Planned Obsolescence

I gave a lunchtime talk yesterday for our acute care department on how to treat separation anxiety in children.  My agency is severely understaffed for all sorts of therapists, and I am the only one who knows how to work with children.  We have an abundance of people seeking therapy for their children, and I can’t see all of them.  I plan to retire in two years, and it doesn’t look promising to find a replacement for me who knows how to do child therapy.  I need to make myself obsolete.

The dear folks in our acute care department are good social workers and counselors, but they are unaccountably terrified of treating children. They admit they are afraid of saying the wrong thing and ruining the child for life. That is irrational thinking on the staff’s part.  I decided that I need to train as many of them as I can before I leave so that they can feel comfortable treating children, and so that children’s services can continue after I leave. Separation anxiety is really easy to treat if you know how, and I thought it was a good place to start. They enjoyed the talk today, and want to know about Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct disorder next month.  I can hardly wait to give them the skinny on elimination disorders.

What would you like to teach people to do or to know about?

Speed Limit

On my way to work on Friday I was deep in thought and suddenly looked up to see a police cruiser on the side of the road – I was going 37 instead of 30. I immediately took my foot off the gas, but as I looked into the rear view mirror, I saw the cruiser pulling away from the curb and the flashing lights starting up.

All kinds of thoughts went through my brain: I don’t want to pay for a ticket, I don’t want any points on my license, do red cars get more tickets, I’m going to be late for work, what if I cry when the officer comes to my window.

Luckily someone in the other lane just behind me must have been going a bit faster than I was when we passed the radar; the cop pulled the other car over. I feel like I dodged a bullet and I went the speed limit all the way to work after that.

Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket of any kind?

A Good Cuppa

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I started drinking coffee in the week I began grad school. I had my first cup in a coffeehouse, a memorable day because I learned I loved coffee and coffeehouse music. That first cup was espresso, dark as sin and quite strong.

That launched an odyssey as I searched for a way to make great coffee at home. As far as I’m concerned, the odyssey—which took 53 years to complete—came to a happy end about two months ago. The odyssey involved three things: my coffee mug, the brand of coffee and the coffee brewing technology.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my pursuit of the perfect coffee mug. The story ran under the title of Arabia Beehive. I described how I bought a mug that I later decided was perfect. It shattered when knocked to the floor in 1983. Since then I spent hundreds of hours looking for a replacement. And this year in October that 32-year search ended when I found a copy of my original beloved mug.

I spent about three decades looking for a great brand of coffee. It was a curious hunt. I knew how good coffee could be, for the coffee in good restaurants was wonderful. But I couldn’t find coffee like that in grocery stores. My erstwife and I went from brand to brand to brand, never finding one that tasted remotely like the best restaurant brew. We didn’t know the problem was that restaurants got to buy coffee that was roasted to perfection, coffee of a quality not sold in stores.

The search for great coffee beans took an unexpected turn when Starbucks became so popular in the early 1990s. Suddenly there were little coffeehouses all over serving and selling wonderful brews. And suddenly it was clear why we looked so long in vain for coffee like that in stores.

Everyone has a favorite. Mine is the Caribou blend from the Caribou Coffee folks. It is nothing terribly special, being a medium roast suitable for all-day drinking. I’ve dallied with French roast blends, which are stronger, but I keep coming back to the Caribou blend. I love it.

The odyssey also included a lot of experimentation with coffee makers. I’ve owned about fifteen different makers. For a while I liked a French press. I used to make Italian espresso. For about a year we made “camp coffee,” which is grounds thrown into cold water that is heated. Then you clarify the coffee with egg shells, maybe filtering it as a last step. It is pretty good, but messy and not easy to do when half-asleep.

While trying different coffee brewing technologies, I spent several years grinding my own beans each morning. According to experts, that was necessary, and for several years I believed them. But grinding beans makes an awful sound that I can’t abide shortly after waking up. I ultimately decided making coffee from freshly ground beans was more trouble than it was worth.

My search for the ideal coffee maker ended when my daughter (who rarely drinks coffee) served amazingly good coffee four years ago. I say “amazingly” because the coffee itself was just Folgers from a big red can, the stuff they sell in every grocery store in the country. I was astonished to learn that coffee from her Cuisinart coffee maker was truly better than I could make with my more expensive German brewing system.

And now the odyssey is truly over. Each day begins with perfect (to my palate) coffee brewed in my favorite coffeemaker and served in my favorite mug. I’m a happy, happy guy. It is embarrassing to be so easily pleased, but I really enjoy starting each day with something so reliably delightful.

What is your favorite beverage? Do you have it all worked out or are you still experimenting?


Doughnut Dream

I may have bemoaned the demise of the corner doughnut shop here before. There are a few doughnut shops around but I’m not a fan of lavender infused doughnuts with basil and rosemary or mac & cheese donuts or any kind of doughnut with bacon.

