Reflections from under the Derby

you're not thinking about this stuff


Standing up for the Garbage Man
stymie4
docstymie
You might recall last year I posted about my attempts at getting the Martin Luther King holiday for our local sanitation workers since Dr. King was in Memphis supporting a sanitation workers strike when he was killed.

In that entry, I posted a response from the local government official that oversees such things and it was generally positive.

Fast forward to last month. Given that the contract is to be rebid here in about 6 months, I wanted to remind her of her note from a year ago:

Since it has been almost a year since our correspondence and at that time you had mentioned that it was about 18 months before the sanitation workers' contract would be rebid, I wanted to just touch base with you to make sure that this was still on the agenda.

As a reminder, I had noted that our sanitation workers do not receive the Martin Luther King holiday, which seems rather ironic if not unfair given that Dr. King was in Memphis in support of the sanitation workers strike at the time of his assassination. I hope that Executive Dooley and you will take the initiative in righting this situation in the next contract so that our hardworking sanitation workers can enjoy the day off that many of the rest of us do.

In the time since I sent my original note, I have learned that sanitation workers in many cities do not receive this holiday. I hope to raise awareness of this issue across the country through blog communities, etc. and it would be great of St. Louis could be seen as a leader in this effort to recognize both Dr. King, but also the workers that provide a vital service which frankly most of us take for granted.

I will be more than happy to help in any way that I can.

Sincerely,
Jeff

Well, today, I received another response:

Dear Mr. Seale:
Thank you for recognizing that sanitation workers provide a vital service for our community. I agree that our community must value the contributions that service providers make in our daily life. As a community, we are responsible for helping all Americans to reach their potential.

Your actions to raise awareness of Dr. King’s message are commendable. As you’ve stated sanitation workers in many cities do not receive this holiday. In the County’s Waste District Program the collection services are selected through competitive bids by private businesses. In the competitive bid process, all bid requirements must relate to the collection of trash and recyclables based on public health and safety. Adding an additional holiday would not relate to the physical and business aspects of collecting trash.

Therefore, I cannot add this additional holiday into the bid requirements. Thank you for your suggestion and your concern.
Sincerely,
********
Director St. Louis County Department of Highways & Traffic and Public Works

OK, that's pretty disappointing. We can't put this stipulation in the new contract bid because it "would not relate to the physical and business aspects of collecting trash". At what point does it not become about what's best for business? As I read her response, I couldn't stop thinking of Bobby Kennedy's quote about the GDP:

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

I appreciate the tone of her response and I appreciate the constraints under which she has to do her job. I do not much appreciate the system which values the dollar over the person. In thinking about Bobby's quote, I would argue that having these undervalued sanitation workers take a day to spend with their families DOES contribute to public health - the health of their families. Further, if some of these sanitation workers choose to honor the spirit of the holiday and the message of Dr. King through community service on that day, then again, we are contributing to the very thing which makes us proud to be Americans. I understand that doing this is a small thing, but in the end, I think these small things are all much bigger than another dollar.

I have yet to decide how to respond to this. But, as with the African farmer project, I'm not going to give up.

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That smell is in the air
baseball
docstymie
Yes, there was snow on the ground today.
Yes, it was 34 degrees today.
But, out in the winter sun filtered
through high, thin winter clouds
blew damp, heavy smell of spring.

In 28 days, pitchers and catchers will report for spring training.
Soon, there will be days warm enough to break out the ball and glove.
It will be time to work out the rust of the cold winter and get ready
to once again hear, "play ball!"

I can hardly wait...

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Az shootings
rfk
docstymie
I have no words that can speak to the issue at hand that would come close to ringing as true as the words Bobby Kennedy spoke in Cleveland on the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated.

This is a time of shame and sorrow It is not a day for politics I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed And yet it goes on and on.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.




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96
stymie4
docstymie
To say I don't remember a time when he wasn't around would be untrue. I remember the last 13 years easily. But I cannot recall a time as a child whenever he wasn't there.



