Apr 252012

It has been suggested that I sound “too preachy.” Yeah, that should have been expected. Let me introduce myself a little more to those of my neighbors who, so far, have only smiled and waved.

As you probably have noticed, there’s nothing like a conservative preacher, any teacher, or a flaming liberal, to tell you just how things ought to be.

First, I was actually the closest thing to a conservative preacher in my young manhood. I was raised in a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian faith that believed in the ordination of all lay ministers. During that time, I led adult Bible study groups every week for years. For the record, the brotherhood and I eventually saw fit to part ways.

Second, I have also regularly taught children and adults. I spent almost two decades in computer work for Amoco Oil Company, where I designed and led many technical classes. Next, I spent a decade as an herbalist – telling people how to live. I was also a substitute teacher for several years and am married to a career public school teacher.

While I was with Amoco, they gave me a series of career-development psychology tests. In one of them, my top two archetype identifications were found to be “Evangelist” and “Warrior.” That was tough news for someone with social anxieties.

The counselor had a hard time putting his finger on my potential. He mumbled his way through the obvious, but I knew he was thinking: missionary to the heathens, tilting at windmills, and questing hero. In the end, Amoco buried me deep in the corners of several computer rooms. I managed to make trouble anyway.

And finally, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve become that odd duck in the middle of rural Iowa, a flaming liberal. Find me a tree and I’ll hug it. Fear not, my good neighbors. I am a gentle soul and, as my wife says, “the nicest man I’ve ever met.” I’ll put it out there and you can buy it or not. I quit putting my foot in actual doors a long time ago. Love, DavidS

©2012, David Satterlee

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Jun 112011

I wrote this poem in 2004 for a grandchild. You know who you are. And, you’re still welcome to visit at every opportunity!

Friends, please help me to share this video.

Agents and publishers, this needs to be a picture book.

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May 312011

By David Satterlee

Growing up is all about existential angst. Yes, that’s where to start. Not with the spitting up, crawling, and preverbal babbling. The real issues of growing up are: What’s it all about? To be or not to be? What do you want to be when you grow up? What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? As a crusty old man looking back, I can see that I repeatedly died to myself and was reborn in progressive and incremental stages. [Below, I will assign colors to these stages for later reference.]

I grew up as “young brother perfect” in an unconventional Christian fundamentalist faith. The angels were watching and God knew everything I did. I wanted a pony in the Kingdom. If I wasn’t good, I couldn’t live in the New World. [purple]

I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Life was a constant struggle with “worldly” people. I wouldn’t celebrate your pagan holidays, enter one of your churches, and would not spend much time with your children because they were “bad associations.” I knew in primary school that college would only corrupt my faith; it was clearly not for me. [red]

By my teen years, I was past “Aren’t you a cute little boy with your Watchtower.” and into earning approval inside the congregation. We were Bible students. We were committed to getting it right and we were better than you. To prove it, we would wake you up on Saturday mornings to tell you so right to your face. We wanted nothing much to do with your corrupt world. We were witnesses of our God and it was wonderful. [blue]

It was appalling. Something about it was not right. As a young adult, earning a living and caring for my family, I was determined to make a success of myself. Life was exciting. I had interesting technical work. I read the news, studied every new field that caught my interest. I still had ambitions to advance in the congregation, but it was not making me joyful. A life of Godly devotion was supposed to be as good as it got. I explored the self-help and leadership literature. I checked out books on psychology and relationships. I sneaked home books on meditation and Zen. [orange]

Somewhere in this process, some author mentioned Ken Wilber and I made a note of it. I searched him out at Borders Books and bought The Essential Ken Wilber. It was strange and hard to chew, but there was something essentially coherent in there. I was hooked and read better than 2,500 pages of Wilber before my orgy of introspection and expanded horizons had wound down. My world had changed. I now belonged to all of humanity and could examine others’ beliefs without cringing and love them without reserve. [green]

Ken Wilber reports that he faced his own disillusionments (with science) but completed school with degrees in chemistry and biology. He explored Buddhism and tried to find a way to reconcile it with Western thought. In 1973, he wrote The Spectrum of Consciousness and began lecturing and teaching workshops about the hidden unities and relationships of disparate scientific fields, philosophies, and world views.

