2016 the year that was

January 7, 2017

2016 was a good year for me. Turned 70. Traveled extensively, including New Zealand. Finally cruised Milford Sound, a dream for 30+ years! Hosted (the CCMGA) the Master Gardener State Conference. Learned how to use mixers, other A/V equipment, and produce videos operating the equipment for the Master Gardener Training Classes. Discovered iPhones don’t work well after a good cleaning by Maytag. Still waking up to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” tune in my head; two year old Grandson is addicted to YouTube videos of the same.

Many people with the advent of a new year set goals, or generate New Year Resolutions or both. For myself a few weeks ago I read an interesting article this year advocating asking three questions insteads. Here goes my attempt.

Proud of this year

Exercised more than any year I can remember and did not suffer any exercise related injuries like I usually do. Most of the reason is I joined Orange Theory Fitness in June. Their program is an hour a day of intense interval training divided between threadmill, rowing machine, and weights with a diabolical trainer to guide you. Of course since I’m paying them for the privilege of sweating like a stuck pig I go almost everyday to get my money’s worth.

The CCMGA hosted the 2016 Texas Master Gardener State Conference. I helped develop the web site. Also pitched in an helped wherever I could at the Conference.

Lessons Learned

Don’t expect too much of other people, especially adults. Their Dance is unique shaped by everyone they’ve ever known usually very different than my Dance. In the end there is one Dance we’ll all have to do alone. Until then Dance on.

Rabbits eat pansies no matter what you treat them with. Just give up and live with a colorless landscape in the Winter.

What am I willing to let go of

I’m retired but still seem to have to much to do and not enough time to do it. Brings to mine an old quote “I’d give half my kingdom for a moment of time. Therefore, it makes sense I let go of something. But it’s hard, really hard. I’m not doing anything I can let go of – Family, Master Gardener, website development for volunteer groups, nerding out on my computer, etc. Okay, here goes a couple of things over the side of the boat:

  • Nerd like projects I’ve been spending time on including Learning Python, Migarating from Evernote, Developing a Mobile App and a couple of others I’ve been spending hour after hour banging away on my laptop
  • My garden plot

Reflections on a Two Year Old

December 25, 2016

Babysat my two year old grandson three days this week. He is an amazing creature and I suspect all two year olds are.

He learns at an astronomical rate. He bounces from joy to despair to joy again in a few seconds.

When his family – mom, dad, brother – are not around, he asks about them constantly.

He loves animals.

He asks why incessantly.

He runs everywhere. What age do we stop running?

I could go on and on and on and on but after three days with the little angel I’m really tired.

Summary, It’s a shame we grow up

Gravity vs. time vs. Age

December 12, 2016

According to Einstien’s theory of General Relativity gravity slows down time. That is, clocks tick faster on GPS satelites than they do on the Earth. Clocks on the surface of the Earth would tick faster than clocks on the Sun because the Sun has more gravity. The greater the gravity the slower the clock ticks

Based on my experience, a data point of one, age makes clocks tick faster. Clocks tick much faster now that I’m 70 than when I was 16.

Why didn’t Einstein include age in the theory of General Relativity?

I Remember Bill Secor

November 28, 2016

To set the stage: It was November of 1983. Thanksgiving was approaching. My parents were coming to visit from Illinois over Thanksgiving for the first time since Gwen and I were married. We (E-Systems) were installing a massive new computer system into our facility in Alice Springs, Australia code named Zircon. The installation was coming along very poorly to say the least. In fact the Customer was threatening to send the Installation Team home along with our set of shiny new computers.

The day before Thanksgiving, the same day my parents were scheduled to arrive, Mr. Secor called me into his office to tell me he wanted me to fly to Alice Springs that night. The Customer had given E-Systems an ultimate: Get Olson over her immediately or pack up your toys and go home!

I told Bill “NO” and explained why. He calmly replied something to the effect: “You don’t understand. Either you get on the plane tonight or both you and I will be searching for employment next week.”

So, Gwen cried, I boarded the airplane for Alice Springs and spent Thanksgiving on a Pan-Am jet over the Pacific. My parents, being children of the depression totally understood – to them employment was a privilege. I don’t think Gwen ever did.

The end of the story. I arrived in Alice. Everyone asked why I was there. In the end Zircon was saved and parts of it are still operational as far as I know.

Marv Olson

Desert island Discs

November 14, 2016

nature-fakaravacoconuttree_1024x768Lately, I’ve become addicted to Desert Island Discs, a BBC podcast, in which Kristi Young interviews a well-known or successful person. As part of the discussion the guest names 8 tunes special to them. Near the show’s end they are asked to pick just one if they had to and also one thing they could take to the desert island.

