Monday, November 30, 2009

Ancestors: Giving Thanks

Today I feel especially thankful for my ancestors. For the lives they lived, the examples that they set, and for the hardships that they endured. I've tried in various posts to 'liken' some of the recorded history that I've been able to read to my life - to make it more real. I've been reading 'They Seek A Country' by David V. Wiebe (pronounced get the idea I hope. ). It is a history of the Mennonites, which while not being strictly my ancestors, lived life's in close parallel to the Lutheran/Evangelicals in South Russia, and I think that they left their homelands for similar reasons and traveled along similar roads. I'm going to quote a few sections as the true experiences that are related here are so much more powerful and poignant than any imagining can be.

Anabaptist Hymn Der Ausbund, No. 31 (written in 1528 by Leonard Schiemer before his execution for his beliefs)

We wander in the forest dark
with dogs upon our track
and like the captive silent lamb
Men bring us prisoner back.
They point to us amid the throng
and with their taunts offend
And long to let the sharpened ax
On Heritics decend. (1)

I just can't imagine the memories that this must have brought to mind. It is hard to imagine this being sung in a church service. This was a long time back, and the Anabaptists during the time that this was written were in Holland. This is still before they were called Mennonites. Menno Simmons would leave the Catholic Church and join the Anabaptists and prove to be such a stabilizing influence and provide such comfort that they came to be called Mennists, and later Mennonites, in about 18 years.

The Bible salesman in 'O Brother Where Art Thou' utters a great truth as he beats Delmar and Everet with a good sized tree branch. He smacks Delmar and Everet looks up from his food and asks 'What's up Big Dan' and Big Dan says 'It's all about the money, boys' as he proceeds to beat them bloody. So often when you see people getting a beating in one way or another, it is all about the money.

So it was with the Prussian's and the Mennonites in the late 1500's and early 1600's, and then again with the Russians in the late 1700's. In Holland, the Mennonites were mostly farmers, and farmers that specialized in draining the low swampy land and turning it into productive farmland. As they move to Prussia, they moved onto lands belonging to rich land owners, and they were welcomed and made to feel at home. They were promised that they could have religious freedom, and not have to have their sons serve in the military.

The Mennonites responded by rolling up their collective sleeves and working hard for several generations. They drained large areas and put them under cultivation. They planted orchards, hedges, built homes and outbuildings. Often they were dairy farmers. In 1774 a census showed 80,000 acres in Mennonite hands.

Back to Wiebe:

"The native Prussians now became jealous of the thrifty Duch, who persisted in retaining their Low-German along with the required High-German. Both the State and the Church determined to stop the further expansion of these people. Towards the close of the eighteenth century (1700's) strict militatry and property laws were enacted. Military exemptions were withdrawn and heavy taxes imposed. Mennonites were forbidden to purchase land except from other Mennonites and they were not to propagate their faith aside from their own ranks. The Kaiser also decreed that children born out of mixed marriages could not be taken into the Mennonite ChurchFurthermore, the government collected fedes for the State Church along with other taxes from the Mennonites." (2)

About this time, Catherine the Great's (Empress of Russia) army was throwing the Ottoman Turks out of Southern Russia. Catherine was a German Princess and wanted to establish a hardworking, educated, loyal population in this area. She invited most of Germany to come and farm in the area, promising about 180 acres, 500 roubles to help estblish themselves, and 120 oak boards per family for building purposes. I don't know how much she promised actually, but that was the offer that found it's way to Prussia and tempted the Mennonites.

It wasn't that easy to leave. At first, only those with no land were allowed to go. It's always all about the money, and the land owners in Prussia didn't want their farms to empty out and go to weeds. The first contingent of emmigrants to leave Prussia for Russia consisted of 228 families. But somewhat like the handcart pioneers, these were the poorest and most unprepared of the population.

They left early in the year, before diplomatic permission had been given, without good leaders, without a doctor, and without a minister. They had bouts of disease and even starvation during their trip. Here is an old rhyme in Low-German that kind of tells the tale:

"Geprachet, gegeft un geborgt,
Genoamme un dan vada vaukofft;
So sen Foadiki, un Moutiki, entlich,
Fon Dietschlaund noam wille Russland geflocht.

Begged, given, borrowed, and taken,
Destitute, sick, hungry, and forsaken;
Thus father and mother fled from Prussia,
To the wild steppes of Southern Russia."
Free Translation (3)

Well, I've put off posting this because there is so much more to tell. But that can wait for another post. Sometime I think is would be a good idea to have our family reunion be a trek. We could walk along the old handcart pioneer trails in Wyoming, literally walking some miles in our ancestors shoes..... yeah, now you will think Lake Powell isn't so bad right?

(1) They Seek A Country' by David V. Wiebe pg. 19
(2) They Seek A Country' by David V. Wiebe pg. 20
(3) They Seek A Country' by David V. Wiebe pg. 23

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Great Excuse for a Visit

We made the trek to Provo today to see our newest relative (grandson) . He is a cute little bundle, and I think that Annie will have better pictures. It was a nice trip and a fun visit. Here is a short video clip.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back Yard Report

One of my charming daughters asked to see a few pictures of the back yard, as I have been spending a lot of time there, and just finished two gate that will give us drive in access. So, here it is. I think a foot of snow would make it look a lot better.

Monday, November 9, 2009

If Only, If Only I Could Write

'If Only' is the blog of a good friend who putters with poetry. I hope you enjoy his work. The latest one 'Helaman M.D' is kind of a tribute and thanks to a cadre of doctors throughout the world that watch over the missionaries wherever they are. They don't usually do the primary care, but are on hand as representatives of the Church to ensure that appropriate care is given. I had no idea, but two of his boys needed medical care on their missions, and these doctors were right there to consult with local doctors.

Early Morning Thoughts andThe Old German Bible

Stumbling around this morning, getting ready for work in the dark and cool house, I had to wonder about my life and how I live, and how very easy it is. Well, when you get up at 5 in November it will always be kind of cold and dark. But I just turn on the light, turn on the stove, put the bread in the toaster and presto-changeo I have breakfast.

I've been reading a little about Mom's Mennonite forebears. They started out back in Flanders in the Netherlands in the 1500's. The book sums up their migration to Danzig area in a small paragraph. It was about a 600 mile trip, as the crow flies, and I suspect that as the ox walked it was much longer. It's possible, but we don't know, that they went by boat.

I'm sure the author didn't mean to trivialize their lives and accomplishments - he probably just didn't have much in the way of documentation. No stories, no names.... just a general history.

And so in the dark of the morning, I don't know anything either. But I wonder a lot. They probably got up before the sun, but I imagine that the dad and the boys went out in the cold and the dark to take care of the animals. The mom and the girls lit the lamps and built the fire up, heated water, made a breakfast - but they got up, there was work to do. I imagine that it was often cold and rainy and the boy's feet would be wet before they got to the barn. The wind would be bitter, and it would be with relief that they would close the door behind them and breathe in the warm smell of cows and hay.

The dad would take the lantern and hang it up on a rafter to give a feeble light that left the walls in shadows, but allowed the cows to be fed and milked. The dad would probably milk three cows and each of the boys would milk one. In less than an hour they would be back in the house, now lamp lit and starting to get warm, at least by the fire. The cats, at least were happy for the morning milking as they gathered around the milkers and waited for a squirt of warm milk into their mouths.

