Derek Johnson Muses

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Challenge of Choirs

Lot on My Mind

Lot on My Mind

It usually starts when I’m on the couch at 4:53, and PTI is winding down. I’ll be playing Call of Duty: World at War Zombies on my phone, and I start thinking about dinner. If it’s the first time I’ve thought about dinner that afternoon , the tasks of chopping, stirring, and frying an entire meal will feel as daunting as scaling a mountain.  If I’m already feeling hungry, I’ll be rationalizing a trip to Runza or Amigos, wherever I happen to have coupons. Such choirs can’t possibly get in the way.

Then I get up, fix my meal, and while I’m eating, I wonder why I would ever discard the peace of mind of having my next meal already cooked.

I could repeat this routine of electronics stealing attention from any number of choirs. There’s a wad of unfolded clothes in one of the baskets, and I’ll have four more articles I want to read. My favorite episode of The Big Bang Theory is about to come on, and I’ll be thinking about making cookies. I’m sitting next to a mess on the couch it would take five minutes to clean (which I literally am doing right now), but I’m watching a baseball game while I’m scanning my Twitter feed, looking for something to tweet about. Because after all, I haven’t tweeted in four hours, even if these newspapers have been on my couch for over six weeks.

Adult Life Paradox: you do have a lot of free time, and your mom isn’t around to nag you. But there is a lot of stuff you have to do, particularly when you own a house. There is no schedule, except for the one you make for yourself. (And I don’t have children.)

When I have a game or information in my hands, getting up and doing something would feel overwhelming. But the second I cut that first piece of meat or start the water, it feels simple. Certain choirs come more easily: cooking yields more of a reward than filing organizing, which I can only do for an hour max. But it’s better than a life full of fat.

 

Road Notes: Peacocks and Delivery to North Kansas

Yesterday was the first work trip since September, as I came out of hibernation and on to the asphalt. I went down to Kansas to take thirteen bags of corn seed to a customer who lived thirty miles north of Topeka by the town of Valley Falls, Kansas. It was a little more than three hours from Seward one way, the perfect day trip. I woke up at 5:30 and rolled out of the warehouse by 7:20. Everything was marvelous, until I hit rush hour traffic on Highway 2 in Lincoln and had to sit through two red lights at 14th Street.

After I got through Lincoln, it was more or less smooth sailing. I had taken the route to Topeka several times as we have a dealer in Sabetha, Kansas, although the last time I remember was back in 2010. I’ve done a lot of the photography along the way, particularly in Auburn, Nebraska but there was still plenty of spaces I hadn’t been. This time of year, a rainy early April, is a good time for finding contrasting colors, as the green grass has started to grow around the brown grass.

New beginnings...

New beginnings…

The road construction crews have also come out for the season. I ran into one as I arrived at the Kansas border on Highway 75. It facilitated a ten minute wait and a ten mile stretch of driving on de-surfaced road at forty-five miles per hour, an unpleasant stretch if you drive a hand-me down pickup with 200,000+ miles and a load. I took Highway 73 through Falls City on my way home and was also able to stop in Syracuse and return a Tupperware to one of my guest artists from February.

The farm that I delivered the seed to was on the west side of tree sanctuary. Four pet peacocks roamed the yard (?), along with a large black-and-white speckled dog the size of a St. Bernard. Surprisingly, they didn’t seem to bother each other. The buyer was absent, so I unloaded the bags and left quickly. The dog didn’t bark much, but I was still nervous, based on past experiences.

Just one of the farm animals...

Just one of the farm animals…

On the way back, I stopped for lunch in Horton (not Holton, a few miles down the road-so confusing) at a burger-and-ice-cream drive-in and had a taco burger. Kansas and the other wasteland states (Nebraska, Wyoming, etc.) seems to have a high number of these little drive-in places, like Sonic but more basic. I always admire whoever it is who chooses to run a business like this in off-the-map America, because they do not make a lot of money considering the time they have to put in.