He was the patriarch of the family. We all looked up to him. He was our rock.
When I was about the size of that little fellow in the picture, he would let me sit on his foot and ride on his leg like a horse. I suspect that's about the earliest memory I have of PaPa. As I grew older, it was time for him to teach me about fishing, and fish we did. We would put our stuff in the back of his old pickup and drive to the lake. We made sure to get there just after sunrise because that was the best fishing time. We'd note who caught the first, the most, and the biggest. When I was 8, he gave me my first big boy fishing pole. Not long after, we went to break it in. I caught my biggest fish to date that day - a 3 pound bass. Of course, he had to help me land that bass, but it counted for me. I can't remember if it was the first nor if I caught any more that day, but it was definitely the biggest. We continued to fish together well into my teens.

He gave me my first job. As a young teen, I helped him cut the grass at the new retirement village. It was a rather large complex, and it took the two of us a day and a half to get it all done. Did I mention he was in his 60s and retired at the time? I got paid every week even though the complex was not always prompt about paying him. We eventually quit because they got so far behind in paying. When we weren't cutting the grass at the retirement home, we were probably out together cutting trees for firewood. Upon his retirement, he built a den on the back of the house complete with fireplace. That necessitated the procurement of wood to burn. And burn he did - 15 cords some winters. He instilled in us a steady work ethic. Hard work was a virtue.

College and grad school would find me and my cousin Alex spending the entire day Sunday sitting in his den watching football - from noon until 10 at night. We watched not only because he loved the Dallas Cowboys, but because we played fantasy football with each other and had to keep track of our teams. I think it's no coincidence that I lost my desire to watch pro football after his passing.



After graduation from grad school, I moved away from home. The distance necessitated at least a weekly phone call. He always asked about the weather and how work was going. I don't recall much of what we said, but I do remember he always had words of encouragement.

Today, he would have turned 96. A lot has happened in the 13 years since he died. Lots of great-grandchildren are now part of the family. He would have loved seeing them. All of the grandchildren have gone on to do really cool things. He'd be proud of each and every one of us. Not a day goes by that we don't miss him.

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Our New Year's eve
stymie4
docstymie
We spent much of the night at St. Louis' family celebration, First Night. It is held in the city arts district, which also happens to be where McK's school is located. McK's school show choir performed and so this is the first year we've actually attended this particular celebration. It's held as a street festival with outdoor acts, but also indoor performances at particular host institutions.

Here are the videos of McK's group's performances. Enjoy!

Fireflies



Hello, Goodbye (There were technical difficulties as the cd kept looping and didn't get to the ending, so they just cut it off. They were really good at covering for a bit though)



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My Little Gleek
stymie4
docstymie
McK performed on one of the local morning news shows today. You can watch here. She's the one starting off the song in the front.


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White Africans?
stymie4
docstymie
Is there such thing as a "White African"?



Yesterday, I watched Mugabe and The White African on Netflix (instant download). It is the story of Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe's efforts to redistribute farm land from white farmers to black farmers.

In the documentary, Mike Campbell's son-in-law asks, "is there such thing as a White African? is there such thing as a White American?"

It seems an absurd question on the surface. Of course, there is. But recall that most of Africa is only 50 years removed from colonial rule, exploitation. I suppose then the attitude that "White Africans" are not really Africans but colonial oppressors, no matter how long they've lived in Africa is at least understandable. I wonder if you could go back in US history two or three hundred years if the question of "is there such a thing as a 'White American'?" might also seem understandable.

If you're looking for an interesting documentary outside of what you might normally see, I highly recommend this one.

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Stuff
stymie4
docstymie
I am currently reading The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai. This could easily be an entry about how to help the continent with one of its myriad of problems. But it's not.

This entry is about how to help ourselves. In the chapter, Culture, the Missing Link, I found this quote:

My grandparents and others of their generation measured their happiness, their material and spiritual well-being, in ways far different from today. Their medium of exchange was goats. They kept domestic animals, which they used carefully for survival and treated humanely, and cultivated a variety of food crops on their lands. Because most of their basic needs were met, they didn't consider themselves poor. They lived within a community full of rituals, ceremonies, and expressions of their connection to the land and their culture; they didn't feel alienated or adrift in a meaningless, highly materialistic world that assigns value only in dollars and cents, because their world was animated by the spirit of God. They took what they needed for their own quality of life, but didn't accumulate and destroy in the process - and they did all this so that future generations would survive and thrive.

