Sunday, May 31, 2009

Biking the Des Plaines River Trail

Magnificent day to bike the magnificent forests of suburban Chicagoland. We are on the Cook County portion of the 60+ mile long Des Plaines River Trail which runs from Wisconsin to Maywwod, biking 20 miles today from Wheeling south to Rand Road and back...

...which includes a crossing of the railroad tracks. No, Ellen, you don't bike ON the rails...

That's better -- carry the bike over the tracks...

... and make sure you get across before the train comes...

We saw 10 deer, 4 horses, and dozens of hikers, runners, bikers, and dog-walkers -- all enjoying the sunny 70 degree and the scenic wonders of the forest preserves.

Church Signs #12

In my driving trips across all 50 states, I often spot clever, amusing, and
thought-provoking signs in front of churches of all denominations, and long
ago I began jotting them down. I'll gradually post them here
for your entertainment and edification.

  • A lot of kneeling keeps you in good standing.
  • It is not WHO you are but WHOSE.
  • The cold world needs warm-hearted Christians.
  • Faith, like muscle, grows with exercise.
  • Character is doing what is right when no one is watching.
  • Life is for giving, not for getting.
  • Nothing ruins the truth like stretching it.
  • Laborers needed for God’s harvest.
  • WalMart is not the only saving place.
  • The best vitamin for a Christian is B1.
  • Preach the gospel at all times – use words only when necessary.
  • God plus one equals the majority
  • Be the SOUL support of your children.
  • Don’t be troubled – even Moses was a basket case.
  • A friend is a present you give yourself.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Julie Andrews and Dancers at the Antwerp Train Station

With all the terrible news filling the airways, here's a real pick-me-up.

It was an apparently normal commuting day at the Central Railway Station in Antwerp, Belgium, when Julie Andrews’ “Do-Re-Mi” began playing over the public address system and "passengers" suddenly broke into a dance. It was a stunt apparently produced for VTM which was producing a Flemish version of "The Sound of Music" with another reality TV show to cast a stage musical. Watch the reactions of the actual passengers.

This is reminiscent (and perhaps modeled after?) the T-Mobile ad of January 15, 2009, when at 11am, hundreds of people who had trained for eight weeks showed up at London’s Liverpool Street train station and unexpectedly broke out into dance. The event was organized by T-Mobile as part of its “Life’s For Sharing” campaign.

Lake Forest Symphony concert

Last night, we met Don and his daughter, Enid, for a tasty meal and conversation at The Vine in Grayslake...

...and then the short drive to the Performing Arts Center at the College of Lake County for an informative 50 minute pre-concert lecture by Jim Kendros, a professional composer of over 170+ works and well-known music researcher and historian...

The concert by this exceptional professional orchestra included 1) Fidelio Overture by Beethoven, 2) Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Orchestra by Saint-Saens (featuring world renowned guest violin virtuoso Ilya Kaler), and 3) Symphony No. 5 by Tchaikovsky. Alan Heatherington directs both this symphony and also the prestigious Chicago Master Singers.

We so enjoyed the orchestra with the Master Singers here last year that we had to return to experience them again, and once more, we were not disappointed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Des Plaines River Trail biking as (l to r) Dave, Ellen, Patti, Carol, Marlene, Len, and I biked south from Half Day to Dundee Road and back...

...followed by lunch and conversation at Portillos. Yeah, this retirement business is tough work!

Dwight's Retirement party...

...was held yesterday at his favorite hangout, Lamplighter's, in Palatine. Dwight and I were colleagues for several decades in the Fremd High School English Department. When I was chairman and had the privilege of observing my teachers' classes for evaluation purposes, I always looked forward to Dwight's classes. He has an easy-going demeanor which hides the tough academic expectations he held for his students -- and which they accomplished and exceeded, often to their own amazement. When I built the teaching schedules for the next school year, Dwight always requested accelerated classes and lower-level classes, and had an uncanny ability to relate to both academic extremes, something I still admire. His retirement is a loss for future students at Fremd.

Two of my colleagues still teaching there are Patti and Judy, who surprised me by saying they are the two most-senior teachers with all the retirements the last several years. (It sounded to me like they said it with a wistful desire to be retiring soon themselves, but Fremd still needs their experience and expertise for a few years with the sudden brain-drain of so many retirements.)

