November 29, 2007

Media Incompetent - Film All The Time

I'm told not only are there a whole bunch of candidates for next year's Presidential election, they are holding debate after debate between them. I see this information in blogs, but never on TV. Apparently, at some of these debates the sponsoring media organization (I don't think calling CNN a news organization is factually accurate) is fooled, like Justin Timberlake, by people claiming to be undecided or average voters. The latest debate was the worst in this regard, as apparently CNN was fooled repeatedly by political operatives pretending to be, well, normal people. As this was somehow tied in with that other politically neutral group, YouTube, and thus the internet, I think CNN stuck in a timewarp in so many ways still believes the (in internet years) old saw that "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog". How very 1993 of them. If you scroll down at the link, you'll discover the reality - not only can anyone figure out you're a dog on the internet, they know your breed, likes, dislikes, favorite activities, and most importantly in this context, your political affiliations.

This is true for not just dogs, not just people, but media organizations as well.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:43 PM | National Politics

My Dark Secret

I'm always hearing about people with ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder. I never hear about my problem, ASD - Attention Surplus Disorder. My profession, engineering, is chock full of people just like me who can't defocus if our lives depended on it. The absent minded professor isn't absent minded, he too has a bad case of ASD and just has all of his attention focused on the one problem he finds interesting. My wife has learned that I won't remember even talking to her if she talks while I'm looking at a computer screen (or TV). I have plenty of attention, it's just all placed on one thing. So if you're wondering why I don't communicate with you anymore, it's not that I've forgotten or don't care, it's because I'm so wrapped up in something else it's as if you don't exist.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | Me

November 21, 2007

Dear AP, Richard Armitage Was The Plame Leaker

I was greated by this article this morning: Former press secretary points finger at Bush, Cheney for deceit in CIA leak scandal. I made the mistake of reading it. Here we are in 2007, and the AP still hasn't figured out the leak. 10 paragraphs about the leak that mention Rove, Libby, Plame, Wilson, Cheney and Bush but somehow manages to leave out Armitage. You know Richard Armitage, the guy who actually was Novak's source of the leak? Who didn't come clean for years and who Fitzgerald wanted to spare from embarrassment?

Our crack press - not bothering us with facts so they can continue to beat a dead horse. If we treated their reporting like testimony, they'd be serving a life term by now.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:08 PM | Media Criticism

Amazing But True. Maybe

OK, I read this amazing fact on the internet so its true. Maybe.

Corgis can outrun a cheetah, inch for inch.

I'm guessing the inches refer to leg length, and not body length.

Cue the reproachful dog picture:

pembroke corgi
Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:48 AM | Fun

November 18, 2007

I'm an American-American

Just in case anyone was wondering, I'm proud of being an American-American.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 9:30 PM | Me

November 16, 2007

The World We Live In

Our interpreter (OK, we called them guides) at Northern Tier was in college studying to be an engineer. So naturally I gave him enough wisdom and advice on the subject to last a lifetime. During the conversation, my son piped up with "scientist and engineers run things, right?" I had to correct him.

"We live in a world built by scientists and engineers, but salespeople run it."

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 9:49 AM | Comments (2) | Culture

November 14, 2007

News You Can Use

Here at, we don't believe in scaring you during sweeps week. No stories about flesh eating bacteria, just important news you can use.

First up, Marvel Comics is putting their catalog of comics on the internet. No downloads, just access to titles like X-Men, Amazing Spider Man, and as the Marvel Marketer put it, hot recent series and so much more! Looks like I waited too long to put my collection up for sale.

Researchers at Texas Tech have created a new drought resistant wildflower, "Raider Amethyst". That's the kind of plant I need around my house. I just love that phrase, researchers created a new wildflower.

Jay Rosen wants to improve reporting by having beat reports meet Facebook. Put another way, he wants to support beat reporters with what he terms a social network, but what I'd call a team of experts, but then I'm so last millennium.

I'm sorry, but I think polls like this are fun but meaningless: Zogby poll shows liberals play more games than conservatives. Just for the record, I've been playing strategy games since I was 9, video games since they were invented, and I don't play Madden NFL, Mario, or the Sims.

The Fed will make four expanded forecasts instead of the current two. What that really means is that the Fed will explain what they're thinking more often, because nobody, even the Fed, can make economic forecasts that are accurate - even figuring out what happened can be mighty hard.