-snip-

It is my search into this heritage I have in common with millions of others in Africa and elsewhere that convinces me that the tenets of modernity - with its belief that material goods, greater technology, and innovation at any cost will solve all our problems and meet all our needs - are insufficient to provide an ethical direction for our lives.

It's inevitable. We're constantly bombarded with stuff - we need the latest this, more of that. We always have to have more. The one that dies with the most toys wins, after all. I heard someone say not long ago, "I need a bigger office." Looking around at the office, all I could think was, no, you need less crap in the one you've got.

At times, I've almost felt suffocated under some of the stuff I've accumulated over the years. I look around and think, "what the hell useful purpose does that serve?" newport2newport posted an entry this a.m. about cleaning away the clutter. For me, not only is it time to start getting rid of the stuff, but also to be mindful of accumulations contemplated...

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Christmas
stymie4
docstymie
and on Earth peace, good will toward men...


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Christmas comes a little early
stymie4
docstymie
A little over a year ago, I had an idea to help impoverished farmers in Africa. The idea was essentially a form of microloans, but with enough support to ensure access to adequate agronomic support and a market for excess crops. I've been quite the little evangelist for my idea over the last year. People have been eager to listen and then respond, "that's a great idea! Good luck with that!" *sigh*

I did not give up.

I talked to anyone who would listen around here. "Good idea!" I continued to email executives. "Good idea!" Month after month, I got "good idea!" and a name of someone who would be "interested" in "helping."

I did not give up.

In the early fall, I sent yet another email to yet another executive after he had given a talk at a global town hall meeting telling him I wanted to help subsistence farmers in Africa and I needed his help. Shortly after, I had an appointment on his calendar. I went to the meeting expecting yet another "good idea, good luck with that!" However, as I sat across the table from him, his eyes started lighting up, and he got this grin on his face. The more animated I got talking, the bigger his smile became. When I was done, he looked at me and said, "I love your passion. I love your idea. I am going to help you." He knew two colleagues from Africa and would introduce me and sponsor whatever plan we came up with. "If you want to help African farmers, you'll be more likely to succeed if you get Africans to help you. They understand the problems. They'll love the help" Those were his words of advice. Shortly afterward an email arrived addressed to both of these African colleagues with an introduction and a charge to come up with something and I'll sponsor it.

Once the meeting was arranged with my colleagues, I wrote this letter. We were supposed to meet last Friday morning. Unfortunately at the last minute an issue came up and the call was postponed. This morning, after more than a long year of waiting, the call happened. I spent half an hour on the phone with a colleague in Johannesburg and colleague from Cameroon. I had previously sent them the details of the idea in an email. The call started off with the comment, "Jeffrey, this is an excellent idea!" From there, we talked about the logistics of building the idea into a tangible plan. I had only dreamed of starting out with a single farmer. My colleague in Africa said he would identify an appropriate village in Tanzania. Yes, you read that correctly - a village. We're starting with a village. We agreed to chat again after the holidays and get the ball rolling.

I did not give up.

When I hung up the phone this a.m., I was overwhelmed. I literally had tears in my eyes. It's real now. Sometime in 2011, a village in Africa is going to get a hand to help lift them from poverty, to relieve them from hunger. And just perhaps, with Divine Providence, hard work, and a little luck, our efforts will spread from one village, to another, to another, to another...

This is about the best Christmas present I could ever get.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. -Mandela


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One person can matter
stymie4
docstymie
Please take 11 minutes of your time to watch this. It's a story about Lawrence O'Donnell's trip to Malawi this summer and the supplying of desks - yes, DESKS - for a school. I could explain it in detail, but I urge you to just watch the clip.

It is inspiring and shows what a single person can do. O'Donnell said, "I did what *I* could do..." Yes, just do what you can do, and it will matter.

I was supposed to have my first call with our business lead in Africa this a.m. Something came up, unbeknown to me at the time, and the call didn't happen. And I got a little dejected, feeling that I couldn't even find ONE person to help me. I've already had several starts and stops, dead ends, but I haven't given up. And then I saw a link on Twitter to that clip. And I knew that, yes, I'd go on, and I would find someone to help. An hour or so later, I got a call from an admin. An issue had come up in S. Africa with some customers and the guy had to deal with that, but had sent a note to a colleague apologizing and asking her to reschedule for next Tuesday.