After the death of his wife from cancer in 1987, Ken isolated himself and spent over a decade in intense research and voluminous writing. He reads voraciously and writes loquaciously. He writes from depths of personal clarity, expresses himself with a mix of well-ordered precision and poetic exuberance, and exudes unabashed authority.

Ken Wilber has a special interest in mysticism and what Aldous Huxley called “The Perennial Philosophy.” The man walks his talk. He meditates and achieves altered states of consciousness at will. He does all this without abandoning Western standards of scientific inquiry. Any page in one of his books may discuss authorities as disparate as Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Clare Graves, Chogram Trungpa Rinpoche, Jean Piaget, or Plotinus.

Although this may sound like an unholy mess, Ken has borrowed, trimmed and constructed a philosophical framework for organizing his observations. He first assumes that every view has a discernable orientation and something worthwhile to contribute. The first construct of his framework is a four quadrant matrix using internal vs. external orientation against singular vs. plural reference. Essentially, these indicate internal perception, external observation, closed cultural views, and open societal views. He adds multiple lines of progressive development such as emotional, mathematical, musical, and spiritual. Development along any of these lines follows predictable stages such as Jane Lovinger’s stages of ego development. He distinguishes between temporary peak experience states and permanently achieved stages. He allows for both feminine compassionate/relationship approaches and masculine agentic/justice approaches to achieved states.

Ken has also incorporated the research of Clare Graves (as developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan into “Spiral Dynamics.”) Spiral Dynamics describes and assigns color codes to the successive world views that are experienced as individuals and cultures mature. Beige for instinctual reactions; purple for spirits and superstition; red for survival struggle; blue for obedience to authority (including religious conformity); orange for strive/drive ambition; green for sense of united open community; yellow for ability to observe the dynamics of complex systems; and turquoise for an integrated sense of being and belonging while within life’s chaos.

Now, I can see that I have been developing through predictable transformations of worldview. This suggests a structure for growing toward future stages. The existential angst is receding but not gone. I am a brother to all things. My responsibility is to learn and love; to improve myself and leverage that growth into the goal of enlightenment for all sentient beings. There remain unimaginable mysteries. There remains too little time in this flesh. What can I do? What can it mean? What will come next?

Copyright 2011, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0), which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Dec 232010

Sample Time

By David Satterlee

The miserable old man lay in his hospital bed, staring at the clock on the wall. The nurse had just left after waking him from a vivid dream to take a sample of his blood. They were probably checking to see if he still had elevated amylase and lipase in his blood; indicating pancreatitis. “Hell,” he mused, his stomach was still distended; anyone could see that. “Hell,” he mused, “if the disease doesn’t kill me, all this bloodletting will.”

He hated that dream. It haunted him from before he retired; before his wife had died; before he started drinking. Always, he was railing against an illogical way of doing things at the gasoline refinery where he used to work. Sometimes he was complaining to other engineers; occasionally to supervisors, managers, or even the working stiffs whose only concern was to follow orders. Always, nobody seemed to think that his issues were important enough to worry about, to say nothing of making the major changes for which he lobbied. It was the way that things had been done for years. It had become codified into operational software and work habits. Nobody seemed to care—nobody had ever cared except that noble champion of what was right and true that he used to be; this impotent, disillusioned, and very desolate old man that he was now.

In his dream, the engineer, still an earnest, idealistic, and fastidiously through young man, is speaking: “I have reviewed our new plant-wide data acquisition and reporting system. It has several design flaws, related to time, that need to be corrected. The first issue has to do with sample times for analytical laboratory tests. The system is designed to record real-time measurements of continuous process temperature, flow, pressure, and level at intervals down to one second. One of the benefits used to justify our new data acquisition system is the ability to incorporate laboratory test results, such as boiling point or viscosity, into the same displays and reports as the continuously metered measurements. The problem is that our laboratory preprints labels to be placed on sample bottles and these labels only show the time that the sample is scheduled to be picked up at the unit by the lab’s collection truck. It would be nice if we recorded the time that the lab test was completed, but that is a minor issue. The major issue is that the only thing that ties the sample test results to our continuous process measurements is the actual time that the sample was removed from the process stream! And… there is no provision for recording the actual sample time. When we look at the ‘sample time’ on a report, we are actually seeing the scheduled sample pick-up time. It gets worse. Because all samples are due at the same time, unit operators begin drawing these samples early, sometimes hours ahead of pick-up, at arbitrary and variable times according to their individual convenience. I was shocked to discover another distressing issue. For whatever reasons, some units keep reserves of previously-extracted process samples, which they send to the lab instead of new samples. Do you remember the fire that shut down our catalytic hydrocracker last week? The reports showed that two hours after the upset, while all the vessels were still being dumped to flare, several product streams, although having zero flow, were still on spec.