On the way back, I got tired, but I managed to make it back on a single energy drink (Starbucks Refesher-doesn’t leave me feeling dehydrated).  I listened to several Issues, Etc. 24 podcasts, on the work of Christ, sin, and justification, but still have most of that program left for the summer miles ahead. Finding the perfect tracks for these trips is important, because when I remember them later on, I remember what I was listening to at the time. Like when I drove this route three years ago listening to a call from Mike in Indy on the Jim Rome Show.

It sprinkled at a couple points, but it never really rained, a relief. The long, multi-day trips in my cab are still a few months ahead of me, but I was glad for yesterday. I got to take a route that was familiar, but that I wouldn’t take very often once summer starts, and some unique shots. Best of all, it kept me working.

The Seed Lab

The chambers-cold is on the left

Many of the you probably wonder, Derek, what is it you do for a living? I mean, this is America; everyone has to get paid. The truth of the matter is, I am in fact one of those people who is always doing something but no one quite knows what exactly it is I do, myself included. As I tell everyone, most of my time in the winter is spent doing germination test on corn. It took me about a year or two to learn how to do it well, and now it goes like clockwork.

Every year, I prepare for samples arriving by ordering kimpak, an oversized, tougher paper towel, and cutting the sheets half. I also dig up soil to use and mix it with sand to plant in.

To prep for planting, I take a tray and pour 400 milliliters of water on it and set sheet of kimpak on the water and load the trays into carts. I leave them overnight in the cold chamber, and the next day I press 200 seeds into the kimpak, now evenly saturated with water, and cover the seeds with the sand-soil mixture.

Trays read to play

Trays read to plant

Tray in the midst of planting

Tray in the midst of planting

The trays lay dormant in the cold chamber for a week at 50 degrees, and then are moved into the warm chamber. After four or five days, I count how many plants have germinated, and then record and send the numbers to my father. Then I dispose of the waste and wash the trays and the carts with bleach.

DSCN9612

Plants that are about a day or so away from counting

This is what I do when I’m not shuffling our companies profits off to offshore accounts in the Caymans to hid our money from the greedy agents at the IRS.

(More odd work I’ve done)

Harvest Lessons: Set Goals High

Celebrate Rarely, Grind Regularly -Colin Cowherd

Two weeks ago, the second harvest of silage samples was approaching, and I was facing a dilemma. The first harvest took me three days, plus two and a half extra travel days. Coming off my work days at the gallery, I’d barely had any time to prepare another show I’d agreed to do at the Civic Center in Seward. The thought of losing three more days that week and not getting back until Wednesday weighed on my mind. I planned to leave and stay at Tom’s Sunday night, but as I was doing and redoing routes on Google Maps, I realized that, the total drive time from Omro to Slater was seven hours and the total harvest time I need for the three plots was seven hours. I would be an extremely long day, but I could pull it off if I just went to Omro and started at six. The cost of a hotel room would be less than the gas I’d spend on a second trip.

I did just that, and it was one of toughest days of my working life. I got back to Slater after 10, and on the drive back to my parents’ apartment, I felt that I was at my physical limit. Although the extra time was irreplaceable, I had serious doubts about doing the same thing for the third harvest. When my father called and told me I’d have to do the third harvest on Thursday of the next week, I had my reservations about doing all three fields on the same day. Sure, it would be priceless if I finished early and could spend Labor Day Weekend relaxing at our lake house, but if I had a major problem, I could really get myself in trouble.

Last Thursday, I rolled into our analyst’s shop at 8 P.M. sharp, with all thirty-six samples from all three locations. I was really proud of myself, more so than I ever have been. I can’t really explain how I finished two hours earlier, except to say that I nailed the routine. With only a couple of tweaks, I did pretty much everything the same as I had the first time. But I did gain time in a couple of areas, some planned, some not.

-I left my motel earlier, while it was just starting to get light.

-I didn’t stop for coffee before starting. I acquired cold water and ice the night before and made Starbucks Via with it. (Side note: the Verona is good, but not as good over ice as it should be.)

-Last time, fog prevented me from getting to the Omro plot in a timely manner. (This time, I started harvesting Omro a whole half-hour earlier.