Breakfast would probably be oatmeal, or cooked wheat with cream, and they would all be hungry. They would ask a blessing on the food, and probably the boys and girls would tease one another. Kids will do those things. I wonder if it was good natured teasing that would bring a smile to the parents faces and a kind but unmistakable look to keep it in bounds, or if it was mean spirited and made the parents exasperated to where they would send some children out to find a switch..... Since it is morning in my world, and I'm not ready for a bunch of hate and discontent, I will make it good natured teasing, and I'll make the mother shush them a little and the father bring out the old bible.

Wait. It's in the early 1500's. It is likely that not many can read. Likely that there is no bible or any book in the house. But again, this is my morning mirage, and maybe it is the early 1600's and their bible looks a lot like the bible that Annie got at her grandma's estate sale. This one would be in Dutch probably, although if it was in Swahili it couldn't be harder to read than Annie's German bible. But they can read it, and today's story is ......yes, The Flood, in honor of the pounding rain outside.

And so a day of labor would begin. Sewing, spinning, weaving, tanning, carving, preserving, butchering, feeding, building..... the list is endless.

Well, I have spent so much time with my musings that I'm almost late to work. But little things will trigger these musings. Little touch stones in our lives. If that old bible could talk..... and it is probably about 1870 vintage rather than 1600's. Still, it serves as a reminder of the people who laid the foundations for the easy life that we lead.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's All About Soda

You are going to like this This guy is cool. He must be crushed. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tim Hawkins Videos

I haven't heard of him before today, but he is kind of funny.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Sunday Night Update - Lake Powell

It has been a pretty busy month. We are sitting quietly blogging and surfing with a warm fire nearby, and we are both pretty beat.

It started with a trip to Lake Powell - the Kokopelli Cruise and Messabout. This usually involves a weekend of beach camping and day sailing, then the more adventurous start up or down the channel, according to the current plan and sail, row or paddle anywhere between 5 and 10 miles, then camp and do it again. Outboards aren't prohibited, but sort of indicate your status as a polliwog, as Dad would probably say. We were pollywog's on this trip for the first day as there was basically no wind, and we cheated and used the motor for the second day too, and least for part of it as the wind was directly from the South, and that was where we were heading. So when we could sail, we did, but mostly motored as we wanted to get to the camp site in reasonable time. Monday night was our night to cook a meal for 24 people, and we didn't want it complicated by dark.

I had dutch ovened some chicken thighs and legs and then separated the meat out, and did my best to imitate Andrew and Caren's pulled pork sandwich filler with chicken. I put the meat in ziplocks and froze them solid. On Monday night, they still had a few ice crystals in them. We stopped by Green River and picked up some melons, and Annie cut them in chunks and made the melon shells into decorative bowls. The other ladies gave her the prize for presentation.

We had originally planned to stay all week and do more exploring, but we were invited to attend a special event in Salt Lake and had decided to leave on Wednesday, to make sure that we would be there on time. Then we heard that Wednesday was going to be cold with a lot of wind from the North - and we wanted to go back North to the marina. So we decided to leave on Tuesday while the wind was from the South.

When the wind is up, sailing is quite a bit of work. It is like having a strong and fairly unbroken horse on the end of a rope. By the end of the day, you can be pretty tired. We put a reef in the sail before we even raised it, and when the wind strengthened in the afternoon, we realized that we should have put one more in when we stopped for lunch. But all's well that ends well, even if it is a little too exciting in the middle. Annie might try to tell you a story of how the boat jibed and how we were thrown about like kittens in a barrel, but you know she sometimes like to dress up a otherwise boring experience with a little extra description.

This was the first real wind that we had to test the boat. How does she sail? With the wind from the side or back (downwind or on a reach) she sails like the dickens. Gaff rigged boats do that - there is a lot of sail, and away you go. Upwind, not so much. Gaff rigs aren't that great upwind (close hauled) and this boat is no exception. Plus, she has a lot of windage from the big roomy cabin and not such a skillful sailor at the helm. Handicaps abound. So I when we had to go upwind, I just kicked on the outboard, and we dropped the sail, and cheated. Maybe the new sail will be better, or maybe I will learn to trim it better. But we like the cabin, and when they found a baby rattle snake in some driftwood, Annie was glad we weren't sleeping ashore in a tent. Everything is a compromise, boat designs included. So far Annie happy with a snug, clean cabin, and doesn't seem to be overly put out that her husband is not a real red blooded sailor and has to use a motor to go upwind. So, if it doesn't bother her, and she doesn't think me too much less of a man, then it doesn't bother me.

We got the boat back on the trailer, despite the waves trying to knock it off and got home pretty late, with something to think about during the many long days to come back in the beige cubicle.

Here are a few pictures for you to enjoy. The canoeists have quite a few miles on them. I'm sure none of them will see 60 again, and most of them won't see 65, yet they paddled over 18 miles on Monday in rough water in windy conditions. I was pretty amazed.

Mike and Michelle are in their Sea Pearl. Mike is a retired software engineer, Michelle is a midwife that goes up to Alaska in the winter to deliver babies in remove villages.

This is Jim Thayer. Jim has been sailing for many years. Here he is, 76 or 77 years old, with a bad heart and an cryogenic oxygen bottle built into the boat. His son and grandson came along but Jim sails his own boat. Quite a remarkable guy.

And here are a couple of newbies. This picture is actually from last year, but we haven't changed that much, and it is the same boat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ancestors: Menno Simons

The story of the Mennonites is an interesting one. It began with a man named Menno Simons. He is probably not really one of your ancestors, but he did start the church that took his name. Annie's ancestors, the Schroeders and the Schmidts, and some others were believers and that had a lot to do with where and how they lived. So I'm going to start with a little history of Menno, and work out from there. The story is way too big for one post.

Menno was born in 1496. He lived in the Netherlands in an area called Freisland. He became a priest in the Catholic Church in 1515 or 1516 - which would make him 19 or 20. I also have him becoming a priest in 1524. So I am guessing that he might have started his studies at 19 or so, and been ordained at 24 or so.

The Netherlands, at this time was torn by wars and lawlessness. The Hapsburgs, the Duke of Guelders, and the Duke of Saxony-Meissen were all fighting for power and control, and the people were caught in the middle. There is way too much history for this short post, but suffice it to say that war was pretty personal in those days, and that when the people were caught between the armies that they suffered greatly. No matter who eventually won the war, they always lost.