“Secondly, we are corrupting our data every time we shift to or from Daylight Savings Time. The policy is to simply reset the system clock. The result is that every spring, the units appear to disappear for an hour, before reappearing out of nowhere, and every fall, every instruments’ measurements for one hour are intermixed with their history for the previous hour. Both events make hourly and daily averages inaccurate. We are responsible to OSHA and the EPA to maintain accurate records that can be used to reconstruct and analyze exception events. Especially in the fall, we are systematically making that impossible. Unfortunately, the only solution I can think of is to operate refinery processes on Standard Time even when everything switches to Daylight Savings.” And so it went, in one version or another, to one person or another; the argument sound, the effort futile.

The nurse had interrupted that dream. He would have been grateful for that interruption, but for the irony, as we shall see. It had happened in this way: “Time for a blood draw Mr. Dawson.” Glancing at the wall clock, he challenged her, “It’s only 5:06 in the morning. I thought Doctor Wallent had charted it for 7:00 o’clock.” Nurse Betty looked annoyed. “It’s okay, it won’t make any difference. I’ve got a lot to do before going off-shift so I’m getting some of my work done early. And besides, I’ve actually got four patients with blood draws scheduled for seven o’clock; I can’t do all of them at the same time, can I?” This seemed to settle the issue.

Being a well-trained professional phlebotomist, Nurse Betty did an efficient and commendable job of extracting her sample from Mr. Dawson’s right-side median cubital vein on her first try, and with a minimum of discomfort to the patient. Nurse Betty put a pre-printed label on the sample tube and started packing to leave. Mr. Dawson scowled with annoyance. “Aren’t you going to write down the actual time that you took my blood sample?”

Nurse Betty scowled with annoyance. “It’s preprinted. They don’t give me a place to enter that information. Like I said, it’s not a problem; don’t worry about it.” She didn’t realize that Mr. Dawson had been worrying about precisely this for several decades. Nurse Betty had the grace to turn down the lights when she left at 5:13.

Mr. Dawson, realized that the universe had just shown him, as clearly as two billboards in a row with bright flashing lights, that now was the time to finally do something definitive about his frustration. He poured himself a glass of tepid water. He fastidiously wiped up the ring of moisture left by a little remaining condensation on the outside of his plastic pitcher. Fishing in the drawer of his bedside table, he removed all the tablets of narcotic painkiller that he had been palming. He took them methodically; each swallowed with a sip of water. He finished at 5:18, coded at 5:56, and was pronounced dead at about 6 o’clock or somewhere thereabouts. Mr. Dawson’s corpse was logged into the basement morgue at 6:42. Nobody ever noticed or cared that a laboratory report showed that his blood, supposedly drawn 18 minutes later at 7:00 am, contained elevated enzyme levels.

Writing context:
The author’s actual recurring dream. It’s Monday, December 20, 2010. I woke up at 5:06 am with the same damn dream and couldn’t go back to sleep. Here is the crux of the matter: it was a real issue. And, I still can’t do anything about it but whine to another audience.

Copyright 2010 David Satterlee

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Oct 272010

On Being a Fan of “The West Wing”

by David Satterlee

My wife and I are both fans of the television series The West Wing. We discovered, after getting married, that we had both aggressively managed our schedules to avoid missing an episode. In our five years together, we have twice dedicated summer evenings to a private West Wing marathon, and are overdue for a repeat

For five years, the series entertained and taught us. The plots were articulate, witty, and filled with human pathos that spanned the range from individual to international. The sets were meticulous reproductions of White House architecture and furnishings. The writers and actors developed believable and empathetic characters.

The West Wing dramatically portrayed the constant stress of dedicated public servants sacrificing to achieve goals for the public good, while trying to maintain relationships with each other, associates, and sometimes, belatedly, their families. I especially enjoyed the voyeuristic sense of seeing the intimate reality of the meat grinder at work in the sausage making of government.

