Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A return to follow-ups

Alright, number four and six from that list back in September. Four was how eye-opening the opinion of a 7 year old can be, and six had to do with how other people view our house based on that same 7 year old's opinion.

Around Street Fair time in early September, my sister Karin brought her kids to visit us for the first time. It was great to see all of them again, and we spent a couple days together. The second day they all came to our house for a little r&r. Isaac is 7 years old and asked to ride with me to our house. As we pulled in the driveway he let out a little gasp and asked, "Is this your house? Is this where you live?" I assured him it was and he replied, "It's really junky."

Wow. Of course my sister was embarrassed and I was laughing, but Isaac wasn't lying. Kids that age don't lie about stuff like that. They say to our faces what we as adults have learned to keep to ourselves, or worse yet, say behind people's back. And his opinion was that our house was ugly. Karin tried to explain to him that not everyone's house would look the same as his. (They live in a newer housing development in Columbus, Ohio. While each house has it's own unique character, they are surrounded by hundreds of very similar cookie-cutter houses.) So, compared to where he lived, our house (and property) was junky. The paint is peeling, the siding is loose, the roof is slate, my old VW is in the driveway, there are stacks of firewood everywhere, the lawn wasn't cut, and on and on. He was simply stating our house was not as nice as the ones he was used to seeing. And he wasn't wrong for saying it.

As I mentioned, we all know kids will say the things that we adults will only think (or gossip) about. So my house is junky. I get that. Ell and I have chosen to live a certain way that's not always pretty. There will always be wood laying in our yard. The house will always look old and worn out. There will always be a menagerie of chairs and seats on the porch. A garden will always be center stage in the landscaping. And those things aren't always pretty. They aren't neat or well kept. Ell would like it to be a little nicer looking, but she's not willing to sacrifice our lifestyle for the alternative. So that's how it is. But Isaac's remarks got me thinking. Does everybody we entertain think our house is junky?

To be honest, I thought our house was junky the first time I saw it too. When we pulled in the driveway with our realtor, the view from the outside was bad. But when we went inside, I fell in love with the charm of the logs. The same thing that happens with everybody who comes inside our house. They love it. It'd beautiful and rustic all at the same time. Ell's decorating style is exciting and bizarre. People want to touch the logs and lounge on the couches. Every single person that spends more than an hour in our home says the same thing, "I feel so comfortable here. It's so comfy." I like that. Ell likes that. It means our house is inviting and friendly and warm. What it doesn't mean is the outside is any of those things. The outside is still ugly.

So my thoughts that day drifted to what people must think when they pull into our driveway and get their first view of the house. Appalachian hicks probably comes to mind. Rednecks maybe? Slobs? Possibly. I've never cared too much what people think, and this doesn't change that. But it did make me ponder. From the mouth of a 7 year old............

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I have some thoughts on the wildfires, but I can't seem to get them all in a straight line. So that post will have to wait for another day.

Today I'd like to call on some old friends I haven't heard from in a while and make some recommendations for all of you.

There are a lot of people on my blogroll that haven't posted in a while. One route I could take with this would be to poke fun at you and call you names. But I think I'll leave that to Kimmy. She's better at it than I am. So the other route would be to just make an honest plea for your return. Or maybe a third way to go would be to blend the two. Let's try that.

I always want to start with Rob. Rob is the reason I found blogging and the guy who encouraged me to do my own. I miss ya man. I know you have a busy life with work and church and the band and .................. wait, no I don't. 'Cause you haven't posted about it in a while. Just some thoughts man. That's all we're asking. You've said you feel you don't have anything to blog about, then just tell us how those things are going. If you're gonna have a blog, you might as well bore us with some thoughts. Throw out a controversial post or something, I know your brain has more of those in it than mine does. Please?

Bethy. Yes; you need to blog. There is no question.

