave off dementia, I've heard. We have a final rehearsal Friday and then the two concerts (each of which is followed by a party at either a restaurant of a member's home -- we are a social organization, after all!) For more info and photos, go to the group's webpage (which coincidentally, I am the webmaster for.)

Then I have to concentrate on the music for our 2 Village Church of Barrington Christmas performances (Christmas in the Village) by our church choir 2 weeks hence. Below is a photo of last year's concert, with each night having an audience of 450+ in the sanctuary.

This year the annual big production is not a straight concert but rather a musical called "The Journey" and features also the church's drama players, and will be held in the gymnasium/auditorium so the stage can be utilized. As usual, our church orchestra of about 18 will accompany us and will be augmented as usual by 25 or so professional musicians, making a wonderful ensemble of 40+ instruments to go along with the 35 or so voices. We expect over 550 in each night's audience this year since the gym can seat more spectators.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deer Lakewood

We met Dave and Patti at Lakewood Forest Preserve and had a pleasant morning for our 5 mile hike, during which...

... we saw a record number of deer. A week or so ago we spotted 15 deer on our 2 hour hike and felt fortunate. Today we watched 31 deer as we hiked, some of which posed for us...

... including one herd of 9 in one place (6 of which are in this photo)...

... and even 1 equestrian who spotted to chat with us.

Another great day in the woods!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Great Expectations?

Random Facts #5

1. The largest number of children born to one woman is 69 in Russia.
2. A fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months.
3. A fingernail or toenail takes about 6 months to grow from base to tip.
4. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown.
5. Frogs never drink. They absorb water from their surroundings by osmosis.
6. Over 1500 new species have been found in Australian waters in the past 10 years.
7. Humans produce over 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime.
8. When a woman is pregnant, her uterus expands to 500 times its normal size.
9. The average person will consume 50 tons of food and 12,000 gallons of water in a lifetime.
10. Chickens can travel up to 10 miles per hour.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Deer Grove hike

It was a perfect day for a hike in Deer Grove Forest Preserve -- sunny, no wind, and 36 degrees -- though the ground is not frozen yet so we ran into some muddy areas on our 4 mile trek. Below is proof that the Chicago environs are not flat as so many out-of-staters believe.

Ellen has biked the mountain bike trail here 3 times and hiked here with our group once, but today I took her off the main trail on some secondary and tertiary trails, and she loved the feeling of being away from civilization, though we were never more than a mile from homes and roads.

In a few months when the creeks have frozen solid, bushwacking off trail becomes much easier, and even using the creeks as trails is an interesting switch from the usual view, giving an interesting and unique perspective on the landscape.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hikin' Lakewood

Finally a beautiful day after 3 days of rain and/or snow, so we hiked 6 miles in Lakewood Forest Preserve with Patti and Dave, and had the 2700 acre preserve to ourselves as we saw no one during the 2 hour hike. You might notice we are bundled up against the sub-freezing temps, but the blue sky and fluffy white clouds and windless conditions contributed to a gorgeous day.

We did spot 15 deer on the hike but this was the only one that cooperated by posing while I got the 300mm lens on the Nikon. I guess the others were too shy or had heard it was deer season in Illinois.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey in Wauconda

No, I'm not referring to myself! We hosted the whole gang (11) for Thanksgiving. Here's Ellen sticking her hands in places where human hands wouldn't ordinarily go...

... and then 5 hours later, showing Linda how professional chefs carve the bird...

... creating this masterpiece, and then... any proud artist, memorializing another of her creations, the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, on a memory card.

The rest of us merely applauded the achievement with our tongues and salivary glands, and with a thunderous ovation of broad smiles and hearty appetites.

Scott and Sarah then shared photos of their Caribbean cruise and Steve and Kasia shared their photos of their California trip.

Thanksgiving in Florida

I found this on the blog by Greg's sister and couldn't help myself -- so I borrowed it and I post it here for your amusement. Life in Florida sure is different from Chicago, and this makes me dissatisfied with our overnight snow and 30 degree temps.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Excerpts from Then Some Other Things Happened, a collection about history written by eighth graders and compiled by Bill Lawrence, a teacher and columnist.)

--The Pilgrams were a bunch of English wonderers who wanted to worship as they wanted to. They excaped the Church of England and came over here because they heard that American churches were different.

--The May Flower was the ship with which they came in. It didn't have a bathroom on board so there was quite an oder. Priscillia Mullins was the captain.

