Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let the little geek speak


"Revenge of the Nerds" is one of my guilty pleasures. I've always liked Robert Carradine, who played Lewis, and it's hard to believe that Anthony Edwards (Dr. Green from "ER") started out as Gilbert! It's silliness, I know, but there's something kind of satisfying about the nerds using their superior intellect to show that they're worthy of respect and can compete and even win against bullies. Isn't that a line in the movie? "Nerds are people, too." Actually, I think the main zinger is when Lewis says, "I've got news for all the beautiful people. There are more of us than there are of you." "Nerd" is essentially synonymous with "geek," and the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines geek as "A technically oriented person. It has typically implied a 'nerdy' or 'weird' personality, someone with limited social skills who likes to tinker with scientific or high-tech projects."

I recently read something in which the person wrote that they didn't want their kids "stuck in the geek lounge at work." Au contraire, I think that geekdom is something to aspire to! I'd say that Bill Gates is the embodiment of the Übergeek, and last I knew, he was doing pretty well for himself. It's the science nerds who will be driving the future, as the need grows for health care personnel, civil and mechanical engineers to repair our aging infrastructure, nuclear engineers to construct new nuclear plants, and medical researchers to develop new treatments for disease and infection. It was a science geek who put the iPod in your shirt pocket, the cell phone in your purse, and the computer on your desk in front of you. They've put a nice TV in your living room--possibly a big screen TV--and a satellite in orbit so you can get 150 channels. Chances are, they've protected your children from deadly infections and it's quite possible they've saved the lives of other family members by using techniques like open heart surgery and organ transplants. They developed the search engine that is the most-used in the world, they developed the program I'm using to write this entry, and they continue to write the programs that make the whole world sing!

And make no mistake about it: being a geek is not mutually exclusive with being a well-rounded person in both education and interests. I consider myself a geek, but I have what I consider to be a healthy curiosity about the world in general, including art, literature, and music. When I took my SAT's in high school, I actually scored higher on the language section than I did on the math. Socially inept? A geek can use his or her mental skills to overcome that and learn how to adapt. I'd say that the overriding characteristic of a geek is an insatiable thirst for knowledge, whether it's about science, language, or pop culture. I believe that's something to foster and develop in our students, and I call for an immediate end to geek-bashing! I can't understand why it was ever "uncool" to learn, and if we want to turn things around in this country--and the world--we need to make learning not only cool, but expected. The greatest gift my parents gave me was not my college education, not anything monetary, but a love of learning and a love of reading. Reading will take us everywhere, teach us about various cultures and religions and countries. My Dad and I talk sometimes about how our family loves to read, and he says, "Books have taken me to the ends of the earth." To not foster that feeling in our youth is doing them a disservice.

And you know what they say! "The geeks shall inherit the earth." Isn't that how the Bible verse goes? <grin>

So hug a geek today. Show a little love. As soon as Ken gets home, I'm going to give him a big hug! And I'm sure that when he reads this, he'll give me one, too!



I can't see clearly now


Back from my eye exam. They dilated my pupils...oh man, I HATE that! First of all, those eye drops really sting, and it really bugs me when my eyes feel weird like that. (I'm essentially blind in my left eye, but my right eye is better. I have to be wearing my contacts or glasses in order to drive or to...well, function, so I'm really sensitive about my eyes.) Then, it makes me so sensitive to light that I feel like I'm part vampire--but I did manage to avoid spontaneous combustion. Finally, I got to drive around and walk into the store wearing those fabulously hip big plastic sunglasses they give you! I have my pride, but I also have a need to see where I'm walking, and since it's a beautiful sunny day, I couldn't open my eyes without wearing those things. When I got home, I stopped just inside the driveway to get the mail. As I was walking back to my car, one of our neighbors said "Hey!" to get my attention. I walked over, and this time I had to take the stupid glasses off. I couldn't stand there and talk to him wearing those glasses! He wanted to tell me that we should be careful about locking our garage doors, etc., because someone broke into his garage and stole about 7 grand worth of stuff. Oh no! He was pretty sick about it, but at least they didn't break into their house and harm anyone. I thanked him for the warning and said I was sorry that happened to them and headed in. When I looked at my eyes in the mirror, my pupils were almost as big as my irises! So there I was talking to the guy in the bright sunlight, with my pupils completely dilated. He probably thinks I was all drugged up on something! Ha! It's finally starting to wear off a bit, thank goodness. It almost makes me queasy.

I ordered my glasses. $680! AAAAGGGGHHHHHH! Insurance paid for part of that, so we got it down to a little over $400. Still outrageous. As Kimberley would say, great googly moogly! Well, as I've said, my eyes are really bad, and I think that makes the lenses cost even more. They used the lightest material they have, and that's pricey. I also got progressives, because I need a bit of a bifocal. I also got transition lenses, so I didn't have to buy a separate pair of prescription sunglasses. AND I got a Teflon coating that is supposed to cut down on glare, because my night vision is hazy. (And if I need to, I can fry an egg on them!) Add it all up, and I might as well walk around with an ounce of gold strapped to my head. These are going to last me a while, I can tell you that!

Candidate for Lasik, you ask? Ken and I were just talking about that the other day (his eyes aren't as bad as mine, but they're bad enough), and we agreed that we still don't know enough about the long term effects. Shortly after our talk, the news had a piece about possible stricter regulations on Lasik, and we heard a few horror stories. Actually, everyone I've ever known who had it was very pleased with it. I think I probably would be, too. But what happens 10 years down the road when our eyes change? That's what concerns me. At the very least, I hear that you usually have to have it again at some point. At the worst? Who really knows?

Like I said, I'm more than a little paranoid about my eyes and my vision. I'll keep wearing the glasses and contacts!


As I gaze into my crystal ball...


I predict there will be a nap in my future today.

I got to bed around 12:30 this morning, which I think is pretty good considering my tendencies lately. I started waking up before Ken got up (I think he got up around 5:30) and couldn't really go back to sleep. Then I started thinking that if I did fall back into a deep sleep, I'd sleep too late to get ready for my 11 AM appointment! I didn't set my alarm, because seriously, who sets their alarm for an 11 AM appointment? Ha!

So by that time, it was a lost cause. I decided to get up and take a nap later if I feel the need. I'm actually quite wide awake now, so it was a good call to get up instead of laying there. Besides, I got to send Ken off to work with a hug and a kiss. Aww...they used to tease me at work, about how we're so cute it just makes 'em want to puke, or words to that effect.

Well, it's someone's birthday today! Happy 15th Birthday, World Wide Web! The folks over at Magic Smoke asked for entries about what has changed for us because of the Web. Neat idea, and you can check here to see the various links to everyone's entries.