My town, St. Louis, has a dubious distinction - we're tops in STD rates. So let's be careful out there.

In related news, it's now scientifically established that bars cause drinking -- Bars and nightclubs, but not liquor stores, are linked with excessive alcohol consumption and heavy episodic drinking in adults who live nearby, according to a new study from the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California. I loved this line from the report: "The investigators were not surprised with the results, they write, because bars, taverns, and night clubs, especially those that do not allow minors, are where social and cultural norms are more likely to accept, if not encourage, excess drinking."

I'm sorry, but this strikes me as a gag: What’s in a Name? Initials Linked to Success, Study Shows. And not just success, but failure, too. "Students whose names began with ‘C’ or ‘D’ earned lower GPAs than students whose names began with ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Students with the initial ‘C’ or ‘D,’ presumably because of an unconscious fondness for these letters, were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals." One has to wonder just how large this effect is and thus how significant it is. Just remember, just because you read it somewhere, or somebody in a white coat with more education than you says so doesn't necessarily make it true.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:30 PM | Current Events

November 13, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back ...

And so it begins:

French Strike Tonight to Protest Sarkozy Plan

I think it's a remake of the classic: Margaret Thatcher and the Unions.

Does representative government work? Yes, so I'm saying Sarkozy will win this one.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:20 PM | Economics | International Politics

PETA vs. Polar Bears

Is PETA torn over polar bears? On the one hand, they're animals; on the other, they eat meat and wear real fur.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 1:07 PM | Comments (1) | Fun

November 12, 2007

Monday Roundup

Matt Homann presents his manifesto for law students. Just to give a taste:

10. Experienced lawyers work with clients. Young lawyers work with paper. You like working with paper, right?

12. Except for prosecutors and public defenders, nobody tries cases anymore. Especially not second year associates.

My father was a civil trial lawyer. He mentioned a long time ago that too many lawyers not only didn't try cases, they didn't know how too. He could just run the clock out on them without ever making an offer.

Walter Williams provides me an amnesty and pardon. Thanks man, now I just need you to get Jesse and Al to sign it too. [via Mark Perry)

Here's something that confirms a nagging fear: Aid to palestinians correlates with murders the following year. If money pours in, bodies pour out, and vice versa. While correlation does not equal causation, tell me again, why do we send even a nickle to them?

More evidence of the imbalance between horses and their hind ends: single men using the family bathroom. One more hazard of travel - selfish jerks.

My daughter, for reasons best known to herself, loves America's Next Top Model (my reasons should be obvious). Tom McMahon actually tracked down the blog of one the contestants where we discover that all is not as it seems on the show.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:03 PM | Links

November 10, 2007

Veterans Day Remembrance

My father never made a big deal about his service in WWII. He graduated in 1942 1/2 (apparently in the old days they had half years before inflation made them worthless), spent six months working at Ludwig Aeolian, which had switched from making pianos to making gliders for the war, until he could join up. When working with power tools he was known to bring up his coworkers at Ludwig who were missing fingers or parts thereof. There wasn't any question he was going into the armed forces, the only question was which one. He claimed he pictured himself walking all the way across Europe if he joined the Army, so he joined the Navy instead.

The other day my wife came across the letters he wrote and received during the war. My mother swooped on them, and then threw them out when she realized he didn't even know her when they were written. So my wife rescued from the trash and we started reading them last night. He did his basic training as a member of Company 683-43 at the Farragut training center in Idaho, which I didn't know before I read the letters.

Letter Home 1943 Letter Home 1943

At boot camp recruits were asked to choose three specialties, so my father chose quartermaster because he figured he'd have a chance to wheel and deal, gunnery because he figured if the other guy was trying to kill him he ought to at least get a chance to fire back, and electrician because that way he'd at least learn a civilian skill. So of course the navy made him a signalman and off the signalman school in San Diego he went.

As that school was finishing up, he had to choose what branch to go into. The first people to come in were trying to recruit for landing craft. He watched movies of the boats driving to shore with the coxwain behind a metal enclosure looking out a slit and the signalman unprotected next to him and then the signalman standing on the beach communicating with the ships offshore. He didn't think that was for him. The submarine people came in without any films, just that you got 1.8 base pay and 2 weeks leave for signing up. That sounded good to him, so he volunteered for submarines. He was ticked when he discovered that the 2 weeks leave would be taken off the back end of his enlistment, not immediate.