-Last time at Spring Green, I dropped my plot key that had sample ID’s written on it. This forced a ten minute search, then another seven or eight minutes for me to return to the truck to acquire a back-up. This time I found the dropped plot key and picked it back up.

-At Fennimore, I had previously parked further up the hill because I couldn’t find a way to back down and still get out. This time, I found a way to get further down. This saved at least fifteen minutes, maybe more due to less exhaustion from carrying samples up hill.

-The killer last time was going out of my way in Dubuque to download a podcast at Culvers, which took about forty-five extra minutes. This time, I was content with what I had on my iPod.

Through this experience, I learned a truism that St. John’s consultant for our building project shared with us. It’s fine to take survey and guess your limits, but don’t be afraid to set goals over those limits. Finishing that project a whole two hours early showed me the benefit of putting work first and not worrying about the small stuff. Now I’m writing this at our lake house, and I’m actually kind of proud of myself.

Triumph of the Harvest

A Day in My Life…

A while ago, my fellow blogger Eirinn (who you should all follow) wrote a merry post that outlined every thing she did in a day. That really inspired to write a similar post, and after a couple of months, the idea felt perfect for this past Easter Monday.

6:13 My consciousness hums for the first time since last night; I see a wisp of light from outside coming through the window outside, and I hear my parents bustling around downstairs.

7:23 Actually come around.

7:26 Get out of bed, use the bathroom, dress in ratty work clothes, and come downstairs to find my mother engaged in a pre-dawn nap.

7:31 Heat up milk to pour over my natural foods version of shredded wheat. Breakfasts takes me five minutes, during which a read a page or two of Laura Rider’s Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton, a Wisconsin author if there ever was one. I have committed myself not to look at my computer or IPod screen until noon.

7:46 Make coffee; my current brew is an indulgence, Cream City Blend, a signature of Stone Creek Coffee, a chain from Milwaukee that I feel in love with in college and wish was in Omaha or Lincoln.

8:15 Today, I am planting 26 cold samples my father has brought me. I get out six kimpak prep trays, only to find I haven’t made the marking sticks for the trays. So I have to put the prepped trays back in the cold chamber (they can only be out of the cold chamber for 45 minutes). First half of the morning, I do all the sticks and plant 12 samples. I listen to half of an ESPN: First Draft podcast (Kiper and McShay’s back and forth), two segments of an Issues, Etc. podcast (Pastor Will Weedon on the Easter hymn “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty”), and then The Herd on ESPN Radio.

9:45 I don’t like taking breaks before I’m halfway down, but if I start another set, my head will be going numb toward the end of it.

9:50 Snack on a banana and pace a bit. I don’t read, I don’t check facebook or e-mail. Just hanging loose.

10:00 Start back on the remaining 14 samples, listening to my playlist from late last summer (The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”, The Fray’s “Heartbeat” are the signature tracks), and turn The Herd back on at 10:30, in time to hear Adam Schefter come on and talk NFL.

11:30 Finish with work and head into shower. To rid myself of the horrid scent of wet corn plant and seed lab, I pour on the Axe body wash.

12:05 When I get out of the shower, mom is making omelets for her and dad and offers to make  me one. Thus lunch is an omelet with two cheeses, the last of an oatmeal like cereal that mom made, and toast with crab apple jelly. I’m not eating meat, and I assume it will catch up to me around 3. While eating, I allow myself to go online and check stuff.

12:30 My parents leave for Lincoln to go to my Dad’s dentist appointment, and I settle down for some solid Facebook and e-mail time .

1:00 My mother calls; she has arrived at the dentist’s office in Lincoln and has forgotten the guide book for the diet my dad and she are on. I agree to bring and plan to leave in five minutes.

1:30 Leave for Lincoln after thirty minutes of running the house and gathering unimportant crap that I probably won’t use but might need. (I’m still eight years old.) When I get four blocks from my house, I find that I don’t have the diet guide book that I’m supposed to bring to my mother. I head back to the house to get the book, and after I’m back in the car, my mother calls me again.