For me, I'd have to say the biggest change has been information and research. I used to use reference books a lot, whether a dictionary or An Incomplete Education. I could still usually find what I was looking for, but the process was much longer and more time-consuming. I still use a reference book on occasion, but it doesn't happen often.

The amount of information at our fingertips never ceases to amaze me. Simple experiences such as reading a book are heightened by being able to read more about the author; we can increase our vocabulary by having a Word of the Day sent to us in an email; we can "visit" places like the Vatican Library and the Library of Congress. For those of us who remember browsing through the card catalog at the library, the Web is nothing short of a modern miracle.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm getting very very sleepy....

Our stir fry dinner last night was mighty tasty, and Ken even said that he was kind of disappointed he didn't have leftovers in his lunch today! We'll remedy that tomorrow. We were both a little disappointed with the rice, because I tried to make it sticky using less water and more rice, but once the sauce hit it, it didn't "stick." I found a recipe online today specifically for sticky rice using regular long-grain white rice, rather than glutinous rice. I will definitely try that next time and see if it holds up to the stir fry sauce and soy sauce.

Tonight was simple, with chicken quesadillas and refried beans on the menu. I'm stuffed to the gills, and I couldn't even eat all of mine.

"American Idol" was kind of lame. I'm just not into it this year. But "Law and Order" was great, with Robin Williams playing a complex character. Yes, he did terrible things, but what was in his past that made him do those things? (While I had sympathy for what the character went through, his actions were still illegal. Guilty as charged.) Give the guy an Emmy for this one--great job, Robin!

I'm plum tuckered, so I'm off to bed. I don't want to stay up late tonight, because I have an eye appointment at 11 AM, and I want to do my workout in the morning. I think I'm officially hooked on working out! I need new glasses, and I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get bifocals. For tiny print, I have to pull my glasses up and hold the print really close. I'm not getting older, I'm getting...blinder! Ha!


Armed and Sulfurous

Hotel robber claims to be Satan, clerk tells police

Tribune Staff Report

MISHAWAKA — A man claiming to be Satan robbed a hotel early this morning.

According to police, the man, wearing a black leather coat and hat, entered the Comfort Inn and Suites, 5640 N. Main St., about 4 a.m. and demanded money.

The hotel’s clerk told the man the money already had been deposited for the night. The man replied that there still had to be money in the register.

The man, who police said kept his hand in his pocket as if he had a gun, then asked the clerk’s name and said that his name was Satan.

The clerk then gave the man about $200 and he fled on foot, but not before stopping to take a USA Today newspaper from the counter, according to police.


Wow, looks like things are tough all over! Even Lucifer is hard up. I'm glad to see he took some reading material, though. Apparently the Lord of the Underworld likes to keep up with things. I'm sure he's quite interested in the political campaign!

Flip review

A couple of days ago, I gave my opinions on a movie and a couple of CD's. I realized that I have yet to give my review of my newest toy, The Flip!

This little guy is incredibly easy to use. For someone who just wants to upload short videos onto the Web, like me, it's perfect. It will hold up to 2 hours of video, and I can see myself using it for longer videos, such as vacation shots. I wouldn't say that it's high quality video, but for a casual user, it does just fine.

First of all, it's amazingly light. When I took it to our recent dinner, Shane couldn't believe how light it was! Very easy to cart around--it's actually lighter than my digital camera. It uses 2 AA batteries, and I use the same rechargeables I use for my camera. There are few buttons to mess around with--the red button turns the recording on and off, there's a play and delete button, and there's a 2x zoom. There's an internal microphone that seems to work fairly well. It has 2G of internal memory, and does not use a memory card. I was a little surprised that it didn't come with a larger instruction manual--it was basically a four-fold card--but when I started playing with it, I realized that a larger manual wasn't really needed. It IS that simple to use.

I've taken and uploaded a couple of videos, as well as sent one to Shane in an email. The "flip" part of it is the USB arm that swings out and attaches right to your computer. If I were using a tower rather than a laptop, I'd be tempted to use a cable to attach the camera to the computer, in order to not stress the USB arm too much. When you attach it to your computer, the power is supplied by the computer so you don't wear down the batteries as quickly. The Flip software is fairly self-explanatory, and you can edit videos. (My recent bat video went from 3 and a half minutes to under 3 minutes, for example.) You can save your videos to your computer, email them, and upload easily to AOL Videos and YouTube. (There are probably ways to upload to other sites, but I'm not sure why you would want to.)

All in all, I think this is one of the most ingenious little things I've seen in a while. It's not for the serious videophile, and I wouldn't use it for taping things like weddings! But for the casual user--again, me--it's excellent. Two thumbs--and a USB arm--up!



Monday, April 28, 2008

Survivor Indiana

Hmm. Interesting weather. The temperature has dropped throughout the day, and we're now under 50°, and it's raining. I'm hoping that the temperature won't drop too low, and that everything that is budding and blooming will survive. Oddly enough, this rain might help, because if it gets really cold, any ice will protect rather than hurt the plants. (That's why you see them hosing down the trees in Florida orchards when it gets really nippy.) I don't think it will get that cold, so maybe everything will be okay. I was actually hoping for the clouds to roll in, because cloud cover could keep it from getting too cold tonight! I also hope that Hummy will find a little hidey hole where he can keep warm!

I'm still sticking with my little workouts! Today was hand weights for my arms. I told Ken what all I was doing, and he suggested one more, holding the weights out at shoulder height and bringing them into my midline. Good suggestion, and I added that today.

I went to the grocery store this morning and decided to get stuff for stir fry. I've got beef, broccoli, mushrooms, and pea pods. And Vidalia onions, of course! Oh, and I got another cutting board, a bamboo one. I have a large glass one, and I like using that for meat, because I can put it into the dishwasher. This is smaller, and it will look nice up against the wall, but I'll have to handwash it, so I'll use this one just for veggies. Veggies like ONIONS!

Awww. Even though it's down to about 45° and raining, Oreo is out there in the rain chowing on oranges and suet. Get plenty of fuel, buddy, and find a place to stay warm. I know it's silly to worry about our critters--they almost always find a way to protect themselves and find shelter. Living here has certainly been an education in how nature works, and it's not always pleasant. I just hope for the best and keep in mind that it's the natural order of things. 

The Grim Weeper




Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.


            ~Mark Twain




Have you ever been thinking of someone, and as your mind wanders, you're struck by something you never noticed about them before? It can be a good friend, a casual acquaintance, or a family member, someone from the far past or from the immediate present. But something hits you that you have previously not realized.

That happened to me the other day. I was thinking of someone, and BAM! It struck me. I had never seen them smile. I never saw them have a good laugh, either, but seriously, not even a smile! I said to myself, "No. That can't be true. Everyone smiles at some point." I thought about it harder, racked my brain for memories, and it's true. I never saw them crack a smile.