He was assigned to the S-45 which finished out the war training surface ships in ASW in the Admiralty Islands. Instead of depth charges, the ships would use hand grenades, and about the only excitement he had on the sub was when a grenade when off on the main induction hatch and seawater poured in. He told me just this year that on the way out or back they stopped off at Guadalcanal and while there a classmate working ashore asked him to go on a patrol. My father asked if they ever ran into any Japanese and was reassured when the answer was no, so he went. He was issued a rifle and they split into four columns and set off into the jungle. After an hour or so of trudging along, somebody opened fire on them without causing any casualties. After hunkering down and checking on the other columns, the leader had them all return to base.

I was surprised by the letters I've read so far - no real mention of the war beyond general terms, one mention to burn a letter because of the information in it. Mostly he followed the same interests then he had when I was around - classical music, model railroading, gardening, smoking. He wrote in late 1944 urging his younger brother not to enlist but stay in college since the war would be over before he would be in it.

Then it was back to San Diego, and when the war ended, San Francisco. The S-45 was decommissioned and he moved on to a fleet boat until he was discharged. I always got the impression that he enjoyed, or at least didn't mind the wartime Navy, but he made it clear he hated the peacetime Navy. There were way to many pointless regulations, like having to be in dress whites to draw from stores on the tender. No doubt there was a certain amount of feeling that now that the war was over he wanted to get on with his life, and being in the Navy wasn't part of it.

My father did what his generation did - they went off to war. Most had mundane jobs and saw little or no "action". Some never came back. But by and large they did what was asked of them, whether it was a little or a lot. And when they got home, they didn't talk about it, except amongst themselves.

So to all of you who served, no matter how much was asked of you, thanks. And most especially to you, Pop.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 3:08 PM | Family | History

Northern Tier

This summer my son and I went to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota and spent a week on a Boy Scout high adventure at Northern Tier. We'd been planning this trip for two years and spent months preparing with twice a week hikes. We started out just hiking, then we added packs with weights, then we kept increasing the weight, and then we started portaging a canoe too. How I miss those days now!

With less than two weeks to go I broke two toes on a Sunday morning as I was carrying my gear down the stairs for summer camp. I discussed with the doctor my plans - summer camp, and then canoeing and portaging 11 days after I broke them. The doctor considered and said that broken toes were a nuisance and that it was a matter of how much pain I could stand. So I went, but I took a baggie full of Ibuprofen.

We rented two 15 passenger vans, stuffed them with gear and 22 people, and drove for two days in full scout uniform to get there. The road trip was boring, although when we stopped for gas and comfort we attracted attention in our uniforms. Just getting 22 people through a bathroom break was a logistical challenge - even when the adults used the women's bathroom as well. On the way back we solved that problem in a cornfield in Iowa - all 22 of us lined up and peed in near unison.

We arrived at Charles L Sommers Wilderness Base in the afternoon. Because of US Forest Service rules limiting the number of people who can travel together on a permit, we split into 3 groups. Our crew of eight was busy from then on -- we had to plan our route, shake down our gear, pack our food and gear in six packs - three for the food and cookware, and three Duluth packs for our gear. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they asked us to make out our wills.

After dinner we watched a film about the Boundary Waters, and then the Base director told us what to expect, not with the exact words of Cliff Hanson, a longtime former Base Director, but similar:

"You're going to be wet, you're going to be cold, you're going to have more bugs biting on you than you ever thought existed... and about the third night out, you're going to wish your mother was along to tuck you in between clean sheets... and that goes for you advisors. too!"

Rain ... check!
Cold ... check!
Bugs ... check!
Mother ... nah, wife - double check!

Ready to Embark on Moose Lake

The next morning we got up early, finished our preparations, picked out our canoes, and as always spent some time waiting around. We portaged down to the shore of Moose Lake, got in line to leave, and then waited our turn to put in.

As we waited to go, I don't know what all was going through the minds of the boys, but I was worried about two things - getting good pictures, and did I bring enough Ibuprofen?