Each episode crafted a major theme of political change-making with several related subplots mirrored in the lives of the characters. It was masterfully done. Each episode also taught lessons in personal and political issues. For instance, after the Islamist attack on Manhattan’s twin towers (and other targets), a special timely episode named “Jacob and Esau ” was inserted into the schedule, highlighting the relationships between Christianity and Islam.

Curiously, the president was originally intended to be a largely off-stage character. However, Martin Sheen’s early performances were so powerful, and portrayed such a profound gravitas, that several episodes were reshot and reedited to include him as a major character. Sheen played an unlikely Democratic economics professor-cum-candidate who struggles to let his personal rectitude light the way for himself, his staff, and the nation. The writers regularly demonstrated their literary and political acumen by subtle insider references such as the use of “better angels” from the last line of a Lincoln speech, while a subordinate criticizes the President’s compromise on an issue.

Watching The West Wing is much more than standard boob-tube fare. It is a thought provoking study of civics and character; it is a privilege.

Copyright 2009 David Satterlee

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Oct 052010

A Man of Letters

by David Satterlee
[Inspired by a story told to my sister, Joyce Mock, by my father, Bill Satterlee. (Just to keep family history clear, I “invented” the ending part.)]

“Papaw, will you tell me a story?”

“Sure, sweetie. How about the one where I wrestled alligators, or how about the story of the troll and the princess?”

“No, Papaw; you know the one I like.”

“As you wish, dear. When I was a younger man, I worked on a railroad crew and my job was to repair railroad bridges. It was very hard work and we didn’t have all the large machines that they use these days. But, I was tall and strong, it was good honest work, and it paid pretty good so everything was just fine. Every time a train came by, we had to be sure that the bridge was strong enough to hold it. And, we all had to get out of the way, so we would stand beside the track as the train slowed down and went by.

“Back then, there was a big war going on and soldiers often traveled on passenger trains. There was a strict rule that soldiers weren’t allowed to get off the train until they reached their destination. This was all before there were cell phones or computers. So, if a soldier wanted to send a message to his family or his girlfriend, he would have to write a letter and mail it. Well, soldiers on long train trips had lots of time to write letters, but they could not get off to mail their letters. Whatever were they to do?”

“Oh dear, whatever DID they do?”

“Because the trains slowed way down for the bridge construction, soldiers would lean out the windows, throw letters to us, and ask us to please mail them. Sometimes the letters had stamps on them and sometimes they didn’t. But, that didn’t matter much to me. Whenever I got to the next town, I would just buy a few stamps and then put the letters in a mailbox. I always thought about how much his friends and loved ones would want to get a letter from that soldier while he was away from home.

“Sometimes, a soldier would throw me a letter that wasn’t finished. Sometimes the envelope wasn’t even sealed. Maybe he was still writing it when he realized that this might be his last chance in a long time to send his letter out. When a letter wasn’t complete, I would sometimes add a few lines to, you know, finish it off right.

“And then, one day, I was finishing off a letter to someone who sounded like she was very sweet and very pretty. I looked at the address and discovered, to my surprise, that she lived in the very next town that we were coming too. Why buy a stamp when I could deliver it myself? I worked especially hard to do my best job of finishing it.

“The next day, I found her address and I knocked at her door. She was very sweet, and very pretty too. She took the letter from my hand and read it right while I stood there. I guess I must have finished it off okay, because that is how I met your Mamaw.”

[The title had several iterations. It started out as “The Troll and the Princess” as an allusion to the amount of time that the storyteller spent under bridges before finding his princess. In the end, I settled on “A Man of Letters” as a tribute to a wonderful father who never went past 8th grade, but spent the prime of his life at hard work to provide for the family he loved.]

Copyright 2010, David Satterlee

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Oct 052010

The “Mind of Man” Labyrinth

by David Satterlee

It seemed like a good idea. I built a labyrinth. I’d been thinking about it all winter. It wouldn’t need to be very complicated; just a path mowed in the grass and borders not mown to define the path. A labyrinth is a good thing. It’s somewhere to walk in circles and nobody complains that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s not a maze because it doesn’t have any dead ends and you can always get back out just by keeping on the path.