I find this astounding, and more than a little disturbing. I know we all have bad days, and there are times that I don't feel like smiling. But those times are pretty rare, and I've got the laugh lines to prove it! The people I enjoy being around all love to have a good laugh, and that includes my family. We've all gone through some rough times, but we always manage to find the humor in things. My family may gather for a funeral, and we'll have our tears and sadness there, but when we have a family dinner afterwards, we inevitably end up laughing about something. I think it's natural for people to seek joy and happiness, even in the midst of tragedy, and to have that constant unsmiling grimness hovering about you must be pretty miserable. In fact, I find that the more absurd a situation gets, the more likely I am to laugh about it! We had some extremely stressful days at work sometimes, and we might buckle down and work without talking for a little while, but something's gotta give, and we'd usually end up laughing about something. (There may have been a touch of hysteria there occasionally, but just let 'er rip.) There are times that you have to work a little harder to find it, but something will turn up. You just have to look for it.

A smile will not only make you feel better, but others will take notice and probably respond in kind. My friend Eugene at work lived through the genocide in Rwanda, and many of his family members perished. Eugene has one of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen. It lights up his entire face, and he uses it frequently. If someone can live through such horrible events and continue to smile, it should humble any of us who don't smile because we're having a tiff with someone, or something equally as trivial. I've noticed that people almost always look more attractive when they smile. A constant scowl makes me think of dark corners and black widow spiders and other ugly things. It also makes me think that the inside of the person might very well be as unpleasant as the outside. I've read that it takes more muscles and more effort to frown rather than smile. To constantly make that extra effort makes me wonder if a person just prefers to be miserable.

If someone is truly in pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental, I feel terrible for them and encourage them to take steps to get help in alleviating their suffering. If someone just enjoys being "poor pitiful me," perhaps they should reclaim their lost smile and track down that elusive sense of humor. It could change their entire outlook!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rose Red resumed

We finished watching "Rose Red" a little bit ago, and yes, it really was quite good! I believe it aired in 2001, so we hadn't seen it since then. I'd say that it's stood the test of time, because it still holds up as a good, old-fashioned, scary ghost story.

I previously mentioned the usual elements: a group of friends (in this case, a group of psychics assembled by a researcher) gathers at a creepy old mansion to try and experience any psychic phenomena that might happen. The group ranges from the nerdy mama's boy who sees dead people to the compassionate Christian lady who is an "automatic writer" to the kind, handsome Englishman who can read minds.

Rose Red is actually the name of the mansion, and it's quite a house. It seems that it...grew...over the years, thanks to the mistress of the house and her servant, who decided that as long as Rose Red continued to build, they would survive. And they do...sort of. [Insert evil laughter here.] Rose Red is unique in many ways, including that it can change its plans and configuration in the blink of an eye, resulting in someone who is innocently and warily walking down a dark hallway turning around to see where they've been, only to find a wall behind them, where they had just walked.

Many former residents of the monster house make an appearance, in varying states of decay. Rose Red has been the cause of demise of several over the years, and this group of psychics is no exception. The big problem comes with the researcher who gathered them together...she knew exactly what she was doing and knew exactly what the house was capable of, and even when things start going terribly wrong, she continues in her pursuit of knowledge--not for the sake of knowledge, but in order to prove wrong those who have disrespected her. She's so horrid that you experience a bit of satisfaction when she meets her fate (I won't divulge it here).  

This really does have all the classic elements of a good scary movie, especially the hubris and nemesis of the researcher. Haven't these people ever watched scary movies? Ambitious scientists who ignore morals and ethics always get burned in the end! Dr. Frankenstein, the scientist in "The Fly," Herbert West and the evil professor in "Re-Animator," and on and on and on. If you're ever tempted to "ignore the laws of God and man," as many of these movies proclaim, just remember the fly-with-a-human-head stuck in the spider web screaming, "Help meeee!" That should put an end to your crazed ambitions!

Oh, and Stephen King continues to take a page from Hitchcock, by making an appearance as the pizza delivery guy in the movie. Always funny!

Just picks, no pans

We didn't quite make it all the way through "Rose Red," (considering that it's 4 hours long, I don't feel too bad about that) so we'll finish the last hour or so tonight. Scary, ghostly things are really starting to happen now at the mansion! I'd forgotten that this was surprisingly good (it was written by Stephen King--I think I forgot to mention that), although it's an old story: a group of psychics gather in a long-abandoned haunted mansion to see if they can document any psychic phenomena. (Quick answer: yes, they can.) The professor who gathers them together is ruthless in her ambition, even to the point of not caring if people are harmed. A classic story, and lots of fun! And yeah, we DID turn off the lights! Had some popcorn, too. Movie night is fun!

I continued to stick with a daily workout, and today was 1.5 miles on the recumbent bike. I really like doing the bike, because a mile and a half goes really fast, AND I can read while I'm doing it! I'm looking forward to getting my real bike out and riding around the area a little bit. (I won't read when I do that, though. Ha!) I got another little workout in when I vacuumed. Does anyone else work up a sweat when they vacuum? I always do. I love my vacuum cleaner, too. I got this before Ken and I met, and I did a little research to find a good one. I had to have a canister style--I can't stand to push around an upright--and I got a Samsung Quiet Storm. It is neither quiet nor stormy, but it makes me laugh to call it the Quiet Storm. In my opinion, it does a great job.

Besides my movie and vacuum cleaner review, I have a couple of music reviews for you!


First up is The B-52's latest, "Funplex," their first brand new CD in 16 years! Shane had sent me a few videos of some of the new songs, but today I was able to listen to the entire disc at once.

Oh man, I love this band! After 16 years, they've lost none of their energy, and most importantly, their sense of goofiness! Fred's voice sounds stronger than in the past, and Kate and Cindy can still sing like angels. Keith's guitar rocks a little harder than I've heard it rock before, and the whole thing is just completely danceable.

My favorite songs so far are "Pump," "Hot Corner," "Juliet of the Spirits," and the title track. "Juliet" showcases Kate and Cindy's harmonizing talents as well as "Roam," (from "Cosmic Thing") and "Funplex" features some of their goofy lyrics, such as Fred yelling, "Faster pussycat, thrill thrill! I'm at the mall on a diet pill!" and Cindy playing your Taco Tiki Hut waitress saying, "Here's your stupid 7-Up." Sheer silliness, which has always been a part of the B's appeal for me.

In the style of Randy Jackson, let me just say, "America's party band is back, baby! You guys can still kick it, dawg!"