--First the Pilgrams had gone to Holland but left when their children started developing customs there. After a stopover at Williamsbug when a large storm blew them off course they landed on a big, slimey rock in Massatusetts. They spent the winter there.

--Before they got off the ship even they drew up an agreement for the people of Plymouth to agree on the voting for governors and congressmen. They kept this hid in the May Flower Compact. Lord Delaware was elected the first governor of Plymouth Rock.

--A friendly Indian named Rhone Oak showed the Pilgrams how to plant corn by putting it in the ground. Rhone Oak had been the first Indian to come to America. He traveled around with Miles Standy and translated language. He knew enough English to interupt.

--Another interupter for the white man was Squanto, who was called that because he was so short. Squanto drew up a declaration to give the settlers freedom of goverment in the new land. The Pilgrams gave the Indians thanks for all this and that's what started Thanksgiving.

--The Pilgrams then appointed Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Abraham Lincoln later pronounced it and gave it to them and it soon became a national holiday all around the world.

--These people always wore old shoes with a big buckel on the top of them. The men wore pants that only came a little ways past the knees and the girls wore funny bonets.

--But if these people wouldn't had of come to America the United States wouldn't be like it is today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Living Statue of Liberty at WWI Camp Dodge in Iowa

Imagine 18,000 soldiers posed to form the shape of the Statue of Liberty. It occurred in 1918 as described thusly in this quote from the Iowa National Guard website:

"On a stifling July day in 1918, 18,000 officers and soldiers posed as Lady Liberty on the parade [drill] grounds at Camp Dodge." [This area was west of Baker St. and is currently the area around building S34 and to the west.] "According to a July 3, 1986, story in the Fort Dodge Messenger, many men fainted-they were dressed in woolen uniforms-as the temperature neared 105 degrees Farenheit. The photo, taken from the top of a specially constructed tower by a Chicago photography studio, Mole & Thomas, was intended to help promote the sale of war bonds but was never used."

"Pay close attention to the way spatial depth and perspective are defied. In the Statue of Liberty, there are twice as many men in the flame of the torch as in the rest of the design."

(Double click to enlarge photo)

Many examples of Mole's patriotic photographs in true perspective still exist, and 7 more photos of the artist's other "works" at naval and army bases can be found on the Iowa National Guard website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Santa Claus is comin'?

Random Facts #4

1. People living at high altitudes have more red blood cells than people living at sea level.

2. The loop on a belt that holds the loose end is called a "keeper."

3. Experts say the common cold will delay a child’s grown for the colds duration.

4. A "buccula" is the name given to a person’s double chin.

5. Male monkeys go bald in the same way men do.

6. The pelican breathes through its mouth. It has no nostrils.

7. A lobster’s kidneys are in its forehead and its teeth are in its stomach.

8. The highest rating that can be given to a top quality diamond is D-flawless.

9. Buckingham Palace has 600 rooms.

10. Elephants and short-tailed shrews get only two hours of sleep each day.

... and now you know!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Words to the Wise

Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

Nobody cares if you can't dance well -- just get up and dance.

Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
 The second mouse gets the cheese.

When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

We could learn a lot from crayons... some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Poem #21: Give God All The Glory

Mountain peaks engineered with precision,
Majestic creation only God could envision,
Oceans of breadth and depth so profound,
Only He could excavate the ground.
Clear mountain stream and high waterfall,
God's own perfect Eden recall.
Skyscraper tree and dainty wildflower
Indelibly proclaim God's inimitable power.

Give God all the glory,
Give God all the praise,
As He daily illumines
Our lives with His ways.

Invisible atoms and infinite skies,
Man discovers, but God designs.
Wonders which man could never erect,
Declare God the master architect.
He runs in the rivers, surges in the sea,
Melds with the mountains, yet inhabits you and me.
We are nothing without His hand,
As man's earthly life-course navigates His plan.

Give God all the glory,
Give God all the praise,
As He daily illumines
Our lives with His ways.

copyright 1997 by Chuck Morlock

Some Chinese Wisdom

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?"

"That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.”

“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.” Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaw, but it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

So, to all of my crackpot friends -- have a great day and remember to smell the flowers alongside the path.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Fear the right things!

Which is riskier – a nuclear reactor or sunlight?

The worse nuclear accident was Chernobyl reactor in 1986, but fewer than 100 died by radiation poisoning. 8000 Americans die from skin cancer every year, commonly caused by overexposure to sunlight.

Which animal is responsible for the greatest number of human deaths in the US per year?