I'm going to quote from Wikipedia about Menno's exposure to the Anabaptist's, and his eventual rejection of Catholicism:

"Menno's first knowledge of the concept of "re baptism", which he said "sounded very strange to me", came in 1531. This came through the means of hearing of the beheading of Sicke FreerksSnijder at Leeuwarden for being "rebaptized". A renewed search of the scriptures left MennoSimons believing that infant baptism is not in the Bible. He discussed the issue with his pastor, searched the Church Fathers, and read the works of Martin Luther and Heinrich Bullinger. While still pondering the issue, he was transferred to Witmarsum. Here he came into direct contact with Anabaptists, preaching and practicing believer's baptism. Later, some of the M√ľnsterite disciples came there as well. While he regarded them as misled and fanatical, he was drawn to their zeal and their view on the Bible, the Church, and discipleship. When his brother Pieter was among a group of Anabaptists killed near Bolsward in 1535, Menno experienced a spiritual and mental crisis. He said he "prayed to God with sighs and tears that He would give to me, a sorrowing sinner, the gift of His grace, create within me a clean heart, and graciously through the merits of the crimson blood of Christ, he would graciously forgive my unclean walk and unprofitable life…"[5] "

It is hard to imagine how very different it was to live back in the 1500's - or even the 1800's. Now it is hardly a matter to raise an eyebrow if a Lutheran marries a Baptist, or if a Mennoite marries a Methodist. I guess eyebrows are still raised if one of them marries a Mormon, but that is a post for another day. When I was growing up in the early and mid 60's, there was still a lot of strong feelings about Missouri Synod Lutherans marrying an American Synod Lutheran. You still sent Christmas cards etc, but you had to watch those American Synod guys - they were pretty liberal. I say all of this not to poke fun (too much) but to try to illustrate that changing from being a Catholic Priest to being and Anabaptist was not just changing religion, it was like changing species. Yes, Bill decided to become a Romulan. Or maybe a Vulcan.... Klingon? Chimpanzee? You left your family and friends behind. It was Chava eloping with the christian Fyedka in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. It was hope and heartbreak rolled up together. Bittersweet.

Leaving the Catholic Church was leaving the mother ship. It was leaving not only the predominant faith, but the Church that stood behind kings, the Church who had many Popes that were in reality powerful kings in their own right. You were leaving a church that didn't like quitters, and might well ask pointed questions, and pull off your arms if they didn't like the answer. Leaving the Catholic Church pretty much consigned you to hell on earth in many ways, if not hell eternally. So it wasn't something that was done on a whim, or without thought.

Annie's family belonged the the Alexanderwohl congregation of the Mennonite Church. This congregation is remarkable in that it's roots can be traced back to the mid 1550's. It started in Flanders, in the Netherlands and moved many times. Each time a move was made care was taken that none were left behind. When the different branches of my family moved, first from Germany to Russia, and then from Russia to America, they moved as family units. When the families in the Alexanderwohl Church moved, they all moved, or all that wanted to go.

Well it is late now, and I'm about ready for bed. A lot of the early history of the Church is kind of sketchy. Most early histories are a little sparse with the details. That very lack of detail seems to call to me, whether the story is in the Scriptures, or in an old family history. So very much of the story can be lost by not having the details, and not taking the time to try to imagine what really was happening. Let me quote briefly from 'The Story of Alesanderwohl' by David C. Wedel:

"The origin of the Alesanderwohl congregation takes us to Flanders, a province in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. During the years 1556 to 1565 hundreds of these Flemish people fled the northern provinces of the Netherlands because of the severe persecution and settled with many others around Amsterdam. During the first half of the seventeenth centurey, 1600 to 1650, and even before, many of these people migrated to West Prussia. They settled in the Danzig area, between the Vistual and the Nogat rivers.

.... They were promised religious freedom and were welcomed because of their farming abilities. They built beautiful farms, planted orchards , established roads and water canals and their Holland windmills beautified the countryside."

There now, wasn't that easy. in just a few paragraphs we have them easily leaving the faith of their fathers, pulling up stakes and moving to Amsterdam, then West Prussia - this is several hundred miles, and all by wagon. They we have them building houses, farms, road, and canals, and planting orchards, and having beautiful farms. There is nothing wrong with recording all this, but I hope that you will take a little time and think what it takes to plant a garden, yet alone an orchard. How much work is it to spade a garden, how much work to 'establish a canal'. Yikes. They were a hard working, faithful, pious people. I'm sure they had their faults and foibles, but people you can look to for an example of how to live, and what can be accomplished by persistence, consistency, and working together for a common end. People you can be proud to have in your family tree.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scripture Guys - Pioneers

Sometimes when I am reading the scriptures, I find myself so relaxed.....that I wake up with an embarrassed start. But sometimes, and not often, they seem to open up, and I can almost drop into a scene. Today Brother Alstrom caught me coming up for air, and called on me. I had heard him speaking, asking a question and when he called on me, all that I could do is to answer with a stupid 'what?'. For me there is no quick thinking at such a time. I told him that I had been reading ahead, and he had me read some more, which was kind. I suppose he could have had me write on the board or stay after class or something.

What got my attention was in D&C 136, where the Saints are being instructed about going west.
  • They were going to be organized in companies of 100, 50, and 10 with captains of each, and under the direction of the Twelve. So far so good, but think about that for a few minutes. As I looked around our class, I thought, and I apologize for this mean spirited and spiteful thought, but I thought Yikes! I don't know if there are very many that I would want to follow on a camp out, yet alone a trek across the Continent. Yes, I know I am a sinful, faithless judger, but what I'm trying to say here is that many of them must have had the same kind of feelings, but they had a great amount of faith, and went forward with it.
  • Verse 7:" ......then choose out a sufficient number of able-bodied and expert men, to take teams, seeds, and farming utensils, to go as pioneers to prepare for putting in spring crops." No Walmarts, no Safeway.... no nothing. Send out some able guys and have them build instant farms and get a crop in so that there is something to eat. Also, if you are one of the able guys - yikes! Not only do you have to go clear across the country with a wagon, but as soon as you get there, start clearing land and plowing up the sage and greasewood ASAP and get that wheat in the ground. And while you are at it, start digging ditches and diverting water to water those crops. Everything ultimately depends on the Lord, but as one of the 'able-bodied men', I would think that a lot would rest on them as well. Also, these guys came from a place there it rained all the time. Irrigation would have to be pretty new to them. An amazing story tucked into a verse.
  • Verse 8: "Let each company abear an equal proportion, according to the dividend of their property, in taking the poor, the bwidows, the cfatherless, and the families of those who have gone into the army, that the cries of the widow and the dfatherless come not up into the ears of the Lord against this people." Don't forget that most of the able bodied men had gone into the Army, and were marching to Mexico. Quite few more were being sent on ahead to clear, dig, plant and prepare. And still they made sure that the widows and fatherless had someone looking out for them. Home teaching on steroids
Well, there is a lot more there. Section 136 is so condensed - it's like an outline that could be fleshed out to make a book. It was a hard time to be alive, and I think this might have been hard doctrine, and hard council to accept. But they did, most of them anyway. And they crossed the prairies, and the mountains and made the desert bloom like a rose.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Fundemental View on Health Care

I follow a lot of blogs whose main topic is economics. A new comer to my Google Reader is 'The Fundamental View'. Written by a Canadian, I have found this blog gives a different view than we get from our national news sources, and is often the provider of interesting information. I wanted to share this posting with you all, not on my other blogs, but just on the old vanilla blog.

You might want to read this article. It has a bias that I find a lot more believable the the bias that I hear on our news. Health care is a complicated and tricky business and is like an elephant - you need to know if you are talking about the ear, or the tail, or the trunk, or the leg.... elephants have a lot of parts, and you have to know what part you are talking about. It is way too much for me to go into - it might be too much for my poor old brain even to comprehend. But this I believe: An willing heart will find a way, and an unwilling heart will find an excuse.

