Friday, May 30, 2008

W.O.F. 14

Well, for this week's Weird Object, I could post my sister, or my father, both of whom are "in the house" on the way to a family reunion in Indiana. But I won't.

We went to this tag sale a few weeks ago, where a houseful of items are up for sale because some household has come to an end. It's sort of sad, really. But off in the garage was this ancient Sony
TC-105 model Tapecorder, probably a remnant from the early 60's. It was tagged at a dollar; the lady said "just take it".

The tape didn't spin so I had to remove the front panel and tinker, thus the "guts" of the thing are exposed in this picture. But I got it moving, and on the tape were a series of old, Lawrence Welk vintage songs. Picture, if you will, a Saturday night, reel to reel tape recorder spinning along, a soft big band song wafting through the air, my wife gazing lovingly into my eyes... well, she did look at me, and we even "cut a rug" to one of the less cheesy songs.

Anyhow, I do have a history with reel to reel tape recorders. My neighborhood buds and I used to have a couple of them between us, and we'd be radio talk show hosts, sports announcers, you name it, on tape. Three of us had a "band" of sorts and we'd cut tapes on my friend Gerald's Sony that could tape two tracks, "sound on sound". I still have a pile of old reels of memorabilia that I hope to take a listen to, maybe convert a few historical moments to CD. Of course, now they'll tell you that CDs are passe and everything now is just torrents of electrons, bits and bytes, taking up no space at all except a few kbs on the hard drive. Not sure today's efficient technology has quite the magic of those mesmerizing, spinning reels of tape.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer Kicks Off

Our daughter's in-laws can always seem to draw a crowd of relatives and hangers-on (such as ourselves) for a great pot-luck picnic, and Memorial Day seems to be a tradition with them. So we put some food together (including an amazingly good watermelon), thankful for the invite, and headed down. Here are some scenes from the gathering that do not so much involve the actual people involved as other dwellers in the area, although for starters, here is the rowboat that has been in my family since my Grandpa bought it to keep us cousins occupied on the water back in '63 or so.
Then here is our daughter's dog, who wanted to get at that blade of reed grass or whatever it is, but did not want to get very wet. So she stretched toward it and barked at it repeatedly. Didn't do too much good.
They have horses down there. Two big ones and two pretty new young'uns. The larger ones make for a pretty good ride.
Then I need to include the following couple of shots for my sister's benefit. Anyone who knows her knows that these should be special to her...
There's a pretty substantial pile of dirt next to the pond, and it is a magnet for small children. I am guessing there will be a few baths tonight...
And so, with a splash of the oars, a woof, a neigh, a ribbit, and a few giggles from the dirt pile, summer is underway.

Friday, May 23, 2008


So, I was headed northeast out of McConellsville on Route 78 yesterday, and this big object on the left side of the road caused me to make a U-Turn and check it out. It is the centerpiece of the Miners' Memorial Park I wrote about yesterday. It is a 220 cubic yard bucket for Big Muskie, a HUGE machine used for strip mining in southeast Ohio. Regardless of what you may think about strip mining, this machine was awesome. It was built in the mid 1960's and was used from 1969 to 1981. It weighed 13,000 metric tons and stood 22 stories tall. It took 200,000 man-hours to construct Big Muskie.
The machine was built to get into coal seams running 185 feet deep. This thing, over its lifetime, moved twice the earth that was moved when they dug the Panama Canal!
Anyhow this bucket can hold two Greyhound buses. Below is the picture of Big Muskie on display at the miners' park. If you can zoom on the picture below, notice the little insert at the bottom left. That is a picture of this bucket with a MARCHING BAND standing inside it!

Unfinished Business - Weird Sports Team Names
It seems that my previous mention of "Furious George" as a great name for an Ultimate Frisbee team led to a comment by a friend and team-mate of my son's. He called me out, saying a better name is out there: SOCKEYE. Indeed, the Seattle Sockeye works on a couple of levels. First, it is indeed a fish that enjoys the cold northwestern waters. (A muskie is a fish, too...a theme emerges...) Second, what might you fear while playing Ultimate? Yeah, gettin' socked in the ol' eyeball. So there you go.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Long Day

I just drove 350 miles, round trip, for a two and a half hour meeting. While this may seem odd in light of four dollar gas and all, it was a good meeting and we were kicking off a project where I believe it was important to have "face time".