As it turned out, those were the wrong things to worry about.

View of Moose Lake

The weather wasn't auspicious, but when it's time to leave, you get in the canoe and shove off. And then our guide remembered he'd forgotten something important, so we sat around in the canoes not far from shore waiting for him to get back. While we waited, the clouds got thicker, the wind got stronger, our mood got darker.

Our campsite on Sucker Lake

As it happened in the scramble to get into the canoes, I, the heaviest of the adults in our crew, got in the stern of the canoe, and the lightest scout got in the bow. The strong crosswind kept turning the canoe right under my butt. It was hard work just keep the bow pointed somewhere near where we wanted to go. At lunch we changed positions to get a better weight distribution and life for me got a lot better. Eventually we got to a spot on Sucker Lake where it turns 90 degrees and the wind blowing longways down this part of the lake was creating significant waves. Our interpreter said we should take the open campsite at this spot and get going early the next morning when there would be less wind. We agreed.

Our campsite was pretty neat on top of a hill, but cramped as the top wasn't too large. Once we got the gear out the canoes, the canoes up on dry ground, the tents pitched, the packs stowed under the tarp, and just generally settled in, the interpreter said we would take a two rod portage (portages are measured in rods, which are 16.5 feet or the length of a canoe) right next to our campsite the following morning. Huh? We got off the lake because we didn't want to paddle a long stretch into the wind with significant waves. But we weren't going that way tomorrow? We later figured he just wanted to stop for the day.

Kyle and I brought collapsable chairs at the recommendation of our group leader, Mike, who had gone on a family trek in the boundary waters the year before. The interpreter had advised not taking them during the gear shakedown but I figured that as long as I bought them and Mike recommended it, I'd take them. As it turned out, our interpreter put his butt in one of them every chance he got and we wished we had taken along something else (significant music plays) he told us to leave behind.

We discovered a cloud of mosquitos at the campsite - as it turned out there was a cloud of mosquitos pretty much everywhere on land. The good news was that they didn't bite (much) except at dusk, which at that time of year and latitude turned into bedtime. Especially if you didn’t want all your blood sucked out of you by the swarm.

Driftwood on Knife Lake

Once camp was made I had to use the grumper, which is what we called the toilet on the trip (you make your grumpy face on it). Our interpreter showed me a leaf that was better than toilet paper, which came in "twinkies". He claimed that when wet, the somewhat hairy underside was just like a wet wipe. Yeah, right, I thought to myself. So off I went, twinkie in hand, down the trail to the grumper. It began to rain. It would rain lightly off and on the rest of the day. When I arrived at the grumper, a gray tube of plastic with a notional seat kind of molded on, I pulled down my pants. Apparently mosquitos find the flash of white attractive, and swarmed over my, well, you get the idea. As the week went on, I learned the trick was to get the pants down and the butt planted on the grumper as quickly as possible. Anyway, when I was done I was confronted with a choice - thin biodegradable TP in the rain, or leaves of some hopefully non-allergenic ground cover that were touted as wet-wipe like. I went with the leaves. They were better than biodegradable TP in the rain while sitting on a plastic tube in the middle of the wilderness, but you wouldn't confuse it with a wet wipe in the dry climate controlled comfort of your own bathroom.

After a dinner of chili, we sumped the wastewater from washing the dishes near the grumper, and then we broke out the toothbrushes. The crew that brushes together, spits into the sump together. Hygiene - the tie that binds (some of) us together. Ah, the joys of backwoods camping and the closeness it brings.

The next morning I had to use the grumper again. Early the next morning. So I had to take the dishes off the “bear canoe” -- all the pots and pans on top of a canoe over the food packs -- to get to a twinkie. There wasn’t a tree big enough at the camp site to hoist the food packs up, so we set a trap for the bears instead. Our interpreter introduced us to this method, and told us if we heard the pots clanging in the night, we should rush out of the tents making as much noise as possible to scare the bear away. I figured with my earplugs I wouldn’t hear a thing so the boys would get the thrill of scaring a bear. As it turned out, whenever we made a bear canoe I had to take it down in the morning to get to a twinkie, afraid the whole time I would be set upon by screaming boys if I made too much noise.

