Tuesday, September 5th 2017 at 8:09 pm
by Jonah

Today was a milestone in my professional life.

When I first started working as a paralegal, my boss had me apply to be a notary public so that I could notarize his documents.  All you have to do in Colorado is fill out an application on the Secretary of State website saying you’ve read the notary handbook, take a quick test, and send them $10.  If you actually want to notarize anything, you also have to buy a stamp.  You’re also supposed to keep a journal.  I’ve always used cheap spiral bound mini notebooks as my journals and bought the cheapest self inking stamps.

I became a Colorado notary public on December 5, 2005.  You have to renew every four years. I figured in four years I’d for sure be doing something else for a living.

In 2009 I renewed my notary certificate.  All that you have to renew is to send in another $10.  I was pretty depressed about it.  I was still just a paralegal, a job that doesn’t even always require a high school degree.  I was working for a firm that did nothing but foreclosures, which I didn’t really mind at all, depressing as that might sound. I liked all of my colleagues.  I had a nice office to myself. But the boss was crazy and a tyrant.  Berck had been furloughed by the airlines and was on unemployment.  We were lucky I still had a job. And I was still working as a paralegal.

In 2013 I renewed my notary.  By then I was working at a firm that did work comp and Social Security disability.  I enjoyed the work and liked the two attorneys I worked for.  I got along fine with almost all of the staff.  My job was a lot less stressful than the last one.  Berck had since finished his degree and got a very nicely paying job writing computer code.  We’d bought a house the year before and had spent a lot time laying wood flooring and building shelves.  Things were pretty good.

I renewed my notary again today.  You can renew it three months before it expires.  I ordered a new stamp with my new expiration date (December 5, 2021).  I’m on my third journal, I think.  I still notarize a lot of stuff at work.  I’m now with a new firm, since the sole proprietor of the last one died and the rest of the attorneys decided to make a new firm.  I really enjoy my job.  I get to help people instead of taking their houses away from them.  I work for a fantastic boss, and I think we work really well together.  All three of the partners are great and are also good lawyers.  I get along great with the other paralegals. I get paid generously.

I’m still a paralegal.

And I don’t mind.



foot hurts swollen top

Tuesday, August 29th 2017 at 8:27 pm
by Jonah

My foot started hurting on Friday.

It got worse over the weekend, and was really hurting yesterday.  Yesterday I wore sandals to work, so I knew it couldn’t be my shoes that were the problem.  Last night, despite taking Aleve all day, it hurt badly, it was hot, and once I took my sandals off, I realized it was quite swollen.  Berck asked why I was limping around. “Because my foot hurts.”
“I don’t know!” 
“Well, take drugs, ice it, and go to a doctor.”
“What’s a doctor going to do?”
“Tell you to take drugs and ice it.”
I decided to save myself a couple hundred dollars and continue taking Aleve and ice it.  There hadn’t been any trauma, so I didn’t see how it could be broken.  I’ve had broken bones, and that’s a very specific type of pain.  Palpitating didn’t indicate any one area of severe pain.  While I iced it, I decided to Google “foot”, “hurts” and “swollen”.  Google suggested adding “top”, and I accepted that, because it did hurt on the top of my foot.  Google knows everything.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  But I have worked in the medical field, and my job as a paralegal in a law firm that does work comp and Social Security disability involves reading lots and lots of medical records.  I also know that doctors hate it when you try to self-diagnose using WebMD.
But as soon as I hit enter, Google said I had  extensor tendonitis and directed me to  Here’s what it has to say:
“A common area of pain occurs near the middle of the top of the foot, generally a bit to the outside of the foot. In this area of the foot the tendons that go to the toes can become inflamed. This is called extensor tendonitis. One cause of this condition is excessive tightness of the calf muscle. When the calf muscle is tight it places excessive stress on the tendons on the top of the foot that pull the foot upward and against the tightness of the calf muscles. Wearing a shoe with a one-inch heel will help to take the stress off of the tendons on the top of the foot. Aggressive stretching of the calf muscle is also very helpful. Oral anti-inflammatory medications can help.”
Wearing heels to cure foot pain seems awfully counterintuitive. I don’t really have a pair of daily heels, or even pumps, so I started stretching my calf.  And today my foot feels a lot better.  I haven’t even taken my night Aleve.
The moral of this story is that aging sucks.  And sometimes Google can tell you the most amazing things.