My other new CD is REM's latest, "Accelerate." I've read a couple of reviews that said it was their best in years, but I tend to reserve judgement until I've heard it for myself. So, in this case, the reviews were right on the money. I hadn't bought any new REM for a while, because while I've never stopped liking them, none of their recent stuff has grabbed me. I'm so glad I got this one, because they've proved that they are still very relevant and still quite a musical force.

Michael's voice is still moving and still strong, and Peter's guitar totally rocks, as do the majority of these songs! It reminds me of listening to "Monster" for the first time and thinking, "Wow, this ROCKS!" when REM hadn't been known up until then for traditional rock songs.

My favorites (again, so far) are "Living Well is the Best Revenge," (I've always loved that sentiment!), "Hollow Man" which starts out slow but kicks in pretty quickly, the title track with its excellent guitar, "Until the Day is Done," with some beautiful acoustic guitar, and "Mr. Richards," which has a very pleasing, pop-like melody.

In "I'm Gonna DJ," Michael sings, "Hey steady steady, I'm not gonna go till I'm good and ready!" After giving this excellent CD a listen, I'd say that REM isn't going anywhere!

If you get a chance, give Athens, GA's finest 2 bands' new efforts a listen. They're both well worth it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

They did the Mash!


We had a nice morning--slept in, read the paper, took our time waking up! The birds were very entertaining. I was trying to get a better picture of Oreo, one that I didn't take through the sliding glass door. I eased over to the window with the camera, slid the door open a little more, tried to open the screen as quietly as I could, and when I got the camera up to take his picture, he flew off. He did that to me twice! Still, it's fun to see him, and I've always wondered why the orange on orioles is the exact same color as an orange? AND, they love to eat oranges! How weird is that?

I did a mile on the treadmill today. So far I'm sticking with it, although it's only been 4 days.

In the afternoon, while Ken was out tackling the big lawn tractor (Ken won) and making the yard look beautiful, I was inside doing a little spring cleaning. There is still plenty to be done, but at least I've got it started! I was looking for something interesting to have on the TV in the background, and ChillerTV came through for me with "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." I love the black and white monster movies from the '40's and '50's! (Some were even earlier--I think the first Mummy movie was from the '30's.) By the '60's, most were in color, but there's something about the B&W ones that I just love. Of course, they're cheesy, and the special effects were extremely low tech. These were way before CGI!

But there's a charm to these old monster movies that we rarely see today. There's usually something that makes you feel a bit of sympathy for the monsters, whether it's the Creature getting harpooned, the Mummy's undying love for Ankhsunamun, or King Kong being exploited by the money-grubbing entrepreneurs who kidnapped him from his island (where he lived quite happily, thank you very much).

Besides, these old movies remind me of staying up late on weekends and watching the Creature Feature with Cousin Shane and/or Cousin Greg. I've loved scary movies since I was a kid, and most of my favorites are pre-slasher era movies. ("Psycho" is probably my all-time favorite.) They're just plain fun, and I still love staying up late and watching scary movies with the lights turned out.

We're not watching a movie that old tonight, but it seems like a good night for a scary one, so we're watching the "Rose Red" miniseries. It aired a few years ago, so I'm looking forward to watching this fairly good ghost story again. We might even have to turn off all the lights.


More Oreo

Another beautiful sunny day, but not as warm. There's a possibility of a frost or a freeze Monday night. Nooooo! The flowering cherry is starting to blossom, and I don't want it to get nipped the way it did last year when Kim and Steve were here. I'll be so bummed if it happens 2 years in a row.

I got some great pictures of Oreo this morning! I'll put my favorite up here and put the rest in My Pictures. At first he was eating suet rather than the oranges, but now he's been chowing down on the oranges all afternoon. And even more exciting (I know you're all just jumping up and down with excitement right about now!) is that while I was watching Oreo, Hummy came buzzing up to the feeder and got a drink. So they're finally back! I'm so pleased. I've only seen the male, I haven't seen any females yet. But I'm happy they're back. I hope they stay warm Monday night!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Nutwood Update

I haven't been writing much lately about our daily goings-on, so I'll get caught up with that.

Nothing real exciting, though! Ken has finished his one-night-a-week night shift. Yay! Although I'll miss our days together during the week, I'll be happy for him that he can get back on a regular schedule. One night in the middle of the week can really screw up your routine!

A cold front will be coming in for the weekend, but the weather this week has been wonderful. I can't believe how green everything is getting in just a week! What a treat to see color appear in the drab post-winter landscape.

Hey, I've been really good about trying to work out a bit each day! Wednesday was a mile on the treadmill, Thursday was a mile on the recumbent bike, and today was using hand weights for my arms. (I might do more of that this afternoon.) Since I'm just starting, I'm feeling it out and seeing what my bod has to say about it. No grumbles so far, so I'll start ramping it up a bit in the coming week.

We made a trip to Lowe's yesterday afternoon, after Ken got up. We recently got a big new Lowe's nearby, and it's one of the best stores EVER! I've always loved hardware stores, even when I was a kid, and I love looking at all the gardening stuff and plants...oh man. Cousin Shane and I laughed about when they first opened this store, and we walked in there for the first time, we actually felt a little verklempt! Lowe's rocks! One of the things we got was a new wheelbarrow, as the old one we had was on its last...wheel. The new one has two wheels. Oooooo. Actually, it will help Ken out since he won't have to stoop down so low, and it will help me out in that it's a lot more stable. If I was carting around a heavy load of dirt or whatever, sometimes the thing would almost get away from me. I managed to never dump anything out of it, but it was close a couple of times!

Since it was so nice yesterday, Ken barbecued some chicken--he's got it down to a science, and it comes out just perfect! We also roasted some corn on the grill, which is always yummy. I was a little disappointed in this corn, because I don't know where it came from, but they hadn't let it get completely ripe! I can hardly wait for some locally grown, but I've got a little while before it's ready. I don't think any of the local farmers have planted their corn yet. I also sauteéd half of a Vidalia onion. I got my shipment yesterday--YES!--and I just couldn't stand to not have a Vidalia! I get a 20-pound box shipped from Georgia each year, and put them into nylons and hang them in the basement. I'll give Mom and Dad a few, too. One year I got a 40-pound box, and I was giving everyone onions! That's a little too much. I love Vidalias because they are so delicious and so sweet. There's nothing like them. One of my favorite things each year is a big garden salad with Vidalias. Here's what I do:


  • Pick a big bowl of loose leaf lettuce
  • Add sliced mushrooms
  • Fry a little bacon and keep a couple of tablespoons of drippings (just for flavor)
  • Crumble the bacon into the salad
  • Add a thickly sliced Vidalia separated into rings
  • Make a light dressing of the bacon drippings, olive oil, and cider vinegar


We'll eat that for dinner with nothing else. (Although it would be a good night to have some strawberry shortcake for dessert!) It's not quite wilted lettuce, which I also love, but similar. Wow, that made me hungry!