Northern Tier requires that their crews use the “wet boot method”. Entering and leaving a canoe was to be done in calf deep water so that we didn’t bang the Kevlar, i.e. lightweight, canoes against the rocks. So before the trip one of the most common discussions was what kind of footwear to use for the wet boot. I went with Jungle Boots because I could buy a relatively inexpensive pair. I’m glad I did because the rigid sole really helped my toes. My son, however, went with a water shoe after we tried just about everything four different outdoor stores had to offer, and we saw it on sale at Kohl's. After being submerged several times a day, the boots finally dried out a week after we were back home. My boots held up, but most of the other people who went with the jungle boots had the interior turn into a brown paste that pulled out with their socks. Yummy.

To go along with the wet boot method we used the two changes of clothes method. You had a complete set of wet clothes, and then you had a complete set of dry, or camp clothes, including footwear. I had two pairs of fast drying nylon pants. As it turned out, they dried so fast I wore the wet pants all day every day except one. The pants only had waist size, so they were too long, and to control the length I tightened the cords around the cuffs. No problem, until it came time to get in the canoe using foot-butt-foot method of getting in the canoe. The legs would fill up with water, and then when I got in the canoe the tight cuffs didn’t let the water out the bottom, which meant that when I swung my leg in with my butt on the seat all the water ran down into my cotton underwear. That’s better than coffee at waking you up first thing in the morning. Second and third thing, too.

Rainbow Rock

Our second day on the water we had a whole series of portages to get to Knife Lake. As it turned out, we had lunch in Canada and the boys were far more delighted by the idea that they "peed on Canada" than they "ate in Canada". When in the woods, do as the bears do.

We hardly saw anyone on the trip, except on the portages which were comparatively crowded. The two days we portaged, my son and I had the interpreter in our canoe. So he carried his pack and the canoe, and we carried a pack each and the paddles. I'm guessing 60 lbs per pack, but it's a guess. The other issue with the portages is that while there typically wasn't a lot of elevation change, there were plenty of trail hazards in the form of puddles, mud, roots and rocks. Me and my toes were excited when we checked into our first motel on the way back and I could walk on nothing except flat, hazard free carpet. I had brought trekking poles borrowed from another scout leader thanks to the suggestion of a third scout leader and I put them to good use on the portage trails.

We were able to see a few sights this day like Dorothy Molder's cabin, or at least a pile of shingles on the Isle of Pines where it once stood, and nearby rainbow rock whose picture doesn't do it justice. It sits just off shore looking nothing like anything else around, and asks you the question, "what am I doing here?" No doubt some of us were wondering the exact same thing.

By now it had started to rain and we began to paddle eastward on the lake towards even more exciting destinations. After a couple of hours of a steady downpour, most of the crew had had enough and so we pulled over and camped at an empty site. In the American part of the Boundary Waters, you can only camp at designated sites, which are indicated on the map with a red dot and are determined by the presence of a fire grate. The sites are first come only served, so on crowded lakes there can be some competition to get one. As it turned out, one of our crews would paddle for miles looking for an empty site this day; we were fortunate enough to find an empty one without difficulty.

We made camp in the rain and the boys disappeared into their two tents. Scout leaders are made of stern stuff (or perhaps thickheaded stuff), so we stayed outside to work on dinner. Not only was it raining, it had gotten cold too. As in coldest winter of my life was summer in Northern Minnesota cold. And it was at this point we were cursing our interpreter for telling us during the gear shakedown (cue significant music again) not to bring our tarp as his would be sufficient, and at ourselves for believing him. He did rig up his tarp, the emergency blanket, and a poncho into a shelter a couple of feet off the ground. I and another leader didn't want to crouch down so we stayed out in the rain in our raingear. We sliced up a bag of potatoes and had cottage fries for an appetizer while waiting for our pasta to boil. After a hot a filling dinner, the leaders disappeared into their tent and left the boys outside to clean up. I was so incredibly tired that day it was all I could do to retain consciousness until 8PM while talking with one of my tent mates.

I started every morning with my personal grooming time, i.e. running a comb through my hair, before putting my wet gear back on, swallowing a couple of ibuprofens, and then heading to the grumper. This morning was different because our interpreter wanted to stay in camp to dry his stuff out - his pack liner had a hole in it and with the steady rain the day before all of his stuff was soaked. So we decided that we would do a day trip this day - no gear in the canoes, down to Eddy Falls and back, and no interpreter either. This was the best day of the trip.