Kyle. I've told you this before, I see an amazing future for you. Don't you dare stop blogging or the world would miss out on the amazing things God is doing in your life. I know you just posted, but I need more than once a month. And so does the world. Give it to us. We can take it.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. You keep teasing us with these great ideas and promises to write. And then nothing. Give us those music posts. Or anything else on your mind. We need your insight and knowledge. Heavy Metal needs you. The world needs you. Post................ Soon.

Kim. How's the new position? What are your day-to-day responsibilities? How's the new church? What do you have planned for next year's garden? How's the new dog? Do you miss the firework's job? Have you done any new work on your residence? (All great ideas for posts. Just some suggestions. Write soon, please.)

Steve. Now here's an interesting fellow. A man with ideas and passions beyond any of our own. And yet he remains silent. So silent in fact, he hasn't even been reading here in a while. Can you imagine, someone not reading eleven on a regular basis? I know, crazy. I'm probably going to have to tell him I even wrote about him just to get him to check it out. Anyway, come back to us Steve. Stretch our minds. Make us question our realities.

Andrew. Where's the pics? I know you have some. Show us. Amaze us. You're losing your viewership on the photoblog. No one wants to see that. 'Specially not me.

Lyndsay. The master of the run-on sentence. Make us run out of air trying to finish your thoughts in one breath. Tell us about Minneapolis. Tell us about those stupid old ladies who piss you off. Make us laugh. And do it more often. You're another one who makes us sit back and say, "Hmmmmm."

Evan. We know you're coming home soon. We can't wait to see you. We know you went through some crap recently. We'd love to give you a hug. Write some stuff about your feelings to hold us over until we can do both. Love ya man.

Dave, Zack. You guys still out there? Hello? Hope they come back.

Now for some recommendations. (Most of them about pictures.)
Faye, as always, has some amazing pictures on her site. She is going through some serious health issues and could use our prayers if you are of that nature.
Amy and Bethy are really starting to develop as photographers of people and are worth checking out if you need a good person for that sort of thing.
Brad has posted some pretty cool shots in the past few weeks. Specifically check out his Parthenon pics on his photoblog. They are a definite WOW!
Karin and Kristen (my younger sisters) always have a nice splattering of shots of my nephews and nieces. I wish I could see those kids more often and they indulge me by sharing their pictures. So here's the proud uncle telling you to check them out.

That's all for now. I'm off to save the world.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Funny

Roy D. Mercer
For those of you who haven't heard of him, here's the skinny: Roy D. Mercer is a character used by those touch-tone-terrorist type guys that prank-call people. Roy is an old hick with poor, but creative, speech patterns. The calls are usually made to normal places like car dealerships, grocery stores, pet stores, lumberyards, restaurants, etc. They find out the name of someone there, usually a manager or a salesman, and they proceed to have Roy defend the honor of someone in his family who supposedly frequented the establishment. An honorable task done with a quirky voice and accent, and the best one liners I've ever heard. I thought I'd share with you some of those one-liners I find pretty funny. Your homework for the week is to use one of these with someone you know. This should be fun.

-I'm gonna be on you like ugly on a Baldwin brother.
-I'm gonna git a hunk outta you big enough to clog a drain.
-I'll tear into you like a hobo into a bologna sandwich.
-You gonna be laughin out the other side of your face over there.
-I'm the fella that's gettin ready to dot both your eyes.
-You ain't bigger 'an a popcorn fart.
-I was getting ready to be on you like a cockroach on a honey bun.
-You went off like a Roman Candle fresh bought.
-She's gonna be on your chin like melted mozzarella cheese.
...and my favorite...
-Me and you getting ready to go to fist city.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The peak is upon is

At least in NE Ohio that is. I'm talking about the leaves. We've had a couple really cool nights this week that made the reds and oranges and yellows, and even the greens, really pop out in their brightest colors. Monday was the best day to view them. I say that because the storm we had that night through yesterday blew in with harsh winds and heavy rains that stripped at least half the trees of their leaves. The colors are a bit brighter now, but they are few and far between. But you'll still get an eyeful of splendor if you head out into the country and look out over the hills. The massive amounts of second growth trees that Ohio boasts are magnificent. But make sure you grab your camera, you'll regret it if you don't.