Totality Snapshots

Sunday, August 27th 2017 at 7:38 pm
by Jonah

We were listening to this podcast on our way down to Mexico this spring and thought, hey, maybe this total eclipse thing is worth seeing. We’d both seen partial eclipses before and were like, that’s pretty cool, but it didn’t really seem worth going out of the way to see.  But if all hotel rooms were booked a year in advance all along the path of totality and all we had to do was drive a few hours north to Wyoming to see it?  Why not?  So as soon as we got back from Mexico, I put on my company calendar that I would be out August 21.  Berck ordered some eclipse glasses from Amazon.

A couple weeks before the eclipse, our friend Andrew called Berck to ask about flying up to the path of totality.  Berck told him there were too many variables involved in flying, and besides, we had already planned to drive Frances the Land Cruiser to Wyoming the day before and find a good place to camp, or at least park, and watch the eclipse the next day.  And that we had an empty back seat.  He decided to join us on our adventure.

Berck got an e-mail from Amazon saying that they had been unable to verify from the manufacturer that the eclipse glasses they’d shipped us were safe, despite saying all over the package that they were (it also said they were made in China).  By now we had tried them out by staring at the sun with them on. Fortunately, he Thursday before the eclipse, one of Berck’s coworkers gave him two certified eclipse glasses.

Saturday I baked buns, and Berck cooked brats in beer.  Berck cut up and gathered two plastic tubs of wood for a campfire.  Then he checked one more time and saw that a fire ban had been put in place for Wyoming.  He took the tubs of firewood back out of the Land Cruiser.

Sunday morning we got up early and packed up.  Berck had me buy 60 pounds of ice, only 50 of which we could fit in our cooler and mash tun (which also happens to be a cooler).

Stopped in Boulder and had a delicious brunch with Andrew and his girlfriend Kayleigh, who was also able to come.

Andrew made me check if we were in the path of totality yet every five minutes or so of driving.

Stopped in Laramie for ice cream and beer.  Had to drive a whole block away to find a parking place.  Guy at the brewery said they were slammed with all the out of town traffic.

Stopped at the Medicine Bow VOR, which Berck had flown over countless times but never seen from the ground.  Kayleigh was mostly amazed at the amount of cow hair stuck to the fence from them scratching against it.

We gassed up in Casper in the middle of horrible dust storm, but it was the last gas until Shoshoni.  We pulled off in the thriving metropolis of Moneta for Andrew to take a photo next to the unincorporated municipality sign then headed south from Highway 24 down Castle Garden Road.  Our research had told us that this area was likely to have clear weather and that all the land we were on was BLM land, on which it is perfectly legal to camp anywhere, as long as you’re 100 feet from any water source and bury your poop at least six inches.  I’d bought a shovel the week before at a military surplus store.

Andrew and Kayleigh set up their tent, and we blew up their air mattress from the cigarette lighter in the Land Cruiser; then we blew up ours.  We set our air mattress out on a tarp on the ground, after a search for the area with the fewest cacti.


Andrew and Kayleigh thought that was such a great idea that, after stuffing their air mattress into their tent, they extricated it and laid it out in another area relatively free of cacti.

Berck set up the camp stove and heated up the brats.  We opened the cooler and popped open bottles of beer and sat in our camp chairs and ate, eventually turning out the lantern and admiring the Perseids streaming out of the north sky. The weather was perfect, and the biting flies only bit so much (I got a nice bite on my right hand and side of my neck). We slept under the Milky Way.

I awoke just as the sun was rising.

Everyone else stayed asleep, so I went for a walk and then read my book.  Once Berck and Kayleigh were awake, I cleaned the brat pot to heat water for coffee and make bacon and French toast.

Andrew set up a pop-up, which was awfully nice to be under once it started getting hot.

As the partial eclipse started, we put on our glasses periodically to watch its progress. You can’t see anything else wearing them.

Totality was getting close, so we decided to hike up to the top of a nearby hill to watch.  Here’s the darkness approaching from the west.

Finally, the last little bit of sunshine disappeared, and we took off our glasses.  We’d been listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon play on a Bluetooth speaker Andrew was carrying around.  Andrew had set the album to start playing so that the final song “Eclipse” would come on right at this moment, and it did.

For the weeks prior to the total eclipse, the news media had been doing stories on the eclipse non-stop.  I listen to a lot of Public Radio, so I’d heard story after story of eclipse chasers and people who say it’s an amazing experience.  The media had played recordings of people watching past eclipses, and the sounds of rapture were amusing and alluring all at once.  People just couldn’t seem to be able to keep from shouting when totality happened.

And that’s what happened to us.  Despite the fact that the four of us were standing close together atop a hill, watching something we had come here specifically to watch, we started shouting in amazement anyway.  I’ve seen lots of photos and videos of totality, and nothing seems to be able to truly capture it.