1:35 Given that I’m turned around, I now set out to drive the round-about way. Late and listening to “Rumor Has It” on the radio, I get angry when I get stuck behind a gold Cadillac driven by an old person. Flipping the car off (I know), I circle back to the main route, only to re-encounter the Cadillac while it waits to turn into the hospital and holds me up again.

1:52 Get to the light at Fletcher and Highway 34 by the highlands and call my mom; she says they’ll be a while and that I should come straight to the dentist’s office. Could have just taken the Interstate.

1:55 Get off the I-180 at Cornhusker; contemplating taking Cornhusker until I can branch off on Holdredge, then decide to follow Sun Valley to North 10th and get onto Vine. Of course, there isn’t a direct way to Vine from 10th, and end up downtown where the I-180 ends. To try to justify my inefficient route, I take P over to 17th, to then go down to Capitol. This makes no difference.

2:07 I get to the dentists in an office plaza north of the crossroads of 40th, Normal, and South Streets. Mom compensates me for my gas and talks to me about work for roughly twenty minutes.

2:28 Leaving the dentist, I decide that my car is running funny and I should fill up on gas (although the real problem is likely that I need an oil change). I get gas at the Fast Mart on 33rd and A, which happens to be on the corner across from a Valentino’s where worked for two months almost seven years ago.

2:30 When I go into use the bathroom, an older gentleman holds the door open for me on my way out and says “you’re welcome” to me as if I should be ashamed of myself for not saying “thank you”, which I do on my way in. (Hey, I just happened to be in the right position for you to hold the door for an extra half second; if I had been two seconds ahead of you, I would have held the door and been grateful if you hadn’t said anything.) On my way back out, I make a conscientious effort to go out the other side door, but the man has already left.

2:32 Not wanting the trip to Lincoln to be a waste, I go to the Starbucks on 33rd and O, order a green tea smoothie, and set to work on catching up on my e-mail. The place is full, and people are coming and going. I sit on the half-couch, half-chair thing and type to my heart’s content.

3:35 Leaving Starbucks, afternoon traffic has picked up, and it takes me a while to get through downtown. I decide to go to Pioneer’s Park to take my afternoon walk

4:00 I park next a gray Bronco-like vehicle in my favorite parking lot in the middle of the park and hit the trail; millions of kids are out here playing, along with female joggers. I walk along the stream and let my thought peculate.

4:35 Leave the park.

4:53 Stop at the truck stop just of the Northwest 48th Street exit to buy something to drink; settle on two 16 oz. pops for two dollars (root beer and Sierra Mist).

4:58 Blast on to I-80 and blaze for home.

5:26 Get home and make a list of things people I still need to contact.

6:00 Begin to make supper. Mom has left two soup mixes, so break some roast beef out of the freezer and open up the vegetable mix. I dirty an extra pot when I underestimate how big the batch will be. (A blog post on this soup “adventure” is coming.)

7:00 I turn on How I Met Your Mother, the show whose original episodes I look forward to the most. The soup finishes up at 7:10, and I balance eating it with tweeting about #HIMYM.

7:30 Watch 2 Broke Girls while I wash and put away dishes and food. Girls has the best set up of any show that’s come out this year, other than maybe Up All Night.

8:00 Exhausted from standing in the kitchen for better part of the last two hours, I sit and game on my IPod while watching other shows on my computer, instead of doing the things on my list.

9:30 I turn off my computer with the intent of going to bed for Men’s Bible Study at 6:30 tomorrow. Instead I decide to put away some more dishes and fold the laundry that’s been sitting in the basket for several days.

10:30 Prior to going to bed, I fake scan the book next to me for a page or two, then stop kidding myself and turn out the light.

Overtime

6:03 After waking up around 4:30, I decide that I should sleep as late as I can before having to head out. When I see 6:03 on the clock, I’m tempted to go back to sleep, but I know I’ll regret it if I do. I intend to take a five minute shower, and set up my IPod to time myself. My shower last a typical ten minutes. Even still, I somehow manage to show up to Bible study on time.

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