Of course, to be able to pick a bunch of loose leaf lettuce, one must first plant it! Ken and I will start getting a garden bed ready as soon as we can. We got a few 1x6's at Lowe's--or were they 2x6's?--to make enclosed raised beds. Our beds up until now haven't had sides, and we're just losing dirt back into the walkways. Our weeds get so out of control, too, so we'll probably put down some black bed covers to try and get a handle on those.  

And I think that brings us up to date! For now....

Summer birds

They're back! Yippee!

When I got up this morning, I was sitting here with the window open, and I heard a different kind of whistle coming from the deck. I turned around, and there he was on the deck railing. (I took this picture last year.) I love these guys, and so far they've come back every year. I called him Oreo, by the way. <grin> I think their coloring is just so vivid and striking, and they also sing beautifully. So now there's an orange out on the little deck table, waiting for Oreo.

This bodes well for the return of the hummingbirds, too. As Ken knows (I probably mention it every day), I'm a little bummed that our hummies haven't made an appearance yet. I'm hoping that it's just a matter of a rather late spring, and they'll be here soon.

I also heard, but didn't see, our Grey Catbird. Sometimes they'll come up to the deck (they like oranges and grape jelly just like orioles), but usually they're fairly shy. They're also one of my favorites--they look sort of distinguished and handsome, with their charcoal grey color and darker patch on their head. Sounds boring, but something about them just seems handsome to me. I believe one of my bird books even describes them as a "handsome, slate-grey bird." They have a very distinctive call, too, that sounds like a cat mewling (thus the name catbird).

When I heard them calling this morning, it made me grin because it reminded me of last year when we had a garage sale. My Mom and Dad were here helping out, and when it was real quiet, one of the catbirds started up, and sounded really loud.

Mom: What kind of bird is that? It sounds like a cat!

Me: It's a catbird!

Dad: [bursts out laughing, thinking that I'm making a joke]

Me: No, really, it's a Grey Catbird, and they're called that because they really do sound like a meowing cat! 

We got a good laugh over that one. I've also seen our cowbird couple this morning. I have no explanation for why they're named after cows.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bat Girl

I took that video last night, when I was excited to see that our bats are back, baby!

I don't know if you can hear my comments in the background, but we've named our bats Boris and Natasha, and their baby is Batty. I suspect that Batty is all grown up now, but I still think of them as the Bat Family. I honestly have no idea how many bats we have, but I hope our numbers are increasing. We've put up a couple of bat boxes, and we also have no idea of whether or not the Bat Family is living in them (the boxes are high up on 12-foot poles), but we can only hope.



Bats get a bad rap, because people find them so creepy. I suppose they are, a little bit, but mostly I just find them fascinating.

I worked with a guy, Mario, in Indianapolis, who was doing his Master's research project on bats. He went to caves and did a lot of work on the study of these little critters, and he had nothing but respect and love for our poor, maligned little mammal friends.

I've always found them interesting simply because they are a little creepy. Their little faces and ears and fangs are just cute to me, in a weird way. I can't really explain it, but it's almost that because some of them are so ugly...they're cute.

But beyond their strange cuteness, I love them because they eat a TON of bugs, and considering how many mosquitoes we have around here in the summer, I say, "Go Bats!"


Consider a few Bat Facts, from Wikipedia:

*There are about 1,100 species of bats worldwide, accounting for about 20 percent of all mammal species. About 70 percent of bats eat insects. Most of the rest eat fruit, with a few species being carnivorous, usually taking blood meals. Bats are present throughout most of the world, including Alaska.

*Bats are important in ecology by pollinating some flowers and dispersing seeds. Many tropical plants are totally dependent on bats.

*By emitting high-pitched sounds and listening to the echoes, also known as sonar, bats locate prey and other nearby objects. This echolocation is an ability they share with dolphins and whales.

*Vision is used as an aid in navigation especially at long distances, beyond the range of echolocation. It has even been discovered that some species are able to detect ultraviolet light. Their senses of smell and hearing are excellent.

*A baby bat is referred to as a pup.

*A single bat can live over 20 years, but the bat population growth is limited by the slow birth rate.

*Many bats migrate, while others pass into a lowered state of awareness in cold weather but rouse themselves and feed when warm spells permit insect activity. Others retreat to caves for winter and hibernate for six months.

*Bats rarely fly in rain because it interferes with their echolocation, and they are unable to locate their food.

*Only 0.5% of bats carry rabies, but of the very few cases of rabies reported in the U.S. every year, most are caused by bat bites.

*Bats are a tourist attraction. A bridge in Austin, Texas is the summer home to North America's largest urban bat colony, an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican free-tailed bats, which eat an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects each night.

*In Western culture, the bat is often a symbol of the night and its foreboding nature. The bat is the main animal associated with fictional characters of the night, both villains like Dracula and heroes like Batman.

I urge you to consider the benefit and strange beauty of our fine non-feathered bat friends. Don't be afraid of the bat...embrace the the bat. Our Bat Family at Nutwood is a fine addition to our family of critters, and I couldn't be happier to have them back.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ultimate fighting


Another gorgeous day at our home on the range! Ken slept late in preparation for his night shift tonight--MAYBE the last one for this refueling outage!--and I got up around 10 AM. For some reason, I was wide awake from about 3-5 AM, with a racing mind. Don't you hate it when that happens? I finally dozed off again, but got up to let Ken get some good sleeping time. Sheeba kept trying to get into the bedroom, but Ken said that Sheeba's frantic scratching on the door didn't bother him too much. I could NOT get Sheeba to leave it alone! Crazy cat.

I did a mile on the treadmill this morning! Woohooo! I definitely got my heart rate up, and I worked up a sweat. I just need to stay motivated and keep it up. As soon as we start converting the old garage into a workout area, we're planning on getting a weight machine. That's what I really want to do, although I know that cardio is just as important. I loved weight training in college, and I'd like to get back into it now that I have the time to do it. I don't want to be Crazy Muscle Woman, but I'd love to get a little definition, y'know? Ken got his workout in by doing outside work, and it was another nice day, so I got to sit out on the deck and soak up some more sun. I think I'm starting to get a little color on my arms!

Reader Mary left a comment about my entry concerning Bill Clinton and his possible health problems. A couple of emails later, and it seems that she's got me pegged. Reader Jimmy also left a comment wondering if Bill's behavior can be blamed solely on post-surgery consequences. I really do think that there might be something wrong, but they both called me out on it--am I getting too predictable?--and I have to admit that I don't totally believe it's medical complications. I was trying to be nice, you guys! I was trying to cut Bill a break!