Henry and Casey join Dwight in this photo. All three were exceptional teachers and all three are also dedicated Harley riders, and the stories of their summer group excursions (along with three or four other teachers) were always a highlight when school resumed each Fall.

Len and Jeff are two more retirees, as is obvious by their huge smiles and relaxed, stress free countenances. Jeff is part of the Harley "biker" bunch, whereas Len joins me each week as we really bike -- by pedaling, sans engine.

Jim and Rick aren't Harley guys but still enjoy their retirements. Jim sponsored the award-winning school paper for many years and Rick developed many fine musicians through the music department and is himself an exceptional tuba player whose band, the Footstompers, has entertained at many of our parties.

Congratulations, and have a great retirement, Dwight! It will be difficult to replace you.

Poem #46: Retirement Day

Retirement day seemed slow to arrive
Yet here it is to my surprise,
And 34 years in front of a class
Like a meteor shower did quickly pass.

Ten thousand students, or maybe more
Sat at desks and graduated out the door.
Their names and faces all merge into one
As I contemplate a career now done.

Like the flash of a bulb or blink of an eye,
The days and months and years flew by.
My mind can’t staunch the river of tears
As memory recalls great times with peers.

For students kept changing in name and need,
But the colleagues remained and shared the creed
Of educate and love them all -
Students with flair and those with flaw.

Now I fade away and let the young
Move up the ladder, rung by rung,
To teach with dedication unfurled,
Preparing new students to run the world.

copyright 2001
Chuck Morlock

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Elderhostel: The Mystery Behind the Magic at Disney World

This was a wonderful Elderhostel program, as you'll see from this movie. One caveat: Except for 2 times, we were not allowed to photograph or video record what we saw "behind the scenes" at Disney, a rule I obeyed. You will see the hotel we stayed. our Disney Institute guides, and our group's participants. The times we were "on stage" (the areas guests see) we were allowed to photograph, and I did. Our tour of the "behind the scenes" ("backstage") horticulture center was open for photos so you'll see those, too, and the Kilamanjaro Safari ride in Animal Kingdom, which is "on stage," has camcorder footage I took, but with our "behind the scenes" guide, Anita, an Animal Kingdom expert, doing the narration.

I also posted on each of the 4 days of this program found here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swimming with the manatees in Florida

In February of 2009, we swam with the manatees as part of an Adventures in Florida program out of Cedar Key. We drove to Crystal River, Florida, and were guided on this adventure by American Pro Diving, a wonderful company to tour with. Their facility in Crystal River is packed with gear and gifts galore, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable, and they even have a scuba dive pool in the building. Here are excerpts of a video they made of us as we snorkeled with the manatees...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day party

We gathered at my place yesterday for a BBQ get-together, with brats, hot dogs, burgers, and chicken breasts. Ellen excelled again at the grill, and also made German potato salad and grilled veggies...

Steve picked up my Mom who loved being with the "kids" for the afternoon...

...and I even managed to get in a photo with Steve and Scott this time...

KC Bird entertained us for a while and even deigned to visit with Scott...

...and Sarah. (He didn't realize she was a veterinarian, but knew an animal lover when he saw one!)

Great party!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Grace vs mercy...

Our youth pastor at church a few years back delivered a sermon to the congregation using this story to explain the difference between grace and mercy -- a wonderful sermon that explained this deep religious philosophy in terms children (and we adults) could understand...


The kids and I had a game of water gun war. The agreement was that the winner got to eat a Hersey bar and the losers got squirted with all the remaining water.

After a heated and spirited competition, I won.

“Okay, I laughed. Now I get to soak all of you, right?”

They looked at each other and then me and all sadly nodded their heads in agreement.

I took careful, exaggerated aim with my immense super-soaker gun, then didn’t shoot. Instead I smiled and said, “You deserve to be drenched, right? According to our agreement, the losers get drenched. But I am not going to give what you truly deserve. You can stay dry. That’s called mercy.”