Deer are responsible for about 130 deaths – 7 times more than the other listed animals combined.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Poplar Creek Forest Preserve hike

We met today for brunch at IHOP and then hiked 5+ miles in the preserve. No sun shining, but still a beautiful fall day for a hike through a magnificent forest setting.

Then we drove to Len and Marlene's newly completed townhouse for a tour - a lovely home in a new subdivision bordered on 2 sides by the forest preserve, and eventually with direct access to the 8 mile loop trail. Congratulations on your new home!

UFOs flying at sunset

I took this photo of the sunset and was shocked to discover 2 hovering flying saucers also in the photo:

Before you declare me loony or a phony, I will confess that the dual UFOs are actually reflections of 2 of my kitchen ceiling can lights. I took the shot through the patio door and caught the reflections in the glass. Here is a shot a few minutes earlier from out on the deck instead of through the glass door:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lakewood Forest Preserve hike

Chicago's above average temperatures went bye-bye, so we hiked this 38 degree, 30 mph windy morning. This sign is meant for the soon-to-emerge snowmobilers:

One of my favorite sections of the 6 mile loop hike is through the pine area.

Many new trees came down this summer.

Who says Illinois hiking is flat?


Our hike ended at the picnic pavilion which is no longer a picnic pavilion.

Decades ago, Lakewood Forest Preserve discovered that over 300 Little Brown Bats set up a summer colony amongst the rafters of the pavilion, where they were warm and dry and had sanctuary from predators like raccoons, coyotes, and cats. But instead of trapping and removing them, they built a new shelter for people to have picnics, and then fenced in the old pavilion making it a...

Most people know that bats serve an important role in our lives by eating mosquitoes and other flying pests. But did you know...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Law of the Garbage Truck

How often do you let other people's moods change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you're extremely laid back, you're probably taken aback. However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly one can get back your focus on what's important.

Years ago I learned this lesson in the back of a taxi cab in Indianapolis.

Here's what happened: I hopped in a taxi, and we headed for the airport . We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car's back end by inches!

The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was truly being friendly.

So, I said, "Why were you so nice? That guy almost totaled your cab and sent us to the hospital!"

And this is when my taxi driver told me "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

He said: "Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage -- full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you encounter them, they might just dump it on you. Well, when someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. Just take it. Smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happy you did."

It got me thinking: How often do Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and then spread it to other people, be it at work, at home, on the streets? That day I decided, "I'm not going to do spread it anymore."

I began to see garbage trucks. Like in the movie "The Sixth Sense," in which the little boy said, "I see Dead People." Well, now I see Garbage Trucks. I see the loads people are carrying. And when I see them coming to drop it off -- like my Taxi Driver -- I don't make it a personal thing. I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

Good leaders know they have to be ready for their next meeting. Good parents know that they have to welcome their children home from school with hugs and kisses. And good friends know they have to be available. These good leaders and good parents and good friends know that they have to be fully present and at their best for the people they care about.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day. What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks dump their loads and then continue on?

You'll be happier.

Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so... love the people who treat you right. And pray for the ones who don't.

Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, TAKE IT! If it changes your life, LET IT! Nobody said it would be easy. They just promised it would be worth it!

Find happiness - Find contentment - Find peace - Find God.

And you'll have a blessed day! And bless someone else's day, too!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Letting go...

I just read my buddy, Greg's, blog, and he had this link to the blogsite of a friend of his whose 9 year old daughter is in the end stage of her fight against cancer. The posts of her mom bring tears to the heart. Please join many others in prayer for this little girl and her loved ones in this most difficult of days. Thank you.

Deer Grove Mountain Bike Trail

Today I gave Ellen the choice of where to bike from among the dozen or so trails I've taken her on this last month. Without hesitation, she announced "Deer Grove" and I was neither surprised nor disappointed by her decision, since these twin loops in Deer Grove and Deer Grove East are my favorite, too.

I find the recently groomed loop trail west of Quentin Road is too civilized now that they've removed the rocks and roots and ruts and laid down gravel, but obstacles still require your attention, because you never know what's around the next blind bend or over that next hill, as seen here...

... for you wouldn't want to hit a downed tree trunk at 15 mph. But the single track on the east side of Quentin Road is still my favorite, and Ellen's too as is obvious by the broad smile on her face.

The fallen leaves add another element requiring caution as the obscure trail snakes around and between trees, downed limbs, and tree stumps. (Hey, Greg, come on back to Chicago and I'll give you some great adventures off the water!)

Another wonderful 90 minute ride on another rare 63 degree November day in Chicago.