That is what I hear mostly, excuses. Excuses as to why it is too expensive to provide health care to the people of this country. Excuses as to how crucial it is/was to bail out the banks and then compensate the bankers obscenely. Excuses as to why we went to war in Iraq. (which has cost more than 3 Trillion Dollars (Joseph Stiglitz)), but we have thousands of kids that can't get their teeth fixed because that would be too expensive.

I'm sorry, but as they say in the South, 'That dog won't hunt.' As Big Dan Teage said as he smacked Delmar in the face, 'It's all about the money, boys'. It's not the care that is so expensive, it is how we deliver it. People have become powerful and rich using this health care model, and they don't want to change it. Read the article. I thought there was some food for thought in it.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Another great day. We had the flood and it was really welcome. Annie made
bread, and I made jam and we had a great meal and a great day. Tomorrow I have to buckle down and count the budget beans in the scrubber project.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Saturday Night Update

A great day! It has been a very nice day, just working around the house with Annie. My favorite kind of day. At night you are tired, but can look back on the day with some satisfaction knowing that quite a bit was accomplished.

So here is my list:

  • picked huckleberries with Annie this morning. We hadn't picked them for almost a week, and the bushes were loaded. They are funny little berries - they hide behind every leaf and shadow. So you pick all that you see, and then stand up and stretch a little, and there is a whole new batch. We have enough for maybe a case of jelly jars. The plants are still blooming, and there is a lot of green fruit, so the harvest isn't over.
  • mowed the lawn - nothing special about that.
  • did some weeding in the garden. The zucchini and spaghetti squash are doing really well. Annie got a great recipe for zucchini that we really like.
  • helped Annie spade out a section of lawn for a new iris bed. We took out the grass and mixed in 3 bags of compost. Annie did all the planting.
  • sanded, repaired, and painted the little yellow boat. It is a little one, kind of like Andrew's Aflac, but with a pram bow. I painted her a bright yellow.... and came to the conclusion that we are just not yellow boat people. The light blue looks a lot better. I think that this little boat will be a tender when we are anchored, or if someone wants to do a little fishing without breaking camp. It is light enough to be the roof over the slot top as well.

That is about it. Nothing very earth shaking. We are both pretty tired, and will be heading for bed fairly soon. Church is at 9, so we can't sleep in too late. Monday is another day off, and we will be getting the flood. So, that will be fun.

Towards the end of the month we will be heading for Lake Powell , and the Kokopelli cruise. First one. We have been going to the messabout for about 5 years, but it has always been a one or two day affair. That is a long way to drive for one day! But this year I have saved enough vacation, and there don't seem to be any emergencies, and so we will go on the cruise. We will start at Hite - there is enough water this year to launch there, and then head down the channel to Good Hope Bay. Hopefully we will catch a few bass while we are at it.

So, with that in mind, I will be trying to get the boat and trailer in good condition. New plugs in the outboard, and a wrench and extra plugs in the tool kit. The prudent explorer.

Sleep well, and wake.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Come On In, Boy

For you that have daughters of any age, but especially if you can see the teen years on the horizon, I would like to dedicate the first song on my play list.

Those years are past for me, and I am forever grateful and thankful that my girls ended up with boys (now men) that love them, respect them and try to give them good lives.

The play list is at the bottom of the page. First song. :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hubble Ultra Deep Field Clip

So, when you get to thinking (like the establishment did when Galileo had the audacity to suggest that the earth rotated about the sun) that the world revolves around your world (and we all do), take another look at this clip. It is pretty mind boggling

Monday, July 20, 2009

Just a Day Off

Tomorrow is Monday.... well, for me it is. My schedule flipped and I am working Tues-Friday until October. But that is fine with me. I don't mind at all going to be on Sunday, and knowing that it will be a day out of the cube.

Delta is such a little town. Or maybe it is just the right size. Or maybe we have adapted to it's size. We slept in a little and had to run a couple of errands, so we hopped on our trusty and robust old econo-mountain bikes and rode two blocks to the hardware store to pick up some bug powder. When we wheeled into the back of Ace, who should me meet- leaving on a mountain bike, but our good friend Nathan. Meeting Nathan is always a bright spot in the day, and we had a nice little talk about children, life, bikes, and Delta. Nathan used to be in our ward, and our last boy was the same age as their first boy. But then they moved across the event horizon of the space-time continuum - into the other Stake, and we don't see them more than once or twice a year. I know - in DELTA!

Then a quick run to the drug store for some HPBP medicine, then back home to irrigate. Yes, it is flood day every other Monday. The water was late today, so I went over to Harding's and pulled weeds for a while with Ernie and his friend. They work for Harding doing odd jobs so when he came outside, I quit working and leaned on my hoe and visited a little. Actually, I listened more than visited as Harding is 88 and has a lot of memories. His eyes are about gone now, and that is a great frustration to him, but his mind is clear, and his mind's eye is 20/20.

Today he told me about when he was a young man and in the National Guard at the U of U. We were talking about horses, and he said that he had riding pants as part of his uniform, and that they would also harness up the teams and pull the cassions around as part of their drills. He told me about when he lived on Redwood Road, and it was dirt. How it was a big day if a car went by, and that they were way out in the country. He has a lot of stories, and I find them pretty interesting. I have heard quite a few of them more than several times, but you keep listening and every now an then a new wrinkle, a new story pops up and it gives you a whole new perspective on how the world was. The scary part is when I find myself starting a story with: "This happened... let's see....40, now I was pretty little yet - maybe 50 years ago....." Scary, scary, scary.

The water was late, and it finally came. I made my excuses and came home to clear the little twig jams, and re-dig the ditches where they had filled up when I hoed the row. We got a lot of water, and the back yard is just soaked. Tonight we had chard, broccoli, and zucchini from the garden, and grilled some pork chops. A great dinner.

After the flood, and before dinner, I decided that I had better cut some wood. I had two really big limb sections that were both about 7 feet long, and about 3 feet in diameter. So I fired up the chain saw, and cut them into sections about 12-14 inches long. Yes that was lot of cuts, and a lot of work. Our stove doesn't like big chunks, or long chunks, so I have to cut it up fairly small. The good thing about that is that you have to cut it up fairly small. The temptation is to cut them into fireplace sized chunks 18 inches or so. The cutting is easier, but the splitting is horrible. All of these limbs had the beginning of two or three major branches in them, and they will be hard enough to split even when short. But long... that would be hard.

Well, it is time for bed. No great insights tonight. No pictures, no videos. This is just a short summation of a day at home. These are my best days. My Best Friend is home, and we work together, or work apart and come together to admire the progress or to give each other a drink or a treat. Life is so good with Annie.

Sleep well, and wake.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Perceivers Garden

Most of you know that I have been interested for some time in personality typing a la Briggs-Myers. Being able to understand that we might be sitting next to each other, but seeing a very different world has made me a lot more patient and hopefully understanding. I think it has helped me to be a little more understanding.

After you have studied this system a little, you sometimes have a little flash of understanding as to why you do or don't 'connect' with someone that you work with, are related to, attend church with etc. For me, those little flashes are just great. They can be for preferences that you have in common, or preferences that you have that are different.

For example, Annie connects with Feelers. Their warmth and gentleness are attractive and comforting to her, and the usually 'click'. I can get into great conversation's with INtuitives as we will often find abstract and arcane topics to talk about. I don't do as well with Sensors - OK - but I don't have much to say when the topic turns to sports, and it often does.