Then I reached into my backpack and pulled out a giant size Hersey bar. I slowly opened it and dramatically took a large, long, satisfying bite. Then smiling broadly, I emitted a tantalizing sigh of enjoyment. I looked at the boys, smiled, and holding the bar out for all to see, said, “You didn’t win, so you don’t deserve a candy bar, right?”

They reluctantly agreed, their frowning faces and tearing eyes quite obvious as I took yet another large bite and exaggeratedly chewed the delicious chunk.

Then I reached into my pack again, producing more giant bars -- one for each of them -- and I proceeded to hand a large bar to each, saying, “According to our agreement, you lost. But even though you didn’t earn this, I’m giving it to you anyway. That’s called grace.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Caribbean Cruise on "Voyager of the Seas"

My first cruise was in January, 2009, on Royal Caribbean's magnificent "Voyager of the Seas," with ports-of-call in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica, and I loved it! Here is a short video of our trip, featuring still photos and camcorder footage of the ship and its amenities, as well as our three land excursions which included beach horseback riding and jungle canopy zip-lining.

I also published 6 posts of the cruise which are here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

College Degrees for Sale?

Like everyone, I get far too many spam emails, most of which I trash without a glance. This one made me peruse it and it both shocked me and made me angry. People actually "buy" college degrees for a few bucks rather than pay thousands for tuition and books and without an investment of years of hard work? Are they trying to fool others - or themselves?

Here's the text of the email, sans the phone number to call. I've left in the numerous grammatical errors (which indicate to me the author must have one of those meaningless purchased degrees!)


To buy a degree is quite easy these days. Nevertheless most students just sit around in their usually boring local University classes, wasting money. Why would you do that? These days buying a degree is a matter of personal motivation. But why should you buy a degree? The main reason is the fact that buying a degree online is going to save you time, a lot of time. Usually you have to verify your life experience and you instantly qualify. Even though that is not the main cause why people are buying life experience degree.

The actual reason why people buy a life experience degree is because they can not go to a institution in their surrounding area that offers the diploma program they are heading for: For example, if you live near a College which only offers renowned marketing degree, then this doesn't help you a bit if you're looking for a marketing degree. To attend classes you might have to travel long distances. Then it might be that the degree that you want is only offered by a institution which costs a fortune. So you have to leave your place, look for accommodation in the University's place and do all the other stuff involved costing you tons of cheeze.

If you buy a degree by verifying your life experience or work experience, you can find the right degree for you without ever having to leave your workplace and instead get all the documents like the diploma certificate with the University's legal verification and official seal certifying the degree chosen, the transcript, a cover letter, copies of the College's or University's official certificate of accreditation, the institutions postal prospectus approval and a few important things more.

Having a University degree is very important these days, and as always in life you should only stick with something you want.

Beware choosing to be something just because it was the only good degree your local institution offered. After all, you are only going to be good at your job if you like to do it. Thus, you have to get a degree that means something to you. This used to be a task that could take you years.

Buying a degree is nothing harmful. It's a win-win situation for the Colleges involved as well as for you, getting the degree you dreamed of. Give us a call if you are interested to buy a degree from an University!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Millennium Trail to Four Winds

Dave and Patti came over this morning and we biked the 16 mile round-trip on the Millennium Trail to the former Four Winds Golf Club, now a holding of the Lake County Forest Preserve District. It was their first visit to the new acquisition...

We also stopped at the overlook to the waterfowl section of the habitat restoration project funded by the McLeans which abuts the old golf course. This viewing area is dedicated to the McLeans...

Gordon McLean's generous donation was in memory of his late wife who was an avid birder and naturalist. Restoration work on a 600-acre parcel north of Route 176 includes planting native trees and shrubs, removing invasive woody species, seeding native prairie, and beginning plans for drain tile removal. The project will expand wetland, savanna, and prairie habitats near existing wetlands to provide critical habitat for grassland and wetland birds. Lake County already boasts the largest concentration of wetland bird habitat in Northern Illinois, and in excess of 100 species already depend on this habitat area all or part of the year. The restoration will increase that number.