I love the beauty of fall; what a pretty season it is. Too bad it's so short lived.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A moral(?) dilemma

I'll update everyone on my dam adventure later in the week. Yes I just said "dam adventure" and no that isn't swearing. (You children!) I still have to go over some pictures with Brad so I can post them. So, I want to talk about something a little more serious.

As most of you know, I'm finishing up 4 months without meat. I haven't had too much trouble with it, and most people have enjoyed talking about the pros and cons with me. The only issue I ever had was that people felt they had to treat me like a sick child. Like they had to make special meals and go to extra lengths because of my condition. But that didn't last long and it actually became a funny inside-joke amongst my friends. Skip ahead to last Friday.

I had a meeting with one of our marketing reps in the afternoon. When I set up the meeting earlier that morning, I told the lady it was going to be a busy day and I probably wouldn't get to eat lunch. Well, she felt bad for me and bought me a McDonald's meal. Three problems with that: I don't eat meat, I don't eat McDonald's, and I don't drink pop. I really struggled with how to deal with the situation.

All I could say was that I hadn't had pop in 7 years. She was really impressed with what she called "my willpower" and gave the drink to one of my tellers. But the meat and McDonald's thing were harder to explain. I couldn't figure out what to say. I don't eat McDonald's because that stuff is pumped so full of chemicals and artificial stuff they never fully reveal, and the fact that it's horrible for you. And the meat thing? I don't actually consider myself a vegetarian, just giving it a test drive for the fun of it. She had another meeting after mine, so I had figure out how to easily explain either one of those things in a brief one sentence explanation. How do you do that without starting a whole dialog? You don't. So I didn't. I just put the bag on my desk and we had our meeting. As she was leaving I told her thanks for buying me lunch. No harm, no foul.

But I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I was raised really well (in my opinion) when it comes to food. My parents made sure I ate what was placed in front of me, no matter how gross or unfamiliar it seemed to me. No excuses, no faces, no complaining, no nothing. The point being if I was at another person's house, or with people from another country, I wouldn't offend them by insulting their cooking or their culture. To this day I thank them for instilling that sense of propriety within me. So what's changed?

My parents also (sometimes despite their best efforts) instilled in me a sense of independence. A sense of making my own decisions and being responsible for those decisions. One of those decisions is my McDonald's one. I have great issues with a company that uses grade 4-5 meat and vegetables, most of which is injected and coated and cooked in stuff you wouldn't touch with your bare hands. I have major concerns for the citizens of this country that eat fast food more often than they eat dinner as a family. Those are major issues that we just overlook because of convenience or pure laziness. I, for one, have no desire to eat food that will take 15 years off my life or take away my sense of family unity. And I'm not willing to bend on those principles.

So why did I have such an issue explaining myself to that lady? And why have I been having so much inner-turmoil about the situation? It's almost like my two views are fighting each other. My desire to not be hurtful is battling with my desire to stand for something I believe in. Which one is more important? Should I just get off my soapbox and stop doing my stupid little willpower tests so I can live a harmonious life amongst normal people? Or should I be true to myself and let the chips fall as they may, hurt feelings and all?

There's a lot more banging around inside my skull on this, but I'll let you think on this much for now. What do you think?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Funny

A man is dining in a fancy restaurant and notices a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table. He continues to check her out during the entire dinner, but lacks the nerve to talk to her.

Suddenly she sneezes, and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket toward the man. He reflexively reaches out and grabs it before it can hit the ground, and hands it back to her.

The woman is visibly shaken and whispers, "Oh my, I am so sorry." She turns her head and pops her eye back into place. "Let me buy your dinner to make it up to you," she says.