Tell 'em how you really feel, Beth! Okay. Full disclosure.  Read at your own discretion, because you might not like what I have to say. I think there was definitely a sense of entitlement there on the part of the Clinton camp, and now they're getting quite angry that the nomination hasn't been handed to them. From Hillary fighting tooth and nail (I can't totally blame her for IS politics...more in a moment), to James Carville calling Bill Richardson a "Judas," to Bill's hissy fits directed at the seems like they're just throwing a big ol' temper tantrum that they aren't being crowned right now!  Chelsea seems to be the only one maintaining any kind of class and decorum here.

I've seen it happen in real life, too. I've had someone spread all kinds of nasty rumors about me in the past, and someone recently did their best to bait both me and Ken into a ridiculous squabble. They espoused extremely negative views of us, and generally tried to create as much mayhem as possible, no matter how damaging to all involved--including those who were completely innocent in all of it. The end result was...well, pretty much nothing. All that venom and nothing to show for it. They conceded--a surprisingly smart move--and realized that it was foolish to try to continue such a futile endeavor. I understand the inclination to fight, but at some point, you have to consider the collateral damage and have the intelligence to realize when YOU are the problem.

And okay, politics is a dirty business. I get it. The Clintons are doing whatever they can to win, and while I understand that, I think that this is now starting to damage the Democratic party. I'm speaking as a registered Republican who is considering voting for a Democrat but who still has reservations...but as someone who can be considered a relatively open-minded individual and who is trying to look at all aspects of the campaign, I see McCain gaining in the polls with every day that goes by. The infighting and backbiting is getting worse in the Dem camp, and McCain is sitting back and watching it all happen. Bottom line: Hillary's only chance to win is if the superdelegates go her way. She is behind in pledged delegates, popular vote, and states won. The superdelegates seem to be breaking for Obama, and let me just say it plain as day--if the superdelegates override the popular vote and the pledged delegate vote, the Democratic party will suffer a deadly blow and alienate all those young and new voters the Obama and Clinton campaigns have worked so hard to recruit and motivate. Howard Dean and the DNC will not let that happen. Yeah, dirty politics work. But at what price?

Something to think about


Has anyone else noticed that Bill seems a little...edgy...lately?

Yeah, a lot of people. Probably a month ago, I was talking to my Dad, and he said he's not sure what's up with the former President. Dad said, "I really think he might have Alzheimer's or something." I said Ken and I were talking about the same thing earlier! It seems like something is wrong.

I'm not going to bash the former Pres here. I think he's done enough damage to himself. I feel that the 8 years of his administration weren't all bad, and the country prospered (not entirely his administration's doing, but that's an argument for another day). My fundamental problem with him was his betrayal of the American people. I'll make no apologies for believing that there does need to be some accountability as to behavior--especially when someone is on the clock. For example, I once had a boss who was having an affair with another boss. They would disappear into the office and close the door. How much respect do you think we ended up having for this boss? When people are out there working hard--whether in my workplace or in the rest of the country--we don't want to put up with our leaders' dalliances on the clock. If you're not at work, I won't judge, but when you are at work, you aren't getting paid to play.

But I digress. That's in the past and I see no reason to rehash ancient history. It was painful enough at the time. I gained more respect for him after he and the former President Bush teamed up to raise money for those affected by the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and I still think that was a good effort. However, it seems that President Clinton has become increasingly agitated, combative, and downright belligerent with reporters these days. He's been described as a "loose cannon" by folks on the campaign trail, including those in Hillary's camp. When the sniper fire brouhaha was calming down, he brought it up again. He's accusing the Obama campaign of "playing the race card" when he brought it up first. Watch the video:

Ken and I were constantly saying, "What is wrong with him?" And frankly, it was on the verge of amusing. Sort of, "Oh jeez, what has he said now?" It seemed pretty obvious that he was off his game, and that someone needed to rein him in. I recently read an article by Dr. John McDougall, who puts forth the probability that the former president is suffering from post-bypass surgery cognitive dysfunction, which is apparently a very real problem among cardiac surgery patients. I am not making light of this in any way. After I read the article, I agreed with Dr. McDougall that perhaps a little compassion is due to Bill. As I told Ken, no matter what you think of the guy, he's obviously brilliant, and to see him struggling to control his outbursts is actually sad to me. It's almost like Flowers for Algernon or The Terminal Man. His life was saved by bypass surgery, but at what cost to his mental functions? Perhaps this will help the public understand more about a serious complication of a serious--and life-saving--surgery. And maybe Bill should consider taking a break.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I heart our habitat

I wish you all a very happy Earth Day! While it hasn't quite reached offical federal holiday status yet, it's become a very big deal. In fact, I've been hearing things about Earth "week" as opposed to one day.

It's fine and dandy to devote media attention to one day--or one week--and guilt everyone into being more conscientious. A better approach would be to focus on recycling and conservation every single day and make a conscious choice to make a difference.

Ken made a great entry today, and I'm not just saying that because we happen to be hitched. He's challenged J-Land to leave 50 comments on his journal, tips and ideas that we can all use to make a change in our daily lives in order to make things better, one tiny little step at a time.

See what he has to say and be sure to leave a comment about what YOU do to make a difference!


Ticking away


And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.


          Pink Floyd



Having lots of free time is something I haven't enjoyed in years. I still find myself trying to wrap my mind around the idea of not working. The first week felt more like a vacation, but here I am into the second week, and it finally seems to be sinking in. I think the last time I felt this way was probably my summers when I was in college. We lived in the mountains of northern Georgia, and my days (when we weren't out exploring the beautiful scenery) were spent reading books and writing letters, while my nights were spent...well, reading books and writing letters.

I feel an incredible sense of freedom. I am not beholden to the alarm clock, and I'm quickly reverting back to a more natural rhythm of sleep (I've mentioned my night owl tendencies). Senator Obama may speak of the "urgency of now," but I'm not feeling a sense of urgency in any way, shape, or form. I feel like I have the freedom to enjoy the day, to listen to the sounds around me, to sit and watch as summer creeps closer.

Yesterday, I was able to sit on the deck with my binoculars and watch the birds. This is a great time of year to do it, because the trees are still bare, and it's easy to get a good look at the birds. I finally figured out which bird makes that little "wee-hoo" whistle--it's a chickadee! I've been hearing that for years and was never able to pinpoint who was making that sound. I was thrilled to figure that out! (I doesn't take much, does it?)