Cedar Key, Florida

Cedar Key is on Florida's Nature Coast, west of Gainesville and Ocala. The city is actually several Gulf of Mexico islands connected to one another and the mainland by bridges and causeways. If you dislike the commotion and crowds of other Florida seacoast towns, this might be the place for you to rest and relax. It is 28 miles from the nearest large town, Chiefland, and much of the land surrounding Cedar Key is state or federal preserves and wildlife refuges, so it will forever remain pristine,wild, and sparsely developed. Here's a short video I made to "introduce" you to the town...

Cedar Key is one of very few places where can you watch a sunrise over the shoreline along Florida's west coast. Here's a short HD video at 12 times normal speed ...

For more info, go here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicago Botanic Garden

Yesterday we biked 26 miles on the North Branch Trail, also circling the Skokie Lagoons and stopping for lunch at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Cafe. We bike this route several times each year so we can eat at the AGrdens and then walk the magnificent grounds for an hour or so before heading home.

In 1963, the Chicago Horticultural Society was granted 300 acres of forest on the outskirts of the city, and the Chicago Botanic Garden established roots. With the groundbreaking for the Garden in 1965 and its opening in 1972, the Society created a permanent site on which to carry out its three-fold mission -- collections, education, and research.

The 385-acre Garden features 23 display gardens and three native habitats, uniquely situated on nine islands surrounded by lakes. They also have 100 acres of woods, 81 acres of waterways surrounding the 9 islands on the northernmost portion of Skokie Lagoons, with a total of 6 miles of shoreline. Since Illinois is the Prairie State, they also maintain 15 acres of prairie.

255 bird species have been sighted on the grounds, and the flora collection includes 2.3 million plants representing 9,434 plant varieties including 15,151 trees, 921,671 bulbs, 1,139,364 perennials, 14,704 aquatic plants, 180 bonsai, and 60,557 shrubs.

They are supported by 50,000 members, the largest membership of any U.S. botanic garden, and their 3/4 million visitors represent the second most-visited botanic garden of its size in the U.S. Educational programs include 475 adult education classes, from gardening basics to botanical sketching, as well as programs for 35,000 schoolchildren and 2,000 teachers. 1,000 volunteers assist the staff of 240, from horticulturist to librarian to aquatic staff. They also boast of 25,000 book titles, including one of the nation's best collections of rare botanical books

Admission is free, though parking is $20. Bikers can enter with no charge from the spur off the North Branch loop around the lagoons (across Dundee Road) or through the front entrance on Lake-Cook Road. Bike racks are available at the Gateway Center entrance.

Though we are barely into the growing season here, below are a few shots of the early bloomers, starting with Persian Buttercups...

... and myriad Tulips...

...and more Tulips interspersed with blue Poppy Anemones...

...and colorful Violas and Pansies...

One of my favorite displays is the Japanese exhibit, consisting of 3 islands, 2 of which you can access by bridges...

If you've never visited the gardens, don't wait any longer. If you have, you know how spectacular the displays are, so visit again soon!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chicagoland Bike Trails

The Chicago area, which encompasses Cook County as well as the counties surrounding Cook, offers a plethora of bike trails, mostly passing though magnificent forest preserves. A number of the trails run well over 20 miles in length.

Here is a listing of Chicago area bike trails I've
biked, with photos and info on each trail.

  • Blackwell Forest Trail in DuPage County.

  • Busse Reservoir Bike Trail in northwest Chicagoland

  • Centennial Trail of southwest Chicagoland

  • Chicago Lakefront Path

  • Danada/Herrick Lake Trail in DuPage County

  • Deer Grove Forest Preserve Mountain Bike Trail of northwestern Chicagoland

  • Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County (Northern section)

  • Des Plaines River Trail in Cook County (Southern section)

  • Fox River Trail in western Chicagoland.

  • Grant Woods Trail in Lake County

  • Great Western Trail of western Chicagoland.

  • Green Bay Trail of northern Chicagoland

  • Hebron Trail of McHenry County

  • Illinois Prairie Path of western Chicagoland

  • I & M Canal Trail of southern Cook County

  • I & M Canal State Trail (Channahon to LaSalle)

  • McHenry's Prairie Trail of northwestern Chicagoland

  • Millennium Trail of Lake County

  • Moraine Hills State Park in northwest Chicagoland.