They enjoy a wonderful dinner together, and afterwards they go to the theatre followed by drinks. They talk, they laugh, she shares her deepest dreams and he shares his. She listens intently to every word he says.

After paying for everything, she asks him if he'd like to come to her place for dinner the next night. The next evening, she cooks a gourmet meal with all the trimmings. They pick up their conversations from the previous night and have a wonderful time together. The guy is amazed. Everything with this gorgeous lady has been SO incredible.

"You know," he said, "you are the perfect woman. Are you this nice to every guy you meet?"

"No," she replies, "You just happened to catch my eye."

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Taking it to the next level

This whole canal thing has really got me excited. As such, I'm going one step further than the wet adventure the other day took me. To be honest, I was a little disappointed about Sunday's trip. Disappointed for one, because the pictures didn't turn out as good as I thought they would; and two, because I never actually explored the underwater dam structure. (I'd never take back the fun time I had with Ell and Brad, I'm more talking about the canal ruins thing.) So I 'm going back. But this time I'm going prepared.

First problem: good pictures. I was using Kodak 800 speed film on Sunday. That's a really good film, and is probably the only reason the pictures came out at all because it wasn't the best lighting conditions. I'll be taking the same on my next trip, but I'm also upping the equipment a little. Brad has (what seems to be --- in my limited experience) an almost-professional digital camera. So we're taking that as insurance of good photos.

Second problem: lighting and angle. Sunday I was forced to take pics from the two banks of the river. The ideal spot would have been hovering above the site and looking down. Well, I just let my helicopter license expire, so we need another option. Answer? A ladder. My plan is to set up a step ladder in the river itself and take pictures from above. I have an old step ladder my Dad used to call "The Widow-Maker" that should work just fine.

Hopefully we haven't lost the perfect conditions we had on Sunday. The still water, the low level, the sun just right, the dirts and rocks uncovered from the wood. They're calling for thunderstorms for the next five days, but I'm not daunted. (Those weather people are quacks anyway.)

I can't help thinking this is a gift. I mean finding the remains and all. I've done a ton of research about these things, including finding pictures taken over fifty years ago showing the canal system in much better shape than it is now. But in all that research, there hasn't been one mention of the dams themselves. How they were made, the materials used, how long they lasted, etc. So I've been given that rare opportunity to document something that possibly no one has ever seen before. I have to go. Crazy or not. I have to do this. I promise I'll keep you updated with pics, etc. I'm so excited.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A little wet & A little history

Yesterday I went for a hike with Ell and Brad. We travelled to an area called Lusk Lock on the Beaver Creek river system in Ohio. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of locks, or of their part in our tiny corner of Ohio, a brief history lesson:

Locks and Dams were used during the early to mid 1800's to transport goods by way of barges up and down major rivers like the Ohio and the Mississippi. Their use was invaluable in getting goods to the frontier, and only diminished with the introduction and expansion of the railroad across the United States. An entrepreneur decided to cash in on the use of the lock and dam system and helped fund a small line across Ohio from the Ohio River down towards Columbus. It was called the Sandy and Beaver Canal Company. It was, and would be the only privately owned lock system in the United States. It operated, somewhat unsuccessfully, for twenty or so years until 1852 when a reservoir dam broke and washed out much of the river system. Many of the 90 locks were dismantled to sell for foundations and bridge structures as a means of settling debts. Only about 10 to 20 still exist today, most being slowly eaten and covered up by the land. Lusk Lock is one of the most pristine examples of canal craftsmanship, with it's double curving stone staircase and still standing opposite-river dam foundation.

Back to my story... Ell and Brad and I hiked back into the area of Lusk lock. We walked down the staircase and then through the lock itself. A couple of huge trees had fallen into the lock facing upstream, so we had to crawl through all the branches. As we made our way down to the river I saw what appeared to be the remains of the dam under-structure. The river was the lowest I've seen it years, so the flat, perpendicular wooden platform was unmistakable. Brad and I decided to try to make a bridge of rocks to get closer so I could inspect it. Well that proved to be a much larger job than we envisioned, so I had another idea.