I find myself shunning any type of appointment--that would mean that I need to be somewhere at a specific time. I'll get over that soon, because I need an oil change for Slick and new glasses (bifocals...argh) for me. There will also be lunches to plan with my folks, my sisters, Shane, etc., and I'll need to set a time and date for those. But what a burden lifted to not have the "anvil of work" (as Shane put it) hanging over my head. Believe me, I was never overloaded with doing things after work (running kids to various functions, for example), but I had to do some multi-tasking when I got home from work in order to cook dinner and do other such things, and make sure I got a little "decompression" time in there, too. It's very calming to be able to simply enjoy the moment.

I am also aware enough to realize that while it's okay for me to take the time to get used to a very different lifestyle, a lack of motivation is not a good way to live. While I appreciate the chance I've been given to take time to breathe and remember what it's like to not have that sense of urgency, I know that I need to set goals and plan my days. When I worked full time, I was great about making to-do lists for my days off. I filled a notebook or two with my day-off and weekend lists! While every day is now a day off, I think I should resume my list-making and set goals for each day. Well, most days. One of the first orders of business will be to start walking and working out, because I don't want to "blossom" too much!

Speaking of blossoming, I've done nothing with the garden yet, and I need to tear out the old plants and prepare the beds for planting. I can get out there any time and plant some cool weather things like lettuce. I have many projects to do around here, and while I'm certainly enjoying my completely non-urgent life, I know that it's not in my nature--or my best interests--to just sit back and watch life go by, at least not as a general rule. My buddy Jim told me that if he came over and found me sitting in a rocking chair and reading, he was going to kick my ass. Fair enough, although there will be times that I do exactly that. I just hope that's not what I'm doing when he drops by, because I don't want my ass kicked!

Ken has been a peach, and understands that it will take me a little while to adjust to my new life and navigate my new course. There are probably some guys that wouldn't handle such a change well, or would show some resentment. I've never gotten that feeling from Ken, and I appreciate him more than he probably realizes. I'm also enjoying staying up with him later, because I used to need to get to bed by 9:30 or 10 PM if I wanted to be on top of my game the next day. It's fun to stay up later and hang out with my hubby!

So while the clock has not stopped ticking, it's not ticking quite as loudly for me these days. I find myself not looking at the clock as often either, because the time of day doesn't matter quite as much as it used to. 5 AM: wake up. 5:15 AM: I should be in the shower by now. 5:35 AM: I should be out of the shower by now. I should be eating breakfast by 6 AM, and leaving the house by 6:20 AM. UGH! It's such a relief to not feel that sort of pressure and to not have to adhere to a timetable. I know there is a balance between enjoying each moment and carpe-ing each diem while maintaining a sense of motivation and a goal-oriented mindset, and I know I'll find it. I'm okay with allowing myself the time to absorb the fact that I'm no longer workin' 9 to 5 (although in my case, it was more like 7 to 4), but I also know that I will reach a tipping point where I am ready to resume the level of energy that I've had in the past. I can feel that tipping point coming soon, so until then, I believe I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride.



More pictures


I've added a few pictures from our fun evening to my public gallery. A good time was had by all!

I had to put this one up here, though. This is Cousin Shane and me. He said he had a good time meeting everyone that he's heard me talk about, and Pam said it was good to meet him, because they've all heard me talk about him so much! He's such a great guy, and such a pal. I'm looking forward to getting to see him more often! 



Fashion statement

You read my take on the FLDS here first, folks, and this article explains things further. Interesting stuff, and I think it only deepened the intensity of my creeped-outness over this group. 

Say hi to everyone

Monday, April 21, 2008

Son of a gun, we had big fun!


Make new friends, and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold!

I'm not sure why I chose this picture other than that it made me smile (although it verges on creepy), as did my pals tonight! We had a fun time together, and pictures and video will be coming soon.

We managed to take our server to the limit for the second time in 4 days--a few of us stayed way past our welcome, but it was definitely fun!

My pals even got me a present, a limited edition "I Love Lucy" frame of the Viteameatavegamin show. They know me so well! Cousin Shane got to come by and visit, too, and I am just as happy as can be. It was great to see everyone, even though it's been only a week!

Have I mentioned that I'm happy?



It's been a very quiet day here. I went to the store this morning, I've done some laundry, I took out the recycling...I've enjoyed having the windows open and hearing the birds. I am extremely mellow at the moment.

That should change tonight! A bunch of my work pals are meeting us at Hacienda. I will limit myself to 2 margaritas. I'll decide what to drink after those. <grin> Nah, no plans on getting crazy, just getting together and having some fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Freedom's just another word....


I'm not going to make any judgements on these ladies' religion. I believe that people have the right to worship in the manner which they choose, although I find the whole polygamy thing a little...oh, I don't know...ILLEGAL. I also have to admit that I have a problem with extremely young girls being married to older men, which I find a little...oh, I don't know...illegal AND disgusting.

I haven't followed this story extremely closely, but I'd bet that it's extremely likely that underage girls are being forced into marriages by their parents. I saw the group's lawyer saying that teenage pregnancies in the compound were not high, and are comparable to what goes on in mainstream society. I think there is a key difference, though. This group lives by an extremely rigid code, and I'd be willing to bet that some of the diddling going on is that of close family ties variety.

Now that I think about it, I think I will be a little judgmental about this kind of thing. It's not only illegal, it's putting young girls in roles that they should not be in, and it's taking away their right to choose. This type of insular society is cult-like and does not allow freedom of choice, whether it's religious or otherwise. There is no exposure to other ways of life or worship.

We have a large Amish population here, and while they are also somewhat insular, they interact with other members of the community, and they allow their children the freedom to explore the world. They do not live in a compound, they live among us and with us, and are part of our community.

These women may be--and in fact, probably are--very good mothers, and I am sorry for them that their children have been temporarily taken away from them. However, I have to wonder about what kind of childhood these kids will have in this type of restrictive environment. Our country is founded upon freedom of religion (some seem to have gotten away from that, but that's another tale), but when kids are in danger, that's just not acceptable. This group might argue that these kids are not in danger, they are just adhering to their religious philosophy. Young teen girls being offered up in polygamous marriages to older men is pretty much what I would consider the Danger Zone.


I also have to bring this up. I'm probably not the first, so don't shoot me. What is with that HAIR?

It's like Gibson-Girl-on-steroids hair! But Gibson Girls were the 1890's version of the ideal woman. It's 2008, for Pete's sake. Even Gibson Girls wore dresses that were fitted about the torso and waist, but these FLDS ladies are wearing what are essentially sacks with poufy shoulders. They do have the cutesy little collars, though. (Any adult woman who wears Peter Pan-type collars is in need of a serious fashion makeover, in my opinion.)