For a few years I’ve been getting doughnuts at a little tiny shop down in Bloomington. They open at 5:30 in the morning and have all the old favorites and nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately they are way out of the way, so I only go down there when I need two or three dozen. So when I saw that a Dunkin Donuts was opening not only close to my house but on my way to the office, I was pretty excited – especially when I saw that they were putting in a drive-through!

To cheer up our first morning after the building fire I thought I would bring doughnuts in yesterday morning. When I turned in to the Dunkin Donuts, I thought about the drive-through, but there were a couple of cars in line so I parked and went in.  I got my two dozen and a couple of coffee; as I paid and looked behind me there were seven people in line.  When I went out to the car, there were about six cars waiting in the drive-through.  Clearly Dunkin is meeting a need that we didn’t even know we had!

What kind of establishment would you like to open close to you?



Baboon Dreams

I am not  proponent of analysing dream content for deep meanings.  If my dreams mean anything, they reflect my current degree of anxiety.  I had the funniest dream the other night, though, that I would like some Baboon help with interpretation. I should add that I had this dream  when I was particularly calm the night of Thanksgiving Day after a hectic month at work.

I was in a small house, at a party of some sort. Steve, Linda, LJB, Bill and other, obscured  Baboons were there. PJ arrived at the party with six enormous boxes of freshly picked garden peas still in their pods with vines attached. The boxes also had beautiful vases in them. While she doled them out to everyone, Bill was correcting my grammar in a very kind way as I spoke.

The scene shifted to a car with Steve and PJ. Steve was driving the car in a snow storm up a hill toward a group of building that were part of a college. It turned out to be a college I had attended. I took them around and introduced them to a psychology faculty member who is, in real life, an old college boyfriend from Buxton, ND who is a church organist and oboe player. He has never had anything to do with psychology. He was wearing academic robes.  We left the college and walked out in the snow, and Steve proceeded to explain the significance of various naturally formed snow and ice sculptures, Then I woke up.

That has to be the silliest dream on record. I have no idea what Freud would make of it.  I find it interesting that I dream about Baboons when I am  feeling  calm after hectic times.

If you were a psychoanalyst, what would you make of this dream? What is the silliest dream you ever had ?


Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I once considered writing a book of personal memoir. The title was going to be Epiphanies. Not everyone is familiar with that word, which comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Epiphanies are those moments of sudden understanding in which a nagging problem is solved or a blazing new perception reveals itself. A less fancy definition would be “aha moments.” The word has special relevance to Christians, referring to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. My favorite example of epiphany in popular culture is that moment in The Miracle Worker when Anne Sullivan pumps water over the hands of little Helen Keller, teaching her how language is the key that will reveal the world to her.

For me, epiphanies are special, even magic. Of course, we all learn lessons as we experience our lives. Usually enlightenment appears after a slow, unremarkable, evolutionary process. Epiphanies, by contrast, surprise and shock us. Routine mental growth is like lighting a candle in the dark; epiphanies are more like skyrockets that explode to fill the skies with color and noise.

Epiphanies I experienced as a child are hard to date with precision. When I was a toddler—somewhere between three and five—my grandfather took me out for a treat. He bought us drumsticks, those ice cream novelties with wafer cones. Up until that moment delightful things seemed to appear and disappear randomly. But when Grandpa Clarence bought those drumsticks I realized that these and other treats existed all the time. They were part of the world. If you had this thing called money, you could exchange it for a drumstick. The world was more orderly and benign than I had understood before that moment.

I experienced an epiphany in third grade that I often remember. Our classroom had an American flag (just 48 stars back then). Large portraits of George Washington and Abe Lincoln hung on the walls. Our desks were bolted in place facing the teacher’s desk, which was mounted on a raised deck to allow her to look down on the little humans in her charge. Our teacher, Miss Maybe, called on a kid named Andy to deliver a report. Sitting in my desk on the right hand side of the classroom, halfway back, I grinned with relief. The voice in my head said, “Hey, that’s Andy up there, not you! He has to give a report and you do not. He’s Andy. You’re Steve. You aren’t Andy, and you don’t have to give a report!” I’ve always wondered if most people have a particular blazing moment when they realized they are a unique consciousness, not part of a larger group.

Not all epiphanies are so fun to remember. In the first year of my marriage, my erstwife and I spent a winter month housesitting the home of Arthur Naftalin, then the mayor of Minneapolis. On a sub-zero February afternoon my parents drove all the way in from their Orono home to visit us. After a delightful meal they left, walking down the steep driveway to where they had left their car parked on the street. I stood at a living room picture window to watch. When they turned up the sidewalk, my mother and father spotted me. As if they had rehearsed this move for weeks, they turned, smiled radiantly, raised their hands and waved goodbye, each one mirroring exactly the expression and movements of the other. Tears shot out of my eyes, and I staggered back into the privacy of the living room so my parents wouldn’t see me crying. Something about the moment—the crazy synchronicity of their goodbye waves—made me realize these two people I loved so much would someday exit my life forever. Of course, I had always known my parents would likely precede me in death. That abstract, dry fact became a moment of scorching awareness when they waved goodbye that afternoon.

Do you experience epiphanies? Can you share examples?

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