I emailed the link to my two African colleagues and told them, watch this. I want to help just ONE African farmer - and then we'll see what happens from there.


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Dan Fogelberg
stymie4
docstymie
It's been 3 years since the untimely death of Dan Fogelberg. I have been a DF fan since high school when I was first introduced to his music via a family friend. I bought all his albums, yes, I said albums, and played the latest release the day it came out. I had the privilege of seeing him in concert twice.

Dan was a very talented musician, but he was also a consummate songwriter. I think that's why Dan is one of my all-time favorite artists. His songs tell stories - and those stories are relevant. One of the first songs I heard by Dan has been featured here many times - The Reach. It's a song about Maine and it so touched my soul that I had to go there and find out what Maine was all about. And when I finally got there, I found my place. That's what Dan's songs do. He was dedicated to the environment. He was dedicated to the cause of peace. He wanted to make this a better place.

Dan died in his 50s from prostate cancer - unnecessarily. If you are a male over 40, or if there's a man over 40 in your life, get checked every year.

It saddens me to think that I'll never see another Dan Fogelberg concert. I'm glad he left a rich musical legacy.

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old...




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Elizabeth Edwards
stymie4
docstymie
Elizabeth Edwards has died. I'm quite saddened at her loss. To lose her now reinforces the notion that life is not fair. She was a voice for those silenced by circumstances beyond their control. She never forgot those who suffered from misfortune not of their own doing. Elizabeth was the kind of person that we should all aspire to be.

May God grant her the peace that she was denied here on Earth. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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Entropy Monday - Where have you been edition?
stymie4
docstymie
Wow, so much for being around here more. Life is busy - sorry excuse, I know.

Well, Thanksgiving has passed and so that means it's time for this:



I love that song. I love that sentiment. I wish it were no longer true. I think it's interesting how that song was a big part of my life in 1984 and that same topic is a big focus of my middle-age purpose. It's like it just laid there for 20+ years incubating and now it has become my passion - as Ted Kennedy said about health care reform, my life's work.

Elizabeth Edwards is nearing her end. I read her bio, Saving Graces during the 2007 campaign. I had to quit when I got to the chapter where her teenage son died in a car accident. It was so sad reading. I feel certain that she was truly passionate about the issues for which she advocated. I can't say the same for her husband even though he gave them a passionate voice. I hope her final days are peaceful and surrounded by the people she loves.

We got Bush's war policy, and now we're getting his tax policy, too? I'm sorry, this is NOT change. This is not what we voted for. This is NOT what we knocked on doors for. I'm just about done with Obama.

I listened to this program on On Being this weekend. It's a wonderful chat with Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue. I highly recommend taking an hour of your time to listen to this show. It was so wonderful and uplifting. I found this quote from the show particularly relevant:

In the bleak and difficult times, you must always keep something beautiful in your heart. -Pascal

The Red Sox got a really big bat. He's gonna mash the Green Monster. Welcome to Boston, Adrian Gonzalez!!!!

I've been fascinated watching Jupiter in the evening sky (no telescope, just the naked eye) since learning late this summer that it was as close to Earth as it ever gets. It's fascinating and humbling to watch the biggest planet in the solar system move across the sky over the course of a few months. And now that it is late fall, Orion appears every night. ♥

Roy Orbison died 22 years ago today. He had the greatest voice in all of rock and roll.



I could go on, but I suspect you've stopped reading by now ;o)

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Letter to an African farmer
me
docstymie
Dear farmer in Africa,

I don't really know you at all. You're on the opposite side of this place we call home. While I'm sleeping, you're toiling away on your small plot of land trying to eek from it enough food to feed your family. As I understand, you're probably a woman. Your kids stay home from school to help you because the work is just too much and too hard for one person. It's likely that your husband is hanging out in the local bar drinking with the other men all day, perhaps even carousing with other women and bringing the scourge that is HIV back to your home. As I said, I don't know this to be true, but I have read similar stories.

I'm just a kid from a small city in the middle of a vast cotton growing area in the United States. When I was in high school, some British rock musicians made a record in hopes of helping feed the starving children of Ethiopia. I bought it and I listened to it constantly. That message of Do They Know It's Christmas penetrated my soul. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. But I wore homemade t-shirts that read Free South Africa, End Apartheid NOW!!! I celebrated with the rest of the world when he was freed and that oppressive system of government fell.