Yesterday we had a little flash of understanding about being Perceivers. Perceivers are better at starting projects than they are finishing them. They are not the greatest planners, but they are very adaptable. Those of you that know us can probably see in your mind's eye the many project that we have 'in progress'. Some of you Judges might be in danger of a meltdown if you lived in our world, but it suits us just fine.

We have been working on cleaning up the chaos of taking out a large poplar tree. It has been all day-every day kind of work and we haven't given much else a minute's notice. But yesterday Annie looked that her cucumber plants and saw that the ball bugs had eaten the stems at ground level, and they were dead. On our way back from taking leaves and small branches to the dump, we decided to go to Hinckley and see if the green house there still had any plants. We were in luck - they were going to get rid of the last of the plants that day. We bought 64 plants for $4 and came home. While she planted in the available space in the existing grow boxes, I built a new bed from some of the spare block we had and filled with with garden dirt, peat moss, compost and manure. The plants are a little crowded, but they should climb over the block and spread all over the patio. We bought watermelon, cantaloupe, another melon - lemon something- and some spaghetti squash. That is when we had the flash. We are so well matched. We just dropped the huge project we had going for a few hours and started in another direction. It is still here today, and I have to get busy in a minute or two, but I thought that I would sent out a couple of pictures of our garden and yard. Hope you like them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Big Tree Bites the Dust

Yesterday was kind of a sad day. A friend came over with a big bucket truck and took down our 100+ year old poplar. He brought along three or four sharp little chainsaws, and all the branches were down in about 4 hours. The main trunk still stands, surrounded by piles of small branches with big branch logs laying on top of them in a jumbled, tangled heap.

Annie and I are tree lovers. We live in the desert, and have tried to nurture every little twig that might want to grow. So we were kind of sad yesterday.

You say, 'hey, quit whining, you are the ones that ordered the hit'. That is true. We asked Paul to come out and execute our tree. And if I had to do it over again, I would. Make no mistake, as they say in 'You've Got Mail' this is business, not personal. You have to go the the 'mattresses' The reason that I would do it again is that it had to be done sometime. I have been watching the roots for several - many, actually- years and have never had a good feeling about the mushrooms that grow at the base of the tree. To me, this says 'rot' and when you have such a big and heavy tree so near your house, rot is not what you want at the base of the tree.

A lot of memories have been made in and under this tree. When Daniel was about 5 or so, I built a treehouse in it. The younger kids would sleep in it, and I think the older kids brought their special friends home to have a little privicy and probably smooch a little, far away from Dad and Mom's watchful eye. Very tricky.

You can see in the picture above, what one of the stumps did to our porch roof. It was the stump that had all the carving on it.

It just barely brushed against the porch, and WHAM, it was smashed pretty flat. I probably should include some pictures of the rot around the roots, but it is late and I am tired.

We live in a world where we mostly rule the forces that surround us. We are the kings and queens of climate, transportation, and sustanence. Our power largely derives from the abundant use of fossil fuels. In a few generations we have forgotten fear or even respect for the environment around us, and the forces that it can wield.

For instance, we think concrete is hard, even durable. I thought an open part of our back porch roof was solid and strong. This is not true. That might be strong and well adhered compared to my puny muscle, but let me tell you, not to the force of a falling tree. When Paul would drop a log from the top, it would hit on a nest of smaller branches, but it still struck the ground with great enough force that Annie and I felt the shock wave standing on the concrete patio. The porch? Broke to flinders is a heartbeat by one of the logs just clipping it. Wham.

So the tree had to come down. I'm still kind of sad to see it go, even though the miserable thing sent suckers up in our yard for years, and shaded our garden so that it's production was greatly reduced.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Poem on Parents

I found it! There you go.


By Shirley Howard

Shirley Howard, “Parents,” Ensign, July 1974, inside front cover

My father was a carpenter
and stood on sawdust carpets
as he fashioned wood.
He taught us lines
must measure true,
to use three nails
instead of two,
and he had a special rule:
we read before
we started school.

My mother,
on the other hand,
was always-ever in demand,
planning programs,
making floats,
rearranging words and notes,
and she gathered
stars and flowers
to adorn us in our brighter hours.

They were different,
yet the same,
for one designed the picture,
as the other made the frame.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Built to Last - Al's Way

When I was about 7 or 8 - Grandpa built a camping table. He laminated a couple of pieces of 5/8" plywood together for the top, and constructed an ingenious set of folding legs that would allow the table to be folded flat and put in the back of a station wagon.

We used it on a few campouts, and so it might not have served exactly the purpose that he built if for, but it was used a lot. Made before outdoor furniture became common and easy to buy, it held the food for our family and friends as I grew up. Memories are sometimes more of a comfort than an actual historical record, but in my memory I seem to remember eating a summer meal out in our 'breezeway' in the house on 32nd on Wheatridge. Grandpa had roofed the open space between the house and the garage, and walled and screened it in so that it was a cool, pleasant place to eat in the heat of the summer. It was summer and we were all around the table and Grandma was bringing the fried chicken in to serve it. Now, if you have ever had Grandma's fried chicken, you know that the house, the table, the utensils - everything - was transformed to a little higher plane. I've been trying to make chicken as good as hers for more than 30 years and have failed every time.

This old table, that has so many memories was something that they couldn't take with them when they moved from the farm. So it found a home here with us. It had been out in Grandpa's shop and served as a workbench of sorts, so it was pretty much at home under our porch.

We have had a few meals on it, but the paint and the wood on the top was not in the best shape, and it was hard to get clean. Plywood suffers from checking when it is in the sun. The dense parts of the wood expands and contracts at a different rate than the softer parts of the wood, and so after a while it pulls apart, and pulls the paint apart too. You can sand it and repaint it all that you want to, and you won't fix it. Boat bottoms do this as well, especially if they are stored bottom up to the sun, and then water gets in at the checks and soaks the plywood and the boat slowly rots.

The cure for this is to sand everything down as smooth as you can get it, then paint the surface with a thinned epoxy or polyester resin, then apply a piece of fiberglass cloth to the surface, then more epoxy or polyester resin. The glass cloth hold everything together, and that is the end of the checking problem. Andrew's boat, Aflac had this problem, and that is how I fixed it. Now all my boats get a coat of fiberglass, and they don't leak.

Sooo.... that is what I did last week to the table. It took a little work with the belt sander to get it back to sound wood. One knot hole had to be repaired, but the cloth went on smoothly and a nice smooth surface is the result. Today I painted it, at least one coat. We painted it the same color as the house, so that we can store it against the wall.

If Grandpa built this table when I was 7, then it has lasted for 50 years, and is still in good shape. I'm sure that he never had a thought that his table would still be in good shape, and serviceable in 50 years, but that is just the way he built things. There was the wrong way, and the Al way. And that was the right way. As I was crawling under the table today, doing the touch up paint, I could see that it was put together mostly with screws. 'Glued and screwed'...... that was the way it was.

I've been looking for a Fathers Day poem that I heard once. Only one line sticks in my mind. But that was about being taught to 'use three nails, instead of two'. I guess it sticks there because it was so much the way that Grandpa did things. That kind of thoroughness had it's downside - I've never knowm anybody that broke as many bolts as Grandpa did, getting it really tight. And I am sure that I'm not the only one that tried to open up one of his wire fence gates and then not be able to get it closed again because Grandpa had used a fence stretcher and a come-along to get it tight enough to close. Grrrrrrrrrr.........