  • North Branch of the Chicago River Trail in northern Chicagoland

  • North Shore Trail of northern Chicagoland

  • Old Plank Road Trail of southwest Chicagoland

  • Palatine Bike Trail in northwest Chicagoland.

  • Poplar Creek Forest Preserve Trail in northwest Chicagoland

  • Robert McClory Trail in northern Chicagoland

  • Rock Run Greenway Trail in southwestern Chicagoland

  • Veteran Acres/Sterne's Woods mountain bike trails in Crystal Lake

  • Virgil Gilman Trail in western Chicagoland

  • Waterfall Glen Forest Trail of southwestern Chicagoland

  • When I add new trails to my list, I do so at Bike, Hike, and Paddle, so you might want to bookmark this site to get the latest additions to the list.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Reunited on the Fox...

    ... River bike trail, after my being gone for 4 months over the winter. Our group of 6 retirees hikes weekly in the cold weather and bikes weekly in the warmer weather, and yesterday we met and biked the trail and got caught up with family news. The time down south was wonderful, but being home and seeing good friends is what life really is all about!

    The meal afterward at Benedict's in West Dundee was also superb!

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Biking Florida Trails

    Our five weeks in Florida over the winter included 250+ miles of biking - both on paved trails and mountain bike trails in the Ocala and Apalachicola National Forests -- and below is a movie using camcorder footage and still photos, showing the 13 different trails we biked.

    (I discovered the video has a double sound track and have fixed the problem, but I'm having difficulty uploading the revised movie to YouTube. I'll keep trying.)

    For more information on any of the trails in the movie, go here and click on the trail you are interested in.


    Sunday, May 17, 2009


    The Pillsbury Doughboy, aka "Poppin' Fresh," died of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was born
    in October of 1965, at 14-ounces and 8 3/4-inch tall in a Crescent Roll commercial.

    Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough, two children, John Dough and Jane Dough, who has a bun in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

    Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, The California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

    Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy, and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart "cookie," wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Never once was his language laced with spiciness.

    Despite being a little flaky at times, even as a crusty old man he was still considered a roll model for millions.

    Toward the end, it was thought he'd rise once again, but he was no tart.

    The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    The Des Plaines River Trail...

    ...remains my favorite Chicagoland trail. I've avoided biking it since I returned home 2 weeks ago due to the river being over flood stage, but today we ventured onto it for a 24 mile bike ride. Even this early in Spring, it is as beautiful as ever...

    The beavers have been busily engaged already...

    ...and one underpass, Route 132, had 6" of river on it. I headed right into it and served as a model for the 2 dozen Boy Scouts and leaders stopped at the other end debating what to do. When they saw me biking, the kids did the same -- some after taking their shoes and socks off ...

    We also saw this guy horsing around the playground...

    Great day on the trail!

    Mopping Up At Augustana Hospital

    Lincoln Avenue was a short two-block walk from our apartment on Paulina Street in the Lakeview section of Chicago’s north side, and a twenty minute ride south on the Lincoln Avenue bus brought me to Dickens Avenue and Augustana Hospital where I worked part-time in the Housekeeping Department for two years while a junior and senior at Lane Tech High School. This photo below the original building built in 1880.

    Housekeeping was run by Josephine, a jolly, chubby white woman who was kind to me and most of her other employees, although several times I thought I detected a bias against some of the black ladies. One thing I respected about her was how she understood her older employees, which was the vast majority of her male staff since nearly all were of retirement age and working to supplement Social Security. Pay was low and so was their productivity, not because they shirked responsibility but simply due to age related speed issues. They worked steadily and efficiently just at a slower pace.

    Housekeeping Department was charged with keeping the entire hospital clean, and to accomplish this immense undertaking, every floor had both a male housekeeper who mopped, emptied baskets, and cleaned washrooms, as well as a female housekeeper to sanitize surfaces and change bedding. Occasionally I would be assigned to cover a floor for an ill male housekeeper, but most often I was assigned special projects such as mopping all the stairwells from the eighth floor to the basement, or carrying and climbing the ladder to remove and re-hang draperies or clean blinds, or stripping wax from floors and re-waxing them, and when I became proficient at the stripping/re-waxing cycle, I even did the same on the stairways. I much preferred these special assignments because every day was different, and since I was an energetic, athletic teenager and far more spry and agile than the older men, I was generally given these other duties, which was much appreciated by my elders since they preferred the easier routine tasks. I’m not sure who dreamed up all the special jobs, but there was generally a long list to keep me busy.