The path switches back and forth. It’s balancing to the mind and calming to the heart. The path is like real life; it doesn’t get you directly to anywhere, it turns you back when you least expect, it leads you inexorably to the inevitable end. Sometimes you just have to quit doing everything better and just do what comes next.

My labyrinth isn’t some gothic mystical thing. It isn’t a form of worship or prayer. Oh, there’s some symbolism: if you saw it from above, it looks like the convolutions of the surface of the human brain. You enter from the brain stem (near the driveway) and walk toward the amygdala in the center. There are extra folds in the areas of visual and aural processing. It’s an original design and very clever.

I wrote an article for the local newspaper (included below). They didn’t use it.

The whole thing is 60 foot in diameter and sits in the vacant lot that my wife owns next to our house. It cost me 30 foot of string and 2 cans of grass paint that I already had. The funny thing is that the only times I walk it are when I mow the path. It seemed like a good idea.


I was interested to read about a grant awarded to the Gifted and Talented program for the construction of a labyrinth in Chariton. [Chariton Herald-Patriot, Thursday, April 14, 2005, page 7]

This spring, Dianna and I constructed a grass labyrinth on our property in Russell. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry.

Note: the “WWLL” in the Internet URL below is NOT a typo. A picture of the labyrinth is attached. A higher resolution copy is available on request.

David Satterlee
Russell, IA 50238

641-###-#### (Private – Home)

Russell Labyrinth Available to the Public

Russell residents David and Dianna Satterlee created a grass labyrinth on their property two weeks ago. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry. Although it looks like a maze, the 60-foot diameter labyrinth has no dead ends. It is intended to create mental balance and relaxation while following the reversing folds of the walkway.

This “Mind of Man” labyrinth lay-out is an original design. Visitors may park on the street and enter it at the “brain-stem” on the south side. “Switchbacks at the sides and far end represent auditory and visual processing centers in the brain” explained David Satterlee. “Viewed from overhead, the curves and turns resemble the folds in the surface of the brain.” Additional information can be found at the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at http://wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org/

David is a Natural Health Writer and retired Computer Systems Manager. Dianna is the Music Teacher at Russell Community School. She says that their labyrinth is a great low-impact way to get some exercise, unwind, and relieve stress. Dianna added, “We began researching labyrinths last year but didn’t have the resources to do anything complicated. We laid it out using a center post, string, and a can of grass paint. Concepts from high school geometry let us do things like bisect angles. David mows the path every few days but the grass separating the paths is allowed to grow.”

The Satterlee’s labyrinth is on private property but is available for “respectful public use” when it is daylight and dry. It is located in the lot next to ############# in Russell, Iowa; just 5 miles east of Chariton and 2 miles south of US 34. There is room for several cars to park on the street. They request that no tobacco be used on the property.

A planned labyrinth in Chariton was previously reported (4/14/2005 p. 7).

[Note: This was written in 2005. We moved away; the labyrinth has been mown over for several years now. It isn’t there anymore. I have removed location and contact information to avoid disturbing the current residents.]

Copyright 2005, 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

Sep 192010

A Small Collection of Cinquains

Written for Dianna Satterlee’s 5th grade Language Arts class

A cinquain is a poetic form written with 5 lines having 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables respectively. The first and last lines are complementary. The second line may have two words in contrast.

About the beauty of North Carolina

Rocky, cascades
Dancing waters falling;
Gleaming in the early morning
Sun light.

About The Teacher

Happy leader.
Guiding her new children;
Making learning fun because she
Wants to.

About Myself

Constant reader.
Always gaining knowledge;
Seeking wisdom and to be a

Copyright 2009 by David Satterlee


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Sep 182010

Where there was once a clean-cut young boy with a lot of promise, there now dwells a rascally old curmudgeon pondering the nature of promises, life, the universe and everything.

David buzzcutdws bushman

David holds the posture that nothing is sacred while holding faith that everything is sacred. His stories tend to carry you into the musical rhythms and harmonies of language while exploring the tender frailties of our nature… before dropping you on your head.

You are urged to never trust the gods at play, never trust a writer, and never eat yellow snow. Blessings to you and blessings to all. Thank you for your kind attentions.

Copyright 2010 by David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.