But it is a good example, and a good way to live your life. He told me once that it didn't matter too much what I did for an occupation, but to be the best I could be at what I was doing. It's good advice, and he set a good example for all of us that follow. So look down the road 50 years, and use both glue and screws. Build it to last. That's Al's way.

Facebook Quiz Answers

Since there have been several comments that my quiz was hard I thought I would give you the answers and a short explanation. I really didn't try to be tricky.

1. What country?

Russia- very interested, but don't speak Russian and think it is messed up politically and economically.

Argentina - also very interested. It has great promise, could be a wonderful place to live. Maybe I could learn Spanish

Canada - well, there you have it. Beautiful, prosperous, fairly squared away politically and economically. Lots of area and not too many people.

Australia - just too far away.

New Zealand - ditto. If you take out the whole of having family, friends or history, NZ is probably #2.

2. James Garner. Rockford Files. Maverick. Maverick 1 - which you don't even remember. Support Your Local Sheriff/Gunfighter. OK, maybe lame, but he makes me laugh.

3. 13. Friends going to movies, meeting friends of the opposite sex - surprise - at the movie. What a coincidence! That's what I tried to tell Grandma anyway. She didn't buy it.

4. Baseball. Yeah, I know it's lame. Football would be a close 2nd. Basketball and root canal's are close for me, but I like the drugs, so maybe root canals 3rd.

5. Green. Then blue. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be able to see green so well, but mostly I'm thinking of the real green that you see in plants, grass and trees.

6. Taiwan 2007, Austria in 2006, Mexico 1993, Germany 1992, Germany 1984, Canada 1958.

7. Alan. Ok, so I was trying to be tricky here a little. Not such a good job. You all knew.

8. Crowds, then the crowds in the airplanes and knowing how maintenance decisions are made, Heights and close places, sometimes. Skyclimbers, yes. But crowds always. I'm not smart enough to know if the FR is doing the right thing or not. I suspect that their policies are designed to take from the poor and give to the rich, but this is a time honored pass time, and as Scarlet O'Hara commented once, 'It's a darn site safer than the other way around'. Rhett laughed.

9. I'm glad none of you missed this. Annie.

10. Scientist. Possibly when I was about 6 I thought of football or being a pilot.

11. Denver. Wheatridge was pretty little then. I don't think they had a hospital.

12. Oreo/grasshopper.

13. Hiding. Sometimes disguised as being helpful. Kitchens are great places to hide as generally there is work there and many people find a reason not to go there.

14. 11:00. Earlier is better and the goal, but I generally don't make it.

15. Gardening. I sort of had to work back on this. It answers the question of what do I spend the most time doing? I do like to build and sail boats, but I don't do much of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day is Done

Wednesday night. Daily Dose - teaching English as a 2nd language - is done until Sunday. Annie is trying to sew but having a little trouble with her serger. While I have fair mechanical skills, sewing machines totally baffle me. I hope she gets it solved.

We had a ''Fun Run' today at work. We have a gym at work with a lot of weight and exercise machines and are encouraged to use them. We have a occupational therapist..... I guess you could call him. Brian is very good at helping keep an aging workforce patched up and headed back to work. He also has a lot of programs like the 'Fun Run' that get people out and help to keep them fit.

The 'Fun Run' is an annual program where we go and take a 2-1/2 mile walk around the lake that stores the river water we use for cooling tower makeup. I got a t-shirt (navy), some chap stick, some sun block, a new pedometer, and had a good time on a warm spring day. All in all, it was a nice interlude. Craig and I mostly walked, but also got in a few MBI's.

Maximum Bursts of Intensity (MBI) is our name for interval training. We used to walk and jog a few miles each day, but felt that we really weren't getting the benefit out of the exercise that we needed. One day , to our horror, we found that we literally couldn't run. Our hearts and lungs could hold up OK, but our legs just wouldn't move faster than a jog. YIKES!!!! What a discovery!!! Not a happy day. We tried to run 25 yards, but couldn't manage more than a shuffle. How extremely embarrassing, So we started doing 25-50 yard MBI's each day in our walk/run. We also started climbing the stairs at work. 'Doing the Unit' is a climb of about 300 vertical feet which works out to be the equivalent of 30 ten foot floors. We only have 20 floors, so we have some long stair ways.

So we are getting better, but we know we'll never be 30 again... or 40, or even 50. But that is OK. "Time hurries on, and the leaves that were green turn to brown". You don't train today to be ten years younger tomorrow, as that just won't happen. You train so that in ten years you have good strength to have an active healthy life.

Craig has been studying lately a lot about fitness and nutrition. One of the things that he has brought up that I think is true is that you tend to lose about 1/2 to 1 lb of muscle mass per year after you are about 40. I think the age is somewhat variable, but the concept is true. Sometime along in the 40's and 50's the muscle starts going away. As it does, your body looses part of the 'furnace' that burns up the food that still tastes so good.... and so, you don't end up as an emaciated skeleton- the lost muscle is replaced by fat.

As you lose muscle and gain fat percentage, it becomes harder and harder to exercise. Knees, hips and feet have lost supporting muscle and now bear a heavier load, so naturally it is easier not to exercise. Let's face it - it is ALWAYS easier not to exercise. But we don't put on our weight like a coat - all at once, and so it doesn't go away all at once either. Just one 'Fun Run' at a time.

It is also getting towards the end of the budget year at work. My scrubber project is going along fairly well, and while we might not be spending money as fast as the Government, we are spending it plenty fast for me. So I have been counting beans and seeing how many are left in the pile.

After counting a little over a million beans that had been spent and figuring that we still have about 3/4 million left in the pile, I got a page to call the scrubber control room. NOW.

So I called, and Max the Superintendent of the Contractor Company was on the phone and told me that he would come and pick me up, and that I should bring my ball bat.

This didn't bode well, but there were no ambulances or Fire Brigade guys scrambling, so I hoped things wouldn't be too bad. The last time I got a summons like that, one of the scaffolding contractor guys had not tied off and had fallen and was hurt..... that was about 5 years ago, but that was enough.

This time it was a tagging violation. We have a system of tags that are placed on valves, switches, breakers, and even computer screens that function as locks. If there is a Do Not Operate (DNO) tag on something, you had darn well better keep your hot hands off of it, or you will have time off without pay to reconsider your actions. Sometimes quite a bit of time off. We take this really seriously because people's lives depend on it.

We (Max's guys) are working in 'C' module and the plant guys were working in 'B' module, and they are side by side. The plant guys got done with the work in 'B' module and were putting it back into service when an operator pulled a wrong tag and opened a valve sending about 20,000 gallons of water into 'C' module. Fortunately, the contractors were on break and were just coming back when the cascade started. But it still caused quite a stir. I was happy that I would not be part of the disciplinary proceedings, and glad that no one had even gotten wet and no equipment was damaged. Still, it is kind of stressful as the everybody know that while this time it was just a lot of water, the next time it could be a lot more serious - live steam, high voltage, rotating equipment starting ....