    Many of these men came to be my surrogate grandfathers. Two generations older than me, they were friendly and patiently showed me the ropes until I learned the subtleties of the duties, and as we became friends, we joked together and engaged in harmless pranks and games, much as a grandfather would with a grandson. For example, the hospital’s top two floors, seven and eight, contained private rooms, but due to a shortage of wealthier patients, these floors were closed. During our breaks (and sometimes when we were finished with our work and had some goofing-off time available) we would stage wheelchair races down the halls on the eighth floor. I always won but kept the races close to encourage future rematches by my "grandpas."

    Another time, three of us were tasked with moving hospital room furniture from a storage area on one of the nursing school floors up to the unused sun-room on the closed eighth floor. We were further directed to set the sun-room up as a large hospital ward to function as an additional classroom for nursing students. So we pushed beds, dressers, room dividers, IV stands, full-size mannequins, and sundry other items from the second floor west wing to the eighth floor east wing sun-room by way of the center building, a five story structure that connected the east and west wings and housed administrative offices and laboratories. The lab that processed urine specimens was on the second floor center hallway, so we placed full-sized mannequins on three of the mobile beds (as seen below)...

    ... covered each with a sheet so only toes protruded, and solemnly pushed them past outpatients seated with filled specimen jars in hand awaiting testing, and slyly watched the facial expressions as our procession of apparent corpses was slowly, respectfully pushed down the hallway by dour-faced, reverential men. I could swear that several patients got up and headed for the washroom to further contribute to their specimen’s container!

    After transporting all the furniture and room accessories to the sun-room, we began arranging the large room as a hospital ward with dividers between beds forming private areas. We brought one of our racing wheelchairs and seated a mannequin in it and placed a second dummy in a bed, and then I had a brainstorm. The third mannequin was put on a chair with a bedpan beneath it, and I completed the vignette with a piece of folded toilet paper in his right hand. We all chuckled and were leaving just as the nursing school supervisor entered to check our progress. We announced that we were finished and left, and as we exited the sun-room she saw our handiwork and began laughing aloud.

    I also made friends with the attendant who operated the staff’s service elevator. This was 1962 and elevators were run by operators, not electronics, and Harlan, a self-proclaimed hillbilly from West Virginia with accent and colloquialisms to match, taught me how to run the elevator when no other passengers were aboard. He had busy times, predominantly around the breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours when food service personnel were delivering food trays to patients or dirty dishes back to the dishwashers. But when I had some down time and his calls were infrequent, he’d turn the operator’s handle ((below)..

    ...over to me and I would attempt to stop the car precisely level with a floor, a complex task since this old elevator did not have an auto-leveling feature and there was always a slight lag between moving the lever to off and the car responding. The lever (bottom of photo) moved through an arc from nine o’clock to three o’clock, with movement to the left making the elevator go down, and to the right, up. I finally got to the point where I could make a perfect stop about 80% of the time, not good enough for professional status but satisfying none-the-less. The operator also had to open and close the door and identify from what floor a call had been made when the annunciator rang in the elevator.

    One time Harlan took me to the penthouse where the hospital’s autopsy room was located, and I got a quick look at the corpse of an old, overweight woman cut open. I took my brief peek, noticed the bottles and trays filled with body organs, and we left. He also showed me the sub-basement morgue where bodies awaited pickup by funeral homes. He delivered bodies to both levels on a regular basis and was immune to the sight of corpses, but this 16-year-old high-schooler certainly wasn’t and one trip to each place was enough for me. In case you are wondering – whenever he had a corpse to deliver to either location, it became a priority express run and no other passengers were allowed on the elevator.

    The only other time I was somewhat associated with a death while at the hospital was peripherally. A man had died of something contagious so I was assigned to remove the draperies and bedding from his room. I wore gloves, cap, mask, and gown and deposited the drapes in a large bag that was immediately sealed. I’m unsure if they were burned or simply cleaned and re-used. The room was then sanitized before another patient was assigned to it.