I decided to skip the interview and proceed directly to picking the eight tunes. Now, picking eight seems nearly impossible to me and will change over time but here goes my attempt:

  1. Like a Rolling Stone from Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisted album blew my mind. I grew up in a Lawerence Welk on Saturday night household. The first time I heard Dylan’s lyrics a whole new Universe popped out of the void. It was an angry tune and since I was a teenager I was angy most of the time. Probably about having to milk our three cows before breakfast. 2016-10-13 Late breaking news: Mr. Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. You can’t make this stuff up,
  2. A Day in the Life from the Beattle’s Sgt. Pepper album. The best track on the best album of all time showed me how good music could be. Also, reminds me of my Chicago student days at DeVry Institute on Belmont Avenue and my good friends the Condellos.
  3. Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. Defining song of my youth and special for Gwen and I. First time I heard this song on WLS I was pulling into the Farm, and left the Pylmouth running until the song finished. Years later Gwen and I were taking the same College class. One of our assignments was to write a paper on the meaning of The Sounds of Silence. As I remember the incident I explained the meaning to here. Her grade was an A. Mine was a C+. And now I think I like Disturbed’s version of Sounds of Silence better
  4. Miss Atomic Bomb by The Killers. This has to be the newest tune on my list. Reminds me of my youth for some reason. Perhaps the allegory to the BOMB and man’s evil nature or am I reading too much into the lyrics?
  5. The Pretender by Jackson Browne – my theme song – I started out so young and strong only to surrender. Growing up in the 60s revolution was thick as fog in the air and we were bound to change the World for the better. Then, I woke up one day some 20 years later to realize I had surrendered to the MAN, got a regular job, got married, and had kids! Wow, What happened to the Revolution?
  6. Both Sides Now (Clouds) by Judy Collins – First time I heard this was in the back parking lot at Generous Dynamics (pun intended) in Fort Worth. I really loved this song. Her voice was absolutely haunting. Then I bought the album and discovered Amazing Grace which was even better. So my sixth pick is Amazing Grace. Actually I’d like to include the whole album but that’s against the rules as near as I can ascertain.
  7. Ninth Symphony by Ludwick Von Beethoven. A 66 minute symphony probably doesn’t qualify as a “tune”, but I’m including it anyway. I’m sure I heard the symphony the first time in my Music Appreciation class at Western Illinois University. Turned on my appreciation for classical music. Over the years I’ve listened to it often. The Ode to Joy – Alle Menschen werden Brüder still gives me goose bumps. (Do geese have bumps?)
  8. Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. First time I heard this tune was of course the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz. However my favorite version is by Israel which I first heard at my youngest daughter’s wedding reception on a beach in Mexico. Every time I hear it I’m reminded, “Hey I’m old, I made it! Got through most of the travails and tribulations of life.

Okay, there’s the eight. I’m sure if I drew this list up tomorrow there would be some changes.

Now, if I could only choose one for my desert island paradise what would it be? After lenghtly deliveration – The 9th Symphony – mostly because its 66 minutes long.

And the One Thing I choose to take to my desert island abode would be the book Godel, Escher, Bach better known as GEB by Douglas Hofstadter. With all the free time I’ll have on the island I’ll be able to re-read it until I understand it.

That’s about it folks. Hope you enjoy the music

On a final unrelated note I wrote the article on my iPad with 1writer and used the Workflow app to publish to WordPress. I haven’t solved including images Yet. I may add an image from my Mac. So if your reading this check back later for the image.

Workflow iOS App

October 22, 2016

I installed the Workflow app on my iPhone last week. Since then I’ve created a half dozen apps already one of which I’m using to publish this post.

Workflow integrates IOS apps together using built-in actions using an easy-to-use drag and drop interface.

A couple of my favorite workflow are:

  • I keep a record of expenditures with a Workflow that scans a receipt, categorizes it, and sends to a Dropbox folder to be filed by another app on my computer
  • When I’m headed for home in the car I can send my wife a message telling her when to expect me with one click

Workflow can be configured to execute via:

  • Locks reenactment widgets (today widgets)
  • Action extensions
  • Home screen apps
  • From the Workflow app

However, Workflow” is not perfect. Every time I attempt to setup the “send mail” action Workflow aborts.

Overall I’d recommend Workflow if you have nerd like traits.

The Great Northwest Journey

August 20, 2016


Our big trip this year was Seattle, then Victoria with Sara and Mike, then Seattle, then Birch Bay, Vancouver, White Rock B.C., and Leavenworth with Kevin and Trish, and then back to Seattle before flying home.

The weather was perfect, the people were above average, and the experiences were most excellent.


The flight with the kids

We babysat Paxson and Austin (3 1/2 and 19 months) for a few days while their parents flew on to Seattle for a short respite without the kids. Then we flew to Seattle with the boys. They were little angels in DFW and during the flight. The downside to flying with the boys is the amount of gear we had to bring with us including car seats and strollers.


We spent a few days with Mike’s parents, Don and Karen, both before and after our trip to Victoria and then before our flight back to Dallas.

Staying with our gracious hosts in their beautiful home on Lake Sammamish. While there we did dine at a couple of good restaurants:

We had started exercising at Orange Theory this Summer and were pleasantly surprised to find a location in Redmond just a 12 minute scenic drive from our host’ss residence.


We spent two days in Victoria with Sara and Mike traveling via the Victoria Clipper Ferry service from Seattle.