I just gathered some facts and tried not to get anything more stirred up than it was. I don't know what happened to the operator. At the very least I imagine that he got a letter in his file, but often they give them from one to five days off. He is a good operator, and the mistake that he made would be easy to make as the valves for 'B' and 'C' modules are on adjacent pipes.

That is about it. It is time for bed. Tomorrow Annie and I will travel to Provo to see a cute granddaughter graduate from kindergarten. I am looking forward to it. Sleep well, and wake.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All Quiet on the Desert Front

The Outage has been over for almost a week, but I am so far behind with all of the other projects that it doesn't feel like things have slowed down at all.

Since D2 and her kids left the house has been pretty quiet. Annie went to choir last night and I went to spend an hour at and Eagle Scout Project. Tonight we have 'Daily Dose' and will be teaching English as a 2nd language. Tomorrow will be our day without any appointments that I know about, and then the weekend.

There is plenty of work around the yard. I still have wood to pick up and stack, and branches to snap and chop into kindling - before I mow the back yard. I have four short rows of peas in and also that much spinach, and all eight rows are up and growing. But that is just a bare start. There is a lot of garden left to plant and it hasn't even been plowed yet.

But I am content. Possibly that contentment springs from exhaustion, but mostly I think it is from Spring. It's a new year, it is full of promise. Our friends the hummingbirds are back, zooming in and out of the yard like CIA spy drones.... or maybe like animated jewels. Both descriptions fit. I call them 'friends' but it is more of a mutual parasitic relationship. We give them colored sugar water on a regular basis and they entertain us with their awesome acrobatics. They seem content with the deal as they keep coming back.

I guess that is about all for today. Daily Dose was OK. We talked about computers. This is the 1st half of the Intermediate section, and things are getting fairly hard. It is kind of funny. You speak English all the time and don't think anything about it.... then you start to teach it, and you realise that the way we speak is not very clear, consistent, or actually correct. You can start to hear the Latin base words in English and the make more sense than some of the ones that we use a lot. Sometimes the Spanish word just has a different connotation than the English word. For instance: damned in English always had a connotation of rebellious and hate filled spirits closely aligned with Satan. In Spanish the word is perdido, or lost. It reminds me of Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series where the powerful evil guys were refered to as 'The Forsaken' by normal people, but they called themselves 'The Chosen'.

Enough rambling. Sleep well and wake.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sinister Sigma Phase

It's almost 4 am, Unit 2 is down with another tube leak, and I just got back from the 14th floor, looking at which tubes need to be cut and repaired, and which can be muscled back into line.

Boiler tubes are tough. They have to endure and perform in horrendous conditions. These particular tubes have the hottest steam in them, and are in one of the hottest places in the boiler. The steam they carry is around 1100 deg F, and so I think that on the outer skin, it must be at least 50 degrees hotter, and maybe more. Recently we had a huge clinker in this boiler, and it acted like a funnel to direct the gas along the sides of the boiler. It also insulated a lot of tube area, causing other areas to have to accept more heat. This tube failed in one of the hottest areas. It is a stainless steel tube, and they are really good in heat. But if the temperature is up around 1200-1400 deg F, and it might well be on the tube surface, sigma phase degradation starts to form. It is actually a type of intergranular corrosion. In steel with less than 18% chrome the grains move around and you get little voids and the steel is said to have 'creep'.

Stainless steels don't creep in the same way, but chromium carbide does form in between the grain bounderies causing a weakened area. In time the carbides get bigger, and the strength is degraded, and then finally it fails and a bunch of guys spend several days and nights fixing it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Down the River They Went

Playing with Google Earth can open up a world of possibilities....pardon the pun. I traced out the path that the Walls, and maybe some of the other German families took to reach Southern Russia. It is about 1700 miles as the boat drifts, and so it is a longer trip than I had realized.

Here is a post that I did some time ago that has a little more history, and a link to the boats that they floated in.

Also, I think I found Alexanderdorf (Starcks), Hoffnungstal (Walls) and two possibilities for Norka (Hahns). Hoffnungstall is probably where it was originally. I'm not so sure of Norka, Norka 2 (Nork, Armenia) or Alexanderdorf. I used German geneology sites to locate Norka 1 and Alexanderdorf, but Dad always told stories about the Germans and the Turks.... and Norka 2 is pretty close to Turkey.

I'll do more investigation later, but I thought some of you would be interested in the length and scale of the float trip that so many of them went on. Andrew and I did a little float down the Sevier River a few years ago and it about killed us. Pansies that we are.

Well, there you have it. I don't know how interested anyone is in seeing the route that they took, but it sort of gives you a little idea of the trip.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unit 2 Short Outage - Ride to The Sky, Sailor Can't Escape

There isn't a lot to add. Unit 2 is down for a short , one week outage. I got to ride the sky sled, or rather couldn't avoid riding. I might have a little more tonight to send.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Stories From Trying Times (2)

One thing that this 'Greater Depression' or what ever you want to call these times, is that it will give us some great stories to tell, eventually.... I don't think that any of us will end up on the other side with the same lifestyle that we had going into it. A lot of adjustments and adaptations will be made. But like 'Winter Camp', it might be hard in places, but there will be great stories to be told by the fire.

Some time ago, I did a post on tent cities and the fact that we don't have soup lines anymore, even though millions of people have already lost their jobs. When people lost their jobs in the '30's, they were up against it right away. There are some who sniff with disdain at unemployment compensation, and food stamps, but the fact is these programs provide a very needed safety net, both to the individuals, and to the economy. Recently Jon Markman from MSN Money opined that if we save too much, we will endanger any recovery. Imagine if there were no social safety nets, and when someone lost their job, bang - all spending stopped. Period. And probably with their neighbors too.

This paragraph does have a point, and does lead into a story, but you sometimes have to 'liken the stories (like the scriptures)' unto yourself. During the Great Depression, there were no bailouts - banks just failed left and right, and savings were wiped out in a minute. We were on the Gold Standard, and the FED couldn't conjure up billions of dollars out of nothing. As much as I disapprove of the bailouts and other shenanigans, I do think the FED has managed to stave off the total financial system collapse, at least for a while. So, anyway, bad things happened, and happened pretty fast. Your are at work on the farm, and the bank fails, and all of your money is gone and the bank will try to seize your home and farm. About 25% of the people were unemployed, and a lot of them were hungry.

If you watch 'Sea Biscuit' you will see a family that couldn't feed all of the kids. The parents made a decision to kick the oldest son out so that he could be a jockey. Things were that bad. Tens of thousands of men and boys roamed the countryside looking for work. It was like having every fourth person that you met on the street having a sign that said 'Will work for food'. And that is what they did.

One story that I remember Mom telling was about a man like this. As a little kid, I always saw him as a grizzled old timer, maybe in this early 30's. That is still how I picture him. Probably married, with a baby or two, and just no prospects. He might have been from Denver, or even farther away. He came to the farm in late summer, late in the day. Grandma W would have been in her 30's and Mom would have been maybe 8 or 9.... Grandma had been canning sweet corn from her garden and I am sure was worn out with the work and the heat of pressure canning using a wood cook stove in the summer. I'm not sure, but I believe that they had a 'summer kitchen' arrangement where a stove was in a screened but airy area during the summer, but it was still hot work and a long day.