To make a long story only a little longer, I ended up just walking through the water. At one point I hit a deep spot almost up to my waist. It was hilarious, if not a little crazy. The water was really cold and the air wasn't much warmer. With some prodding and convincing Ell and Brad made the cold trek across the river as well. (At one point Brad actually threw his shoes back across the river for Ell to use.) The point of my stupidity --- to inspect the 150 year old dam under-structure --- was for naught. The sun was angling wrong and we couldn't see a thing from where we were. So instead we did some hiking on the other side of the river; something that maybe only a handful of people have ever done.

We spent a couple hours exploring. We crawled up onto the opposite dam wall ruins. We scoped out future camping locations. Ell found (and I was scared to grab and Brad accidentally killed) a crayfish bigger than any crayfish, or even shrimp, I've ever seen. It was probably six inches long with huge claws. Pretty cool. We walked at least a half mile downstream and then back up. We re-crossed the river a couple times, and why not? We were already soaked. And I finally got some pictures of the under-structure of the old dam. What an awesome trip.

It's so fun to go hiking with friends. Maybe sometime I'll bore you with my thoughts on the land, the history, and the people of the area during the canal time. Another day, though.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Funny

On Wednesday I realized I hadn't been on my blogroll for over two weeks. I knew I probably missed at least three or four posts from Adrienne, at least twenty from Guy, and a whole spattering of posts from others. So I spent a couple hours reading and commenting. In the midst of it all, I also realized I hadn't posted anything significant in the same amount of time. Sad, I know. Well I'm back. And just in time.

I was sent a link to Jeff Foxworthy's take on people in Ohio. It wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so true.
- You think all Pro Football teams are supposed to wear orange.
- You know all four seasons: winter, still winter, almost winter, and construction.
- You live less than 30 miles from a college or university.
- You know what a buckeye really is, and have a recipe for candied ones.
- "Towards the lake" means North and "Towards the river" means South.
- You know if other Ohioans are from Northern or Southern Ohio as soon as they open their mouths.
- You can spell words like Cuyahoga, Olentangy, Bellefontaine, Tuscarawas, Wapakoneta, and you know which letter is doubled in Cincinnati.
- "Vacation" means spending the day at Cedar Point in the summer and deer hunting in the fall.
- You measure distance in minutes.
- Your school classes were canceled because of cold.
- Your school classes were canceled because of heat.
- You had to switch from "heat" to "AC" in the same day.
- You know what should be knee-high by the Fourth of July.
- You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. For example: "Where's my coat at?"
- You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
- You carry jumper cables in your car.
- You know what 'pop' is.
- You design your kid's Halloween costumes to fit over a snowsuit.
- Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
- You think sexy lingerie is tube socks and a flannel nightgown.
- The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires six pages for the sports.

If you're from Ohio or know someone who is, I bet you said, "Isn't that the truth?" at least once. If you're not from Ohio or know someone who is, you're probably asking, "What is pop?" Either way, have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Friday Funny

One of the Brothers of the Briar shared this picture on CPS and I couldn't stop laughing. And why shouldn't I share my joy with all of you?!

Have a great weekend everyone.
P.S. If you can figure out the equation on the black sign you get 10 bonus points.

Things that make you go Hmm

Here's a conspiracy theory for you.

I put over 30,000 miles a year on my car. (Our other car usually gets at least a 15,000 mile workout every year as well.) It's not as much as some people I know, but it's still much more than the American average of 12-18 thousand. Well, Volkswagen has this service guideline that suggests regular service every 5000 miles and a major service checkup at various intervals. I'm approaching the 120,000 mile checkup very quickly. I got a letter in the mail the other day saying I was due for it. The letter didn't come from my mechanic, or even the dealership I bought the car from; it came from corporate Volkswagen. According to even the most aggressive average standards, I'm not due for that checkup for another two and a half years. So how did they know?