Victoria Harbour

We had reserved a couple of rooms at Abigail’s, a small independent botique hotel 4 short blocks from the Harbour. Gwen found Abigail’s for our first trip to Victoria and the experience was so great we’ve never considered staying anywhere else in Voctoria. This trip was no expception.

Our first night there we had managed to procure 4 tickets to Taste, a wine and food event at one of the local hotels. Around 35 Vancouver Island Vineyards were present as well as 15 local restaurants. This is a one night a year event. We were fortunate enough to attend last year and loved it. This year was just as good except for no ice cream. If you go don’t drive because there is a lot of wine. We walked!

Our highlight was probably the hour long carriage ride with a British Columbia History Major as our driver. Also spotted some humpback whales while riding along the Coast next to Beacon Hill Park. The night was surprisingingly chilly.

We did not rent a car. Therefore we walked everywhere which is not a big problem if you plan to hang out at the Inner Harbour area. We most likely walked 10 miles each day around the Harbour, Government Street, and Beacon Hill Park.

Besides Taste other memorable dining experiences were at:

  • Il Terrazzo – a little Italian restaurant in a downtown alley. Our favorite restaurant in Victoria
  • The Local – best fish and chips I’ve had anywhere with a magnificent view of the Harbour
  • Breakfast at Abigail’s
  • The Commons – Serves only local cusine, much of it from their own farm or from local fishermen

As a parting note on the last morning I snuck out of the hotel early in the morning and enjoyed a Flat White at a local coffee shop. Best Flat White I’ve had outside of New Zealand. For some reason U.S. coffee shop’s, including Starbucks, just don’t serve Flat Whites that taste anywhere near as good.

Birch Bay

We picked Kevin and Trish up at the Seattle Airport and then drove to Birch Bay, Washngton where we had reserved our Condo for three days. Birch Bay is a small seacoast community on the Washington/Canadian border.

Our Condo was old but very comfortable with an excellent vew of the sea from the balcony. Although our base was in Washington we spent one day in Vancouver and the 2nd in White Rock, B.C.

Although Vancouver is but 40 miles distance the journey by auto took 1.5 hours. We spent most of the day strolling around Stanley Park and ended by day by dining at Joe Fortes. A very enjoyable day indeed. I highly recommend both.

The next day we drove just across the boarder to White Rock, B.C. White Rock is a picturesque little community on the coast. The main attractions are the pier, the promenade, and the restaurants. We had lunch at Uli’s. The exterior and the interior decor is not impressive. However the food is delicious. I had the fish and chips again. Where else in the World is Halibut considered a “common” fish?

The main attraction at both Birch Bay and White Rock is the sea. At both locations the tides go out to reveal over 100 yard wide mud flats. The locals and I suppose the tourist tramp out onto the mud flats, setup blankets, umbrellas, beach chairs, and stay for the day.


Birch Bay at Low Tide

Restaurants in the area we liked:

  • Vonna’s Purple Fin Restaurant in Birch Bay: We dined here our first night in Birch Bay and liked it so much we went back for breakfast every day
  • Joe Fortes in Vancouver
  • Uli’s in White Rock


The drive from Birch Bay to Leavenworth through the Cascades was both beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. Leavenworth is a charming little German community in the Cascades. Kevin and Trish were married there and for them this was a trip back in time.


Leavenworth Wa.


If you just have a day stroll around the village, vist the shops, watch the people, and listen to the musicians on the square.

In the Summer they host musicals outdoors under the stars. We attended a performance of The Sound of Music at night in the middle of a forest on a mountainside in 49 degree weather in July. We were all amazed by the quality of the performance.

Hike the Leavenworth River Trail.

Drive a few miles down the highway to Cashmere and visit the 9/11 memorial.

Visit some of the many local vineyards. We planned and developed a list of vineyards to visit. However the first vineyard (Wedge Mountain Vineyard) was so interesting we ran out of time and did not get to any of the other vineyards on our list. If you go there be sure to sign up for the vineyard tour via a mid-60s Fordson tractor with the owner (Charlie McKee).

And last but not least, don’t lock yourself our of your hotel room on the outskirts of town at 11PM in you pajamas and realize they have no night clerk.


  • Sulla Vita – Ecletic menu. We liked it so much we dined there twice
  • Los Camperos – A Mexican restaurant in the heart of a German community in Washington state a few miles from the Canadian Border. How strange is that? The food was quite good after my companions realized Los Camperos did not serve TexMex. It’s more like New Mexico cusine but a little different.
  • Gustav’s – If your in a German community eating sausages and potatoes is a must. Gustav’s is the place to do it.
  • The Alley Cafe – This is where Kevin and Trish dined on their wedding night. However they always thought they dined at Los Camperos because they had a photo looking out a window at The Alley Cafe hung a sign for Low Camperos. Turns out Los Camperos is directly abobe The Alley Cafe.
  • J. J. Hill in the Icicle Lodge – more German food. This time I ordered the schnitzel. very tasty.

Click here for more photos


Victoria Harbour