Grandpa must have been away in the fields when the man came to the door. I don't know what was said but the man wanted work. Grandma must not have had any money. He must have been hungry and made more so by the smell of the canning. Grandma must have seen his need, and she responded in the only way that she could. By the end of the day, the kindling box would have been low, or empty. She told him to chop her a box of wood, and she would feed him. Mom said that he went to work with a will, and soon the box was full, and he sat down at the table and ate several plates of corn cut from the cob, with as much butter was he wanted. He probably had as much milk as he could drink as well, as Grandpa had a dairy.

Well, there isn't a lot of drama there. Just a hungry tired man, and a compassionate woman. But it is a nice story, and I have always liked it.

Get Thicker Skin.....Armor

I just thought this was so cool... which probably shows my low 'cool' quotient. But I still thought is was cool. When we went to Germany in 1984, we stopped by an amazing military arms museum. Having played at being a armature, apprentice, beginning, self-taught blacksmith, I was just in awe of what these old smiths could make with a hammer and a fire. Still am. I hope you like this, it's not too long.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Looking Back at Trying Times

We had a very nice Stake Conference last Sunday. The messages centered around Temple work, genealogy, and optimism.

I couldn't help, with these messages to think back on some of the family stories that I have been told, and have grown up with. My dad in particular was a story teller, and passed down stories to me in the great tradition of oral historians: He told them to me so many times that I know them almost by heart. And bless his heart for each one of them too.

When I look out at the imploding economy that we have, and the future that is unsure, but sure to be different than our recent, comfortable past, it is kind of comforting to revisit some of the stories of the circumstances that our ancestors lived through.

Looking back in history it is easy to romanticize it. The problems that our grandparents faced seem like smaller and cozier problems, the stories might have a scary part, but they have happy endings. And so we tuck our selves into bed and wish we had been born 100 years ago. At least these are my tendencies. You probably have more sense.

Dad told me a lot of stories about the Great Depression, and what it was like to grow up in those days. He almost always would tell me how poor they were, but that they didn't know it because everyone was about in the same boat. He was the oldest son of the oldest daughter of a family of 15 children. His father abandoned them, and Grandma had to live with her parents and brothers and sisters. Her parents had immigrated from Russia in the early 1900's, I think about 1905 or 1907. Grandma was a little girl when they got to America. They had to sell everything to come to America, and they were still trying to establish themselves economically when the Great Depression came along.

Dad was six when the market crashed, and while the only stock they had was live stock, the Depression reached throughout the country and made itself felt. I'm sure that G-Grandpa worried a lot about how he would feed all of those mouths. His solution was to raise almost everything that they ate in the garden, and then contract to take care of 80-120 acres of sugar beets for their cash income.

Some time I'll do a post on sugar beet cultivation practices before tractors and herbicides. Tonight I'll quickly run through the steps quickly just so you know how many times they had to go up and down the rows. I think that the farmer generally plowed, disked, harrowed, planted and marked the rows. G-Grandpa's brood/army would go to the fields after first irrigation and block, irrigate, thin and hoe, irrigate, hoe, irrigate, hoe, then the team would come through and lift the beets (October now) and then they would top and load them into wagons. Dad spent his time in the fields from May through October for most of his childhood years. It was unending, back breaking work.

They tried to live close to the farm, so they would move at least once each year. Dad said that a lot of the houses had dirt floors. Now think about that a minute. My shop has a concrete floor, but I doubt that any of us would consider living there for a night, yet alone on a permanent basis.

One of my favorite stories, and I think one of his as well, was the story of the 'Second Light Bulb'. You see, they moved to a house that had electricity in it, and they had a light bulb - just one, for some time. They would take it from room to room like you would a candle or a kerosene lamp. Then, wonder of wonders, they got a second bulb, and didn't have to move the first one so much. But, again, wonder of wonders, one of the bulbs was much brighter then the other. They couldn't figure this out. One bulb had a 40 on it.... and the brighter bulb had a 60 on it. Humble, humble beginnings.

Getting back to Stake Conference and the theme of having optimism in our lives. I don't think that means that we have to be blind to the troubles around us. Here is a quote that I like:

``Optimism of the soul, pessimism of the intellect,'' Antonio Gramsci

I would amend it to read: Optimism of the soul, realism of the intellect.

When there is so much bad news around us, and it sometimes seems that we are being overwhelmed I think it is important to look back to the things that our ancestors went through and to take courage from their lives, and then to go forward with optimism, knowing that we came from people who didn't always have things handed to them. These were people that wondered where life was going to take them, but people found courage in their religion and in their families. They are people that lived the stories.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's STAR TREK, Baby (As Joey Might Say)

Well, this is so cool that it almost eclipses the global economic meltdown, and I am sure will be a lot more fun. May 9, 2009, better than the Superbowl.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Watching the Tank on Saturday

It's Saturday - Valentine's Day, but I'm at work watching contractors coat a tank. That is actually a stretch as they know what they are doing, and don't need me to direct work. I'm here in case they need some help, as their interface to our company.

Mostly I have been trying to get a schedule going so that when the scrubber project starts next week, that everyone is on the same page. It is kind of a complicated project, and the Superintendent of the general contracting company has kind of been handed a black box. That's unfortunate, but not surprising. I have come to believe that most managers like to keep information much like the medieval guild's used to do. Knowledge is power, and over time they learn to keep what they know to themselves. It it is safer for them if their bosses don't know too much, and if their subordinates don't know too much..... and that isn't to cast stones, it is just what I have observed. So Max, the Superintendent came down here pretty blind and I walked him around and fed him information at high speed. Everyone probably remembers drinking from the hose as a kid and having a sibling or friend wait until the hose was in their mouth, and then turning it on full blast...... well, it was kind of the same thing.

I have been eating and drinking and planning this project for a year or more, and I gave him a lot of information in one afternoon. We will have another meeting on Thursday with all of the subcontractors there too, and hopefully, we will be on the same page going forward.

Here are a couple of pictures of the tank, and the coating process. In the middle is the mixer. This is a slurry tank, and so you have to keep it agitated. On the sides of the tanks are baffles, and they keep the slurry from spinning around the tank at one constant speed. The contractors are spreading and epoxy/sand mixture to prevent abrasion on the underlying coating. The walls are the original coating.

Well, it is about time to go. Fortunately there is enough sunlight left to let me do a little yard work. You might have seen Annie's post that told about my adventure with the tree limb and the ladder..... there is that still to clean up, and three apricot trees and a half a dozen plum trees to transplant.... and more garden work....block to lay.... a wheelbarrow tire to rest for the wicked and not time to repent. I hope you all have a very nice day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Little More Fun

It was a wildly busy day with two sets of contractors and a lot of 't's' to cross and 'i's' to dot and I am tired tonight. It was good to come home and visit with Annie and have a nice meal and watch some funny TV. Later on we migrated to the computers and I went to reading the news and financials and pretty much didn't have the will to continue. So if you have had a little too much winter, or too much news, or just want to look on the light side, here are a few more videos that I found that made me laugh or smile. Honestly, I don't have the ummph to tackle the serious stuff today. Sleep well and wake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Couple of Country Videos- Brad Paisley

Not a single dog, train, prison or cheatin' heart in the bunch. I hope you like them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Car Talk

If you are a Linux or Apple fan, you will like this.