    While employed there, my girlfriend, Leora, was admitted on a Sunday for spinal fusion surgery on Monday. I felt terrible about her admittance and impending surgery because I was partially responsible. We had been roughhousing in my backyard playing football a few months earlier and I had play-tackled her and exacerbated an existing condition which resulted in the need for surgery. Lee (in photo with me) was not in pain but was understandably nervous about the operation and wanted company that Sunday evening, so I surreptitiously brought eight or ten members of our church youth group up to her room for our weekly meeting. Hospital rules were far more strict then and patients were limited to two guests at a time. Also, some of our Leaguers were under the sixteen-year age minimum for visiting, so I circumvented these rules by escorting them a few at a time through a locked side door and up a little used stairway, for one of the perks of Housekeeping Department was intimate knowledge of the building. Oh yeah, the pizza and pop we brought with us was also against the rules. Her room was the last on the floor, farthest from the nurses’ station and right by the stairwell door, and we stayed quiet so we would neither disturb other patients nor bring attention to our illicit presence. Fortunately, Lee, though in the traditional two-patient semi-private room, did not yet have a roommate.

    We were having a wonderful time and were successfully raising her spirits and taking her mind off the looming operation when the door to her room suddenly opened and a nurse entered for some routine task. The white-clad RN’s mouth gaped at the sight of the crowd of teenagers eating pizza and was no doubt about to start ranting when she noticed me, and I swear an imperceptible smile curled her lips a tad upward and she said to me in a strong, no-nonsense voice, “Visiting hours are over, Chuck. I’m going to get something I forgot, and when I come back in five minutes, this room WILL be empty except for the patient,” and she turned and left. What luck for us that it was a nurse I knew. We quickly said goodbye to Lee, wished her well tomorrow, and departed with all our leftovers and the trash, leaving by the back stairs the way we had entered. Though I sweated for the next few days, no untoward ramifications occurred for me job-wise, though whenever I ran into that understanding nurse whose name I have long ago forgotten, a broad smile always beamed from her face as her head simultaneously shook right and left in awed amazement at the memory.

    After Lee had been discharged, I asked her if her pre-operative exam had included a breast exam. She indicated it had and I made the mistake of trying to joke that it had been done not by a doctor but by a colleague of mine in the Housekeeping Department whom I had sent in. Lee was not amused and appropriately took umbrage at my insensitivity and I had to work to convince her I had merely been joking and it really had been a doctor, and even after convincing her, I had to work long and hard to get back into her good graces for having attempted the stupid hoax.

    One thing I discovered at Augustana was that a person carrying a ladder, or a bucket and mop, or even a clipboard and tape measure could go virtually anywhere in the hospital unchallenged, and on a few occasions while on legitimate assignments, I entered the surgery and maternity wards and even the nursing student’s dorm building, areas generally off-limits to most employees, and never once was my presence questioned. Security protocols today are no doubt far more severe and restrictive and I imagine I would not enjoy the same freedoms as I did back then. Or could I still get away with it?

    In hindsight, the hospital job was a wonderful experience. I learned to work and interact with people of different generations and from different ethnic groups. It was my first real job other than a paper route or working at the Herkert's machine shop (my relatives) and it was the first job that required applying, interviewing, and interacting with bosses. The wide range of duties equipped me with new skills, taught me the inner workings of a large enterprise in general and of hospitals in particular, and through contact with a wide variety of people, provided me with social skills which would prove useful the rest of my life. The menial labor bestowed a respect for the dedicated people who work behind the scenes making vital contributions to an undertaking, more often than not completely unappreciated, but without whom the important work of the institution would grind to a halt. The job at Augustana Hospital (and my next job at S&C Electric Company as mail-boy and factory worker) induced and reinforced the importance of excelling in college in order to prepare for a profession that utilized mental abilities instead of manual skills. Finally, the job provided numerous interesting experiences still treasured 40+ years later, for in writing these memoirs, warm recollections of dear friends and fond memories of occurrences brought me back to a formative stage of my life and triggered smiles and chuckles as I typed.

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    How Much of Life Do We Miss... our frenzy of daily busyness?