I don't condemn these women for their beliefs, but I do wonder at how they became so brainwashed. I'd say that the real villains here are the husbands and patriarchs who have kept this going for so many years. Hey, can't fault 'em too much, though, because what a sweet deal they've got going! Multiple wives AND a bunch of 'em are underage! Jeez, haven't we gotten past that? Apparently not, at least for a scattered few. That's where we come back to that insular society, because any young girl or woman who gets a taste of what life is like without being under the thumb of her religion and/or her husband will run away screaming and never look back. To stop any kid from knowing what kind of freedom they have is utterly abhorrent to me.

Freedom of religion is one thing. Keeping children from the freedoms available to them is something else entirely.

A lovely spring day

Wow, what a stunner of a day!

After reading the paper this morning, we went outside. (I have several flower pictures for you!) We picked up lots of winter debris in the yard, and Ken started tidying up the far pond while I scooped the leaves out of the small one. He kept at it much longer than I did, because after scooping the pond, my hand and wrist were done for. (Years of pipetting have taken their toll.) My hand trembled when I tried to pick up anything! Now that I'm no longer pipetting, I hope I'll get my wrist strength back. When I got inside, I took care of the cobwebs in preparation for dusting, but realized it was much too nice to be inside dusting, so I went and sat outside and soaked up a little sun. Ken finished up and joined me, and we both spent some time manufacturing a little Vitamin D. It was so beautiful and sunny, about 75° with a slight breeze, and believe me, after a long winter, there is nothing like that first time on the deck in the sun. I just soak it up like a sponge. I hope everyone had a day as gorgeous as ours!

Are you ready for some flower pictures? Things are really starting to pop now, so I wanted to get a few. They're probably kind of boring, but they really cheer me up and make me think of the coming summer days.



We've got daffodils galore! I took this one with a setting that mutes the background but makes the yellow and green stand out a bit. I don't like it that their heads are down, but I can't do much about that!







Another daffodil. I had to get down on his level to try to get his face. I like how you can see the still-bare trees in the background, but the daffodil looks nice and sunny in the foreground.






I was pleasantly surprised by how this white hyacinth turned out. I thought that since it was white, it would be Dullsville, but the white was so pure, and it almost looked creamy. They smell so good, too, especially when you're right up next to them!







Here's a blue hyacinth. He was kind of in the shadows, and I love this blue color--not quite a Maxfield Parrish blue, but definitely a periwinkle blue.








I forget what these little guys are called, but they're early birds, popping up right after the crocuses. Again, there's that blue color that I love. They're very delicate, so they don't last long.







I think this is some type of tiny windflower, another early one. The ones I have are shades of pink and blue.









Finally, here's a blue windflower, and once again, it's that shade that I love so much.





I had fun taking all of these. Our neighbor across the street is a sort of rural kind of guy, and when he saw me out there crouching down with my camera, he asked, "You taking pictures of flowers?" I would have to say his tone was a bit incredulous, almost like "Don't you have anything better to do?" Ha ha! I think he already thinks I'm kind of weird, but he's an okay guy and has told us lots about our property--he's the one who told us where to find the bed frame out in the woods where a log cabin once stood.

If you give me a few minutes, I think I'll put these up in a public gallery--that way if you want a better look, you can see the full picture instead of these small ones.  

A few minutes later

Okay, if you click on My Pictures in my favorite sites area, you can see all of these flower pictures. I also forgot to include one of my favorites from today, the forsythia. I like how the sun is behind these.



Saturday, April 19, 2008

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...


We're back! As always, it's great to be home. Sheeba held down the fort, and nothing seems to be destroyed. What a good kitty!

As I mentioned, we had a great visit with our friends Doug and Karen. We got caught up on plenty of things, and tried to solve a few world problems (we'll have to keep working on that!). We also talked about getting together with another couple from the cruise, Danny and Debbie, who also live in the vicinity. We could maybe meet in Indianapolis and have a fun weekend. If you're reading this, Debbie, something to keep in mind!

We had a great time with the kids, and spent the afternoon at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was actually very cool, and 3 huge hangars house the exhibits. There are planes galore (obviously), displayed on the ground and hanging from the ceiling. I think one of the coolest was the B2 Bomber (AKA the Stealth Bomber). What an incredible piece of machinery, and SO cool-looking. I was also surprised to see a section devoted to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps--quite a few Allied soldiers were sent to them when they were captured. It was very well done, and very upsetting (as it should be, in my opinion). Since it was a small section, it doesn't have the impact that The Holocaust Museum does, where you're completely immersed in it for the entire day, but it was still a good exhibit. My stepdaughter said that was her favorite, because she's studied about that in school.

My stepson is learning about The Cold War in class right now, so he was really interested in that exhibit. Me? Not so much. The history of The Cold War, the Berlin Wall, etc., was interesting to read about, but they had several warheads on display--actual ICBM's and IRBM's. For Ken and I, who remember The Cold War and the threat of being nuked out of existence, it's pretty chilling to see a physical manifestation of complete and utter destruction. I think I actually gave a shudder when looking at them. Reading about the fall of the Berlin Wall is much more uplifting, and I remember watching that on the news and crying to see all those people so overjoyed to destroy, with their own hands, a symbol of their oppression. Great stuff. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!"

I really liked the WWII section, probably because that's the war that I know more about, and because of my Dad. They had a small section that told about celebrities in WWII, including Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, Glenn Miller, and my person favorite, Jimmy Stewart. Did you know that Jimmy Stewart won a Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as a Croix de Guerre from France? These guys didn't wait for the draft, they signed up--and Clark Gable was past combat age, but he signed up anyway. I told Ken, "Hmm. You don't see a whole lot of celebrities signing up these days, do you?" A different age, and a different outlook.

They have an Imax theater there--aren't those a blast?--and we watched a movie about fighter pilots and a training exercise they go through at Nellis AFB in Nevada called Red Flag. They said that if a pilot survives his first 10 combat missions, his chances of survival improve significantly, so for Red Flag, they bring in pilots from all over the country, as well as from some of our allies. They spend 2 weeks going through scenarios and situations designed to give them a feel for real combat. These guys are just amazing. Or as I told Ken, nuts! I knew a couple of pilots many years ago, and they're cocky as hell, but also BRAVE as hell, and it made me quite verklempt to see what kind of training these guys go through, and what kind of danger they put themselves in. It was a very cool movie, and as it showed some of these guys getting their pictures taken by their planes--just like when you see pictures of WWII pilots and crews--I couldn't help but hope that we get out soon and stop losing so many of our best, brightest, and bravest, no matter what branch of our military. I know it's a volunteer force, and I know that the vast majority of them are proud to serve and even give their lives if need be...but God, it just breaks my heart to lose them.

So I enjoyed my visit to the U.S. Air Force Museum, and recommend it to anyone interested in such things. It's also a fine reminder of just how grateful we should be to our military forces, both in the past and in the present. Here's to 'em!