I went to school and became a research scientist. I now work at the world's largest agricultural biotechnology company. Over the last few years, I have once again become keenly aware of the struggles faced by many in Africa. And that song from 25 years ago comes back to me, "...Feed the world...". And I wonder what I can do. At my job, I have the resources that could help. I have co-workers who are passionate and generous. We have high quality seeds that can help you feed your family. We have resources to help your small farm produce more so that you can also help feed your village. I know that once you feed your family, you'll be able to send your children to school because your farm will require less labor. I know that when you feed your village, the extra income will help your farm become even more productive opening up even more doors of opportunity.

While you were sleeping the other night, a kid from Texas who doesn't know you and whom you also don't know was talking to a man from Mexico about a few simple ideas to use that which God has given us to help you and your children live a life with more opportunity and perhaps a little more hope.

And now that boy from Texas and that man from Mexico are talking with a couple of other men from Africa. With perseverance, hard work, Divine providence, and a little luck we're going to help you feed a family, then feed a village, feed a country, and perhaps even feed an entire continent. I am not going to give up until the day this becomes a reality.

My words cannot express the hope I have, nor the joy that will be in my heart when I finally get to meet you face to face.

With eager anticipation and kindest regards,
Jeff

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letter to my friend's son
stymie4
docstymie
Last week, I got the patent plaque from my patent with my friend Paul. Tonight, I wrote the letter to his son that I will put on the back before sending it along to him.


Dear Ethan,

You are holding something very special in your hand. There has been no monetary value to this patent to date, but it represents something that money can never buy – true friendship. There are two inventors on this patent. One is me, the other is your father.

I met your dad when I first joined Monsanto. I was hired to start a new program improving proteins for products. I needed the help of a molecular biologist to accomplish this difficult task and your dad was asked to help. We worked on this project for about a year before seeing it to success. In that year, I learned how intelligent, creative, hard-working, stubborn, and rigorous your dad was. Doing the absolute best science possible was always his first aim. During that time, we became very good friends as well as colleagues. Not long after this work was done, your dad decided he wanted to go back to school and get his Ph.D. Before he left, he knew I would need someone to do the molecular biology for my projects, and so he taught me how to do what I needed to do. He managed to teach me enough to get by, not because he was a bad teacher, but because I wasn’t the best student. I still have a procedure manual with his handwritten notes in it that he used to teach me DNA isolation. I will treasure this forever.

Your dad wanted his Ph.D. very badly. I think he mostly wanted to do it to prove to himself and everyone else that he could do it. He was certainly at the same level of many of the Ph.D. scientists in our group without it. When it came time for him to leave, I was sad, but at the same time, happy that he was pursuing his dream. After he moved, we kept in touch almost every couple of weeks. He showed all those same qualities in graduate school that I saw here at Monsanto. I knew even more he would succeed.

This patent was filed after he left, but the company no longer cared about the direction of the research. However, I was determined to make sure that the patent pursued as vigorously as possible. I’ll never forget the day that I received an email from your dad telling me about his illness. It was one of the worst days I’ve had. We kept in touch as his health would allow and I saw him a few times. The last time I saw him was just before Christmas just before he died. We had lunch together and you were there. He was so proud to be your dad. You could see his face light up when he played with you or talked about you. We made our plans to meet again later in the spring, hugged and said our goodbyes. It was a few weeks later when he finally succumbed to his cancer.

After his passing, I was even more determined to see this patent issue. I wanted it not just for myself, to have tangible evidence of our work together, but I wanted it more for you. I wanted you to be able to hold this document in your hands and have a little piece of him. I wanted you to be able to look at this patent and know just a little bit about how smart your dad was. It has taken many years from the time we filed the original patent application, but now here it is. We finally did it. I know he would be proud. I don’t know if anything will ever come of the work, but there is a possibility that some day, this work could help feed people in Africa. That would be a fitting tribute to your father.

At our last lunch meeting, your uncle was there. Your dad introduced me to him as his “best friend”. I had never really thought of our time together in those terms, but he was right. I think of him often and I miss him sorely every day. If you ever want to hear about our time together, or know more about what it was like to be his friend, I’d be more than happy to share with you. It was truly a gift from God to be his friend.