Twin Islands on Knife Lake

We started out with light hears and lighter canoes. Today I was happy because we had the oldest scout in the canoe with my son and I so we weren't troubled by the wind or the long day of paddling. Perhaps we consulted the map more frequently without our interpreter, but we soon saw the two small islands that were our first waypoint on the way to Thunder Point. Did I mention that it wasn't raining? When we eventually passed the two islands, the lake widened way out with a North arm and a South Arm, and the wind really picked up, so the trip got pretty exciting. As we drew near to the foot of Thunder Point, we could see another crew coming around from the opposite direction and sure enough, it was one of ours.

View from atop Thunder Point

After catching up, the other crew's interpreter was nervous about our being caught congregating. So we ate lunch by the canoes, and the other crew hiked to the top and ate. I added a couple of ibuprofen to my meal in preparation for the coming ordeal. Neither crew could find the trail to the top that our interpreter had talked about, so we both had to bushwack up and back down. The slope was very steep, covered in vegetation, and the footing was often loose stone. Over halfway up, the first leader called back down that it wasn't a good idea for me to come all the way up -- the footing was nothing but loose stone. I called back that the whole trip wasn't a good idea but since I'd gotten this far I wasn't going to turn around now. So I made it all the way up. We caught our breaths (some faster than others), enjoyed the view, and ate of the blueberries that grew rampant all over the top. We also looked for a path down without success.

Eddy Falls through trees

Let me say the descent was worse than the ascent and leave it at that. Then it was back into our canoes and down the South Arm of Knife Lake on our way to Eddy Falls. This whole area was hard hit by a big blowdown in 1999 and wildfires subsequently but it was very noticeable on this part of the trip. This was probably our longest stretch of uninterrupted paddling but the weather was perfect for it. Fortunately the other crew described how to find Eddy falls or I'm not sure we would have without our interpreter. It was something like you come to a bay, then there's a rock outcropping, then a stream, and then an area to put the canoes. We had a hard time finding the stream, but after a brief discussion we decided we were in the right spot. And the really nice thing was we were right!

So then it was a brief hike back into the woods along the stream, and you could hear the falls before you could see them. They are really pretty, with a big pool in front. My toes were bothering me and the footing wasn't good, so I didn't take full advantage of the falls.

Soaking in Eddy Falls

Eddy Falls is a collection of small falls that adds up to one nice sized one. What everybody likes to do after a hard day of canoeing is to to stand or sit in the falls and let them provide a cool and refreshing massage. We spent a nice long time here having fun and getting massages, but all good things must come to an end so we hiked the short distance back to our canoes to return to our campsite. I have to say that when we got to the canoes my toes were hurting so badly that I felt like crying. A couple of more ibuprofen were downed and I offered up prayer for my deliverance.

When we had arrived, the wind was light and in our face. Now that we were ready to depart, the wind was strong and still in our face. I joked that I always knew the which way to go because we were always paddling into the wind.

As always there are delays when trying to get boys back into canoes, and this time was no different. Another Northern Tier crew came down from the falls and their interpreter asked us about our interpreter. We thought ours was going to be in trouble, but he just wanted to make sure we knew where we were going, and he advised us to hug the shoreline to try to mitigate the wind. As it turned out, I was in the lead canoe and we quickly determined that hugging the shoreline didn't do a thing to mitigate the wind. So we went with the theory that a straight line would be the shortest distance. We paddled all the way back to camp with only one stop - I have to say that the upside of taking all that ibuprofen was that while my toes would still hurt my arms never got sore.

Campsite on Knife Lake

We were glad to get back to camp and not have to unload the canoes, set up camp, or cook dinner as our interpreter had that well in hand when we got back. This was our favorite day. Oh yeah, it didn't rain either. By now we were pretty serious about foot care since we had spent several days with wet feet. Today at last we could change into our dry gear and stay dry, let our feet air out, and apply alcohol and Gold Bond powder to them. I also applied the Gold Bond to another area that had spent too much time wet with happy results. Despite my recommendation, neither of the other adult leaders followed my regimen.