The answer is simple really: computers. Companies like GM are pioneering the installation of GPS systems such as OnStar and the like in every one of their vehicles. For a small fee, they provide services like diagnostic evaluations, map directions, theft recovery assistance, etc. But besides those pay-type services, most car computers have some sort of remote capability that allows them to track their vehicles. (Don't worry; I'm not going into any kind of Big Brother thing here. If you still think Big Brother doesn't exist, you need to wake up. But that's for another post.) The remote capability is how VW corporate knew I was going to need my next checkup. Nothing too complex here. They want to remind you so you come in and frequent their establishments. They even provided a coupon.

Here's the conspiracy theory... Since all new cars come with these computers--- that besides being directly connected to a far-off database, also act as the functioning brain of the engine --- couldn't the car company also control the actual performance of that engine? Follow me for a minute. 99% of all new cars are run off an advanced central computer. That computer regulates fuel mixture, spark consistency, exhaust pollution exposure, transmission shifting, braking, cooling, even cylinder use and cruising rpm. Some car makers have started to refer to them as "smart" computers. These computers have become so advanced, they go beyond the old ones the mechanic used to plug into for diagnosing a problem. Sometimes the mechanic enters certain codes or commands and the computer adjusts and fixes the engine itself. The technology is mind-boggling; really.

So with all this technology, how hard would it actually be for the car companies to simply cause a car to lose a little performance, prompting a service call to the garage. Or to tweak a few things and cause a part to be replaced. Just a little hiccup here or a cough there are all they need. They target the people that regularly use the dealership's service garages, and they are guaranteed the income from the service. All in good safety of course. They don't want anyone to get hurt; that would be unethical.

Not that crazy a thought, or impossible. The technology is there, and so is the greed. So what do you think?

Monday, October 01, 2007

In the woods

Camping. Hiking. Awesome.

With the freedom given by the cafe not being open yet, Ell has wanted to go camping for a month or so. Friday night we went down to the local State park, Beaver Creek, and set up camp. Just us and the woods and the critters that live in them. So refreshing. We woke up Saturday morning to the sound of birds and bugs and ate a breakfast of pancakes and eggs. We relaxed for a while and then packed a lunch for the afternoon. We hiked down into the the main part of the park on a treacherous trail. I'm pretty sure we were the first people on that section of trail in the past couple months. It was really overgrown and not taken care of very well at all. But it was good practice for our big trip in a few years.

Once we got down into the park, we crossed the river on this old metal bridge. I always look for fish whenever I'm close to water, and we saw a lot this time. As we looked down into the water on the downstream side we saw six carp. Each one was at least 18 inches long, with a couple well over two feet. One of them swam upstream under the bridge and so I crossed over to see where it was going. But my eyes saw more than just that carp. On the upstream side, facing into the flowing water, were at least 100 to 200 fish. It was amazing. It was easily the most fish I've ever seen in one place in the wild. At first they looked like catfish, and then like smaller carp. Some old guy said they were, "Just sucker fish." What, like the ones we had in our childhood fish tanks? I looked in the Ohio State Freshwater Fish Identifier this morning, but I couldn't find anything that looked the same. Whatever they were, it was one of the most impressive displays of nature I've ever seen.

We had our lunch of crackers and cheese and then headed back up the rocky trail. In all we hiked close to two miles. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and napping. Our friends Grant and Jess came out to spend the second night with us. We made dinner with them and then settled in around the fire. Some other friends, Chris, Kate, and their baby girl came out for a few hours too. Nothing like staring into a fire and hanging out with good friends. It was fun. After another great breakfast, we packed up camp and headed home. Weekends like that are few and far between, and this was a good one.