I wish you all the best,


Jeff


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some things that make me happy
stymie4
docstymie
1. The grandma who walks our neighborhood mindfully observing the activities around her.
2. Playing baseball with KJ and watching him play on his team.
3. Seeing little African kids on The Amazing Race.
4. Unexpectedly hearing a Dan Fogelberg song.

and 5. this:



Today, I got Paul's copy of our patent plaque! Now, I have to write a letter to his son E. to attach to the back and then I can send it off to his wife.

Life is very, very good.

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Born to be a Red Raider
tech
docstymie
Every thing that is done on these West Texas Plains ought to be on a big scale. It is a country that lends itself to bigness. It is a country that does not harmonize with things little and mean. Let us make the work of our college fit with the scope of our college. Let our thoughts be big thoughts and broad thoughts. Let our thinking be in worldwide terms.
-Paul Whitfield Horn, First President of Texas Technological College

Watch this video. It's 8 minutes long, but very cool.

My earliest memories of Texas Tech are from when I was about 3-4. My grandparents lived on 2nd St. right off of University. On Saturdays, we would be over at their house and if there was a game, we could go out on their front porch and hear the band, hear the crowd, and in those days, hear the cannon fired after a touchdown. My cousins and I didn't really know what was going on inside the stadium, but we could see the crowd in the upper corners. My grandfather would sit out there with us and describe what was going on inside (in general terms). We'd listen to the games on KFYO.
My dad used to work for the concessions people back then making cotton candy. When I got a little older (7-8ish) he would occasionally take me to the games to help with the cotton candy, but I could also slip away for a bit and watch the game standing along the wall until some campus cop came and made me leave. I used to always try to get the little red footballs that the tramps would throw out before the game. When I got to jr. high school, my dad moved from selling concessions to selling souvenirs. My cousin and I would go with him and sometimes try to scalp tickets that people would give us before the game thinking we were kids needing a ticket. The Arkansas game was always the big seller. Finally, in high school, we managed to get tickets to most home games and then in college, we went to them all.

So, when I watched that video, it reminded me of a little boy who used to sit out on the porch with his PaPa and wonder what magnificent thing was going on in that stadium. I've had Red Raider blood since I was old enough to make a guns up.

Proud to be a Red Raider!

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Speechless
stymie4
docstymie
Do you ever have one of those days where something really cool and unexpected happens that leaves you smiling inside and out? Well, today was one of those days.

In our group at work over the last couple of months, I've been raising the awareness of scientific excellence. We have a high standard (the company is home to a Nobel Laureate after all) and so we are always looking for ways of maintaining our expectations of rigor. Today, in a discussion with the boss, we decided that perhaps we should create an award to recognize exceptional achievements in scientific excellence. I made a suggestion for the award and the Program Director agreed. I had come up with a name for the award - basically after a well-known Nobel Laureate (not ours) who had published some rules for doing good science. I called our Awards and Recognition Committee chair to discuss the award with her. She also thought it was a great idea - and then it happened. She suggested that we name the award for my former colleague and labmate, Paul. I had written a work blog about him and our patent earlier in the summer. You all know his story by now. When she first said it, I choked up with a knot in my throat and had tears in the corner of my eyes. I hadn't thought of it, but it was perfect. Paul was a known hard-ass for doing things exactly right. His scientific ethic epitomizes exactly what it is that we want to foster in our program.

So, we will officially have the Paul Vordtriede Memorial Award for Scientific Excellence in Protein Technologies starting this year. I am eternally grateful to my colleague for suggesting it.

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Haiti - an original poem
stymie4
docstymie
Cross-posted to One Shot Wednesday.

Haiti

There is no dignity
when you die
poor, ten-thousand
at a time.
Your long dead
bodies lie in the streets
piled a dozen high,
some covered, most bare
to survivors stumbling
trance-like looking
for something resembling
normal. Not normal,
bodies in the streets rotting,
eyes open, staring but not
seeing survivors not
seeing a woman, a child
a mother, a daughter,
human beings
scooped together in death
dumped in a truck,
carted out of the city,
dumped in a hole in the ground,
thousands at a time,
alone -
no mourners, no music
no blessing of the souls.
There is no dignity
when you die
poor, ten-thousand
at a time.

(c) 2010 Jeffrey Seale

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