We could hang a bear bag at this campsite, and it came in handy because of a giant rabbit (or hare as they like to call them up north) that would circle our camp repeatedly and a chipmunk (another crew called them mini-bears because they were always after the food). At first I thought how nice when the chipmunk kept me company on the grumper, but when I was finishing up my business and he disappeared down a hole close to the grumper it became clear he had ulterior motives. I couldn't help myself, I had to look down the grumper and sure enough there he was looking back up at me. I quickly left him in peace as I didn't want to know anymore than that - I didn't even want to know that much.

A morning view of Knife Lake over canoes

The next morning was beautiful - a little light fog that quickly burned off. My toes were back to their normal throb and I could realistically think I would survive this trip. I had a new found appreciation for the comforts of civilization and the geniuses who invented things like shelter and heating - the person who invented the roof should have a holiday named after them. I understood in a way never before just why there are so few people in the wilderness and the heart of civilization is so crowded.

View of Birch Lake

My toes provided the excuse a non-overachieving crew needed. Instead of making a big loop via some long portages we simply retraced our steps for the most part. So today it was back down Knife Like, over the series of portages and onto Birch Lake. We talked about going a long distance this day so we could coast in the following, but our interpreter reminded us once off Birch we would be back on lakes that allowed motors. So we opted to camp on Birch so that we wouldn't have hear all the noise. We were a mile away and behind forest from the nearest lake with motors, but we could still hear them in the silence of the Boundary Waters.

During the day we had a crazed chipmonk go after our food unlike any crazed chipmonk I'd ever seen before. There was no discouraging this guy and when we once again made our bear canoe we had to first put the food in a canoe to keep him out of it. We started out making a cake but wound up turning the frosting into pudding and skipping the cake part altogether. The boys went fishing in the canoes and the wind was still blowing strong enought they spent much more time paddling than fishing. We had a really nice campfire and in short just had a great time being boys.

The weather kept getting nicer. By the last day, I was actually warm and I got enough sun to give me a nice combination sun-wind burn. Instead of hoping to get through this as quickly as possible and just survive, I found myself enjoying the trip. Excercise, sunshine, good eats, plenty of scenery -- only female companionship was lacking and unlike the first couple of days I actually had the energy to enjoy it. We were feeling frisky enough we didn't take the shortcut portage to Sucker lake but went the long way around and saw the American-Canadian border actually marked.

But in too short a time we were back at base camp, our canoes hauled up and put away, our packs emptied and returned, a smile on our lips and a spring in our step. OK, and we showered. In hot water. Did I mention that whoever invented the hot shower should have an entire week named after them? Pure genius.

The next day we began the long drive back home and after another night on the road we got to sleep in our own beds. And they lived happily ever after. Did I mention that the people who invented the box spring and mattress, sheets and blankets should be more famous than Paris Hilton?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 2:10 PM | Scout Photos | Scouting

November 7, 2007

Life Insurance

I'm not one to bemoan insurance companies, only in part because the funWife is an insurance claims adjuster.


Yesterday I had my mother call back the two life insurance companies my father had policies with after over a week went by without the paperwork they said they'd send to process the claim. Both can pull up on their computer screens all the details with just a name and social security number; both say it takes 2 weeks (or more!) for the paperwork to arrive. Look, I have talked to old folks homes one day and had their brochures in hand the next via the US mail. The only thing that takes these companies two weeks to send the paperwork just so we can send it back with a death certificate is greed - they want to hold onto the money as long as they can.

I'm wondering if it takes 2 weeks to mail a letter, how long will it take to actually pay?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:05 PM | Comments (1) | Family


So I'm calling around looking for an independent or assisted living place for my mother, and the marketing department lady from one of them stops me as I start my shpiel and says

"I have two questions that are really important when it comes to finding your mother the right place for her to live"

"OK, what are they?"

"What is your name?"

"Kevin Murphy"

'What is your phone number?"

Oh yeah, those were a couple of penetrating questions that really cut to the heart of where my mother should live.


Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | Family

November 4, 2007

Deaths In The Family

The blog has been quiet, but life hasn't been. My father passed away Oct 23 and my mother-in-law passed away Oct 26. My father died at home of a heart attack, and my wife and I were there. My mother-in-law passed away after suffering from Alzheimer's for years. We are all in God's hands.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 3:30 PM | Comments (4) | Family