    A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

    The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

    In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

    No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

    Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100 each.

    This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

    One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

    If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Apples, Apples, Apples

    This month marks 25 years of having a personal computer in my home -- all Apples. I began using an Apple II-plus at the high school where I taught, even borrowing it over school breaks so the family could develop computer skills, and when I purchased our first computer for the family in March of 1984, it was an Apple IIe with its (then) whopping 128K of memory and large floppy disk drives.

    It served our family well for seven years, until replaced by our first Mac, the Macintosh LC (which stood for "low cost" though I didn't feel its $2600 price tag inexpensive!)

    Five years later we upgraded to a PowerMac 5300, an education model equivalent to the Performa 5300. You might notice it has openings for both the large 5 1/4" floppy disks and for the newer 3 1/2" floppies...

    This computer allowed me to burst onto the the burgeoning Internet in January of 1996 and I began my own web site, Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza, which chronicled my various backpack trips and offered other backpackers information and photos of the dozens of wilderness areas I had backpacked. I received hundreds of emails each year from visitors, both asking specific questions about locales and offering me thanks for providing such a comprehensive site, and it was awarded a number of "best site" designations by others.

    In 2000, I purchased my first laptop, the PowerBook G3, making it easy to use both at school and home...

    A new desktop, the iMac SE 700, followed a few years later, with its futuristic look and see-into body...

    My most powerful computer came 6 years ago -- a G5 Dual processor Power Macintosh with a 17" cinema display, and it has been my favorite computer, allowing me to delve more into photo manipulation and movie creation...

    ... and since retirement brought much traveling to my life, it was joined a few years later by a MacBook which allows wireless Internet connection during my many months of traveling across the country. Back in those days, few motels had Internet connections, so I had to seek out wireless locales such as libraries or parking lots of motels that provided wi-fi.

    This week I received my newest and most powerful computer, the quad-core MacPro tower with 24" LCD cinema display...

    ...which I am diligently working at setting up with files and applications from my other computer. With 2 optical drives, 4 hard drives, and 4 speedy processors, I'll be able to expand on all the photo, movie, and DVD projects I enjoy so much, and continue the work on the web site and 7 blogs I contribute to.

    The succession of upgraded computers over the decades have allowed me to improve and expand my web site over the years, and it has been a labor of love. In addition to backpacking information, I have added information on places I've biked and paddled -- over 3000 photos -- so I changed the name of the site to reflect the new content -- Bike, Hike, and Paddle. The site has been visited over 162,000 times in 13 years and is still going strong.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Spring Biking Rules!

    Spring is greening up all the foliage, and the lush green hues warm and brighten my soul. Ellen and KC Bird arrived yesterday and she is also enjoying her third Spring this year.

    The former Four Winds Golf Club property is especially scenic and a pleasure to pedal to and through, and additional plantings of trees and shrubs are going in along the 2 new miles of trail.

    Thanks Lake County Forest Preserve District for acquiring and developing this new holding!

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Mom, Meal, and Music

    Mother's Day 2009 saw the family honor Mom with a tasty meal at Wonton Gourmet, her favorite Chinese restaurant, where all 8 of us ordered different entrees and then shared a bit of everyone's choice. Delicious!

    We then went to Mom's apartment for several more hours of fellowship and conversation and watched her open her cards and gifts...

    Mom posed with photos with Suzie and me...

    ...and Linda and me...

    Sarah and I then went to Scott's performance with the Palatine Concert Band where my cousin, Millie, joined us for the delightful musical numbers. Here she is with Scott at intermission...

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Cedar Key Condo... a new blog which Ellen and I are collaborating on, featuring the condo in Cedar Key, Florida. Here's a view of the unit from the deck, looking in at the living area, kitchen, and loft bedroom above...

    ...and here's a view of the living area from the loft...

    The balcony offers a relaxing locale to sit, catch the cool Gulf breeze, and savor the views of the park, the beach, and the Gulf of Mexico beyond...

    The blog has additional photos as well as links to recreational activities in the Cedar Key area and a map of the location of Cedar Key on Florida's magnificent Nature Coast. We'll be adding to the blog in the next months, so check it out, and if you need a relaxing place to vacation, keep it in mind!