Here’s a picture I tried to take with my phone.  It’s blurry because it was pretty dark, like dusk, but the sun’s corona is still really bright.  What you can’t see is the black hole where the sun should be.  It was dark enough that we could see Jupiter clearly.  It wasn’t quite dark enough to see stars.  After much fiddling with the settings on his SLR, Berck was able to take this photo, which is closely cropped.

It didn’t look like that because the sky was still blue.  The air got cold.  And then it started getting light around us and the sun poked out a tiny ray of sunshine.  Our bodies cast shadows again, and warmth came back.  And right then Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” ended and the next song Andrew had set to play came on, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

The total eclipse was definitely worth seeing.  Even if we had to sit in traffic on two lane highways for three hours in the Wyoming sun on our way home.  Because we were willing to take backroads, we probably had to wait in traffic for a lot less time than a lot of people, and Andrew’s plan to take the west route home instead of back through Casper turned out to be an excellent decision, as I later heard from my friends trying to get back to Colorado Springs from Casper (a 13 hour trip). But we’d gassed up in Shoshoni, and I’d brought enough water and snacks for a small army.

Once we got to I-80, things got a lot easier, and we even had time to meet our friends Laura and Jared in Ft. Collins for dinner at an excellent Afghan restaurant, where Andrew got to exclaim, for the very last time this trip, “The difference between a partial eclipse and a total eclipse is LITERALLY night and day!”

Koch Brothers

Thursday, July 20th 2017 at 9:38 pm
by Berck

I just finished listening to Freakonomics’ two-part interview with Charles Koch. (I found part II much more interesting than part I.)

I was somewhat dreading listening to these, figuring I had a pretty good idea of what Charles Koch would have to say, given the sort of candidates he’s donated to. I was mostly wrong. I was very surprised to find out that he and I actually have very similar political views on most issues. He identifies as a classical liberal, as do I.

He believes that freedom is very important. He’s generally pro-immigration, pro free trade, anti politician, and possibly above all, anti special interest. He’s anti war on drugs, and, in general, espouses fairly liberal views on social freedoms, though it’s clear these issues are not at all important to him.

I’d generally believed the idea that Koch brothers spend most of their money in support of their own interests. Suurprisingly, they loudly advocate for causes and positions that would, in fact, cost them lots of money.

So I’m left a bit dumbfounded at the list of politicians the Koch brothers have backed. Take, for instance Scott Walker. Scott walker is anti-abortion, pro foreign military involvement, anti immigration, anti same-sex marriage. These positions are in direct contradiction with the stated positions of both Koch brothers.

The closest I can come to reconciling their statements and the candidates they’ve backed is simply that social issues aren’t at all important to the Kochs. David Koch, in an interview with Barbara Walters, said in response to a similar question, “What… I want these candidates to support a balanced budget. I’m very worried that if the budget is not balanced, inflation could occur and the economy of our country could suffer terribly.”

So it’s not that we disagree on most of the issues, but I do think we seriously disagree about the priorities. I don’t think that liberal economic policies are anywhere near as terrible as he does, and he doesn’t think that socially conservative policies are anywhere near as terrible.

Fundamentally, while we both rate freedom as the most important thing, I think we actually disagree about why it’s important. I view freedom as a necessary first principle, without which we cannot possibly get anything right. Koch believes that freedom is not just a good in its own right, but in fact, a *sufficient* good.

Take, for instance, his position on global warming. He believes that it might be a problem in the future, and he thinks innovation is our best way to solve the problem. He believes that all the regulation enacted to date to address the problem is merely symbolic and will do nothing to actually solve it. I agree with him up to this point. But then we diverge. He believes that we can achieve the necessary innovation by simply “removing regulatory obstacles to innovation”, and solutions will, somehow, magically flow forth.

I disagree entirely. I don’t believe that there is regulation hindering innovation. Furthermore, I believe the exact opposite: regulation is one of the best ways to achieve innovation! How did we get awesome LED lights that work better than incandescent bulbs and are now affordable? Regulation that outlawed incandescent bulbs. Sure, there was a terrible period where all we could get were awful CFL bulbs. But now we have awesome LEDs that provide higher quality light at lower power for cheaper long-term prices than incandescent bulbs. This never would have happened so fast without the regulatory pressure.

Furthermore, I think it’s just absurd to think that freedom will solve all our problems. We need freedom in order to solve them, but freedom alone isn’t going to do it.

July 4th Weekend Activity

Tuesday, July 4th 2017 at 8:18 pm
by Jonah