Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Signs I am becoming more Montanan

  • I will never again complain about rain or cold.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Guilty pleasures

In my regular visits to the Costco I don't bother with their normal oversized carts. I load up the heavy duty flatbed cart. Many items, many pounds. I push the cart slowly because if I get going fast I would not be able to control it or stop it. There would be mayhem. At the checkout it is not a matter of finding the shortest line, it is usually about which lane is the easiest to navigate to. A decision weighted by which line has the cutest checker. I have been known to choose the longer line just so I could spend more time watching those cute Costco checker girls do their job.

I like the Costco, they have done a good job training their people. Speedy and efficient appears to be the rule. I admire how they can pull items from the conveyer and bleep the bar code so expediently. The assistant playing catcher at the other end; sorting, organizing, stacking, boxing with quick handed skill.

Heavy items remain on the cart. The checker and the sidekick pour over it, coaxing out the bar codes for the zap of the laser gun. They exert themselves in the lifting and pushing of products. They are usually dressed to well for this sort of work. Clothing not meant for labor. A glimpse of skin, an inadvertent flash of cleavage, exposing the pink secret color of the underpants. The checker girl and the sidechick are all business. Scan the products and get them back on the cart. Makes the display all the more compelling.

I try to be casual about watching them work. As though I am more concerned with my purchases in their hands than my true focus. The way their bodies move as they bend and lift and heft things about. Their rapid, all business movements that tease with a glimpse of a curved hip, the sway of a breast or the flex of a muscle.

Strength, curves, efficiency and a strangely chaste peepshow all rolled into a simple business transaction. Thanks Costco checkout ladies. Watching you work is one of my guilty pleasures.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cowboys and Realtors and Montana style

This month Smithsonian magazine is featuring an essay about Montana. It touches on the Flathead valley, Montana, the west in general, economics, politics and grizzly bears. Get the print version if you can; it has a beautiful photo of Kalispell.

The author, Blaine Harden, may have given me a piece of the puzzle that is Montana style. I have been scratching my head at some oddities and contradictions that I see around here. The disconnect between the low quality of employment and the growth of the region. Our independent spirit intermingling with our connection to the national and world economies. According to the Smithsonian essay, to paraphrase, Montana style is a myth. Montanans and westerners in general have bought into the myth of the western ethos to the point that we have blinded ourselves to the realities of our own economies and lifestyles.

I still believe that Montana style influences economics and politics to a greater degree than is generally understood, but this essay goes a long way toward explaining some of the contradictions of Montana style.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Montana Jones guide to the busy season.

Most people are blessed with stable jobs and consistent work weeks, but once in a while, perhaps because of school or a big project or the fact that most of your work happens in the summer months, we need to ramp up and do extra duty. Here are the tips I am trying to follow to stay sane and comfortable with my work schedule.

Eat right.
Make sure to eat fruits and veggies every single day. Avoid powering yourself on sugar, caffeine, fast food and junk food. Those things should only be used for a temporary power boost. If you are in it for the long haul your body needs a better fuel source. Junk food is fast and convenient when you are on the run, but avoid it. It's a trap. Junk food will actually sap your strength and energy and wear you down if you try to live on it all the time.

You have to take the time to have decent meals. Cereal or oatmeal makes a good simple breakfast. I like to throw a handful of frozen berries on top, that counts as a serving of fruit you know. Brown bag your own lunches instead of buying them at the drive through. Get a little lunch cooler to tote around. A meat sandwich, granola bar, cheese and crackers and more fruit and veggie snacks. For dinner pasta is quick and easy. I often cheat and use frozen meals for dinner, just make sure to eat your veggies with it.

Get some water bottles, keep them full, stash them everywhere and drink lots of water. I have one water bottle in my lunch cooler, one in my car, one at the office and a stash of Gatorade at the shop. On a couple of these recent hot days that was not enough and I had to stop at the gasit mart for more fluids. Face it people, heat stroke sucks. You have a job to do and you can't let your body stop. Drinking water keeps you cool when on the run.

Change the oil in you car before the busy season gets here. If you drive a lot be sure to schedule time to change the oil again mid season. Keep an eye on the tire pressure and take a peek under the hood once in a while. I have made a habit of re-filling the gas tank if it drops below half. I try to do it in the evening at the end of the work day so I don't have to take the time out of my working day.

If you have tools that you use in your job keep them maintained as well. Keep your cell phone charged. A spare set of screwdrivers and drill bits and whatnot should always be at hand. I also keep a small tool kit in my car and a leatherman on my belt. If your equipment stops working so does the job you are there to do.

Take care of yourself.
I have stashed a change of clothes in my car along with deodorant, a toothbrush, and a towel. You never know when you will need them.

Look out for number one.
This is for the bachelors out there. Watch your own back. Do your laundry, wash your dishes, pay your bills. It's amazing how quickly these chores can get done when you want them out of the way. Do them. Don't put them off because you have more important things to do. If you neglect yourself you will have a high price to pay later and that defeats the whole point of working hard in the first place.

Money is a tool.
It is possible to buy your way out of problems. Food, water, gas, replacement parts, tools. When you need them you need them. Keep some cash along with a checkbook or credit card on your person at all times.

Write it down.
In the off season I have a spiffy, high tech PDA to take notes and stuff with. When I am busy that thing is close to worthless. I carry a little black notebook and a stubby pencil with me at all times. If it is important, write it down. To do lists, shopping lists, reminders, inventories, phone numbers, scratch paper for math, whatever comes up. Surprisingly I do not refer back to it all that much. The very act of writing something down goes a long way towards keeping things fresh in my memory.

Don't stop working when you get home.
It is tempting beyond belief to drop everything and switch off when I finally get home at the end of the day but I don't dare. This is the time to take care of dirty clothes and laundry, throw the blue ice from the lunch cooler back in the freezer, make tomorrows lunch, answer Emails, clean up, bathe, answer your mail, pay your bills, update your calendar, shop for more food, review your to-do list, fix a meal and generally look out for number one. Don't neglect this time.

To sum up:
Take the time to maintain yourself, your health and your sanity. Take the time to maintain your gear. If you burn yourself out that defeats the purpose of working hard. If you let your tools fail that makes the long hard hours even longer and harder.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Montana state flower

Friday, July 14, 2006

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The fool meets the foolproof system

So can you give me any insight into why I'm not getting power from the solar panel?
Well, you unfolded it and you connected it to the socket on the building and plugged in the charge controller inside?
Yup and yup.
If you had it folded up and stored there should be nothing wrong with it.
It was folded and stowed perfectly. No signs of any damage at all.
The thing is pretty fool proof. Not sure what it could be.
Well I took my voltmeter and checked the connection at the battery and then each socket along the chain and then got back on the roof and tested the socket on the back of the panel. I'm not getting any volts.
I suppose you could check those fuses but the thing is hard wired really well. I made it as dummy proof as I could.
I checked the fuses. I guess I better check everything again.


Hey, it's me. Just wanted to let you know the solar system is working.
Good. What was the problem?
The system was working perfectly. It was my voltmeter that was broken.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Employees and children

So did K_ get off okay?
Yeah, I got her set up with the shopping list and the big cooler and the petty cash and she is off on her first solo supply trip.
How do you feel about that? Do you think she will do okay?
Well, you're a parent. You know how you feel when you give your kid the car keys and watch them pull away from home without you for the first time.
Oh yeah.
I think this must be something like that.