When we have to travel this far, it is cheaper to rent a car than drive our own and get the federal mileage rate, so I got to tool around Ohio in this spry little Dodge Caliber. This is where renting is kind of fun, as you get to test drive various vehicles.
The Caliber was a responsive little booger but I thought the road noise was a bit loud. This one had the requisite (for me) CD player and it got a lot of use. The sound system was average; not great. I did not calculate gas mileage but it seemed to do pretty well. I think I bought 12 gallons of gas and drove almost 360 miles, so that would be about 30 miles (a lot of highway) per gallon.

I was in McConellsville, down in southeast, "Appalachian" Ohio. It is a cool little town on the Muskingum River, and while it is the county seat and largest town in Morgan County, is has fewer than 2,000 residents. Yet there are two grocery stores (the locals say two and a half by virtue of some convenience store) and a movie theater showing first run flicks right in the middle of this building, which is also City Hall:
I drove down using the boring Interstates that I already know, then followed SR 60 south of Zanesville, following the Muskingum. But driving back, I followed one of my key rules: If there is more than one way to get somewhere, don't you DARE return the same way you came.

So I took State Route 78 east. It is a squiggly thing with lots of signs that look like this:
It traversed a large portion of the territory that was strip mined years ago. This is a view of the lay of the land from an actual miners' memorial park along 78.
Farther east you get into older forested areas like this:
Then I hit I-77 and traveled north, marveling at two things. First, the clouds. They were mesmerizing...
Second, this family cruised past me in this immaculate, clean, cream puff of an Oldsmobile station wagon that reminded me totally of Big Red, our very similar if not identical wagon that took us to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1998, three of the best weeks of my life.
I really like to drive, so a day like this does not bother me, aside from the price at the pump, for which I get reimbursed. The great weather helped, and I got home by a respectable 7:00.
Plus, along the way, I saw and was able to photograph a great Weird Object. But that will have to wait for tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've been going through old magazines and tossing them in recycling or "lug to the libes" piles, and since I am in a rush, I don't read a lot, but I stop for pictures. Since some of the mags come from environmentally related groups, there are lots of pictures of exotic birds such as macaws. One picture showed dozens of bald eagles all gathered in one place in Alaska to chow down on fish that basically expire after they spawn.

Even some fellow bloggers (Jessica comes to mind) are quite good at attracting an array of colorful and diverse birds to their yards and feeders, etc. And yeah, we get our fair share of cardinals and blue jays and woodpeckers and others. However, our big lure to get birds right up by the window is one of those suet cakes in a wire cage that we buy for less than a dollar at Drug Mart. These have yielded good results and a lot of entertainment over the years. For the last couple of days, though, the suet cake has been pretty much the domain of a bunch of grackles, and they've been going through them like hotcakes. These particular birds are indeed not colorful, but they are expressive, and it is entertaining to watch them position themselves out in the yard and on branches to be the next one to swoop in and take a few quick pecks before their replacement zeros in. Sort of like watching the planes circling above the airport, lining up for the final approach, except in this case the birds are improvising without any air traffic controller.

Anyhow, in honor of our latest visitors, here are a couple less-than- satisfactory shots of the birds, shot through what has clearly (or, more accurately, unclearly) become a quite dirty window.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Azalea City

There's this house about three blocks from us and their overplanted forest of azaleas comes alive with a multicolor show every year about now. A couple shots from our walk over there this afternoon:

And on the way over to Azalea City, this dogwood caught our eye:
A quiet, cool weekend in northwest Ohio, with intermittent showers. If it weren't for all the blooms all over the place, one could almost be convinced it was autumn. But there are plenty of other signs of spring. Birds flying around and acting a little crazier than usual. Fishermen lining the banks of the Sandusky River for the annual run. Wife wanting to go out and paint and plant things. Yeah, the signs are all there despite the cold and cool weather.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

keys, kats, and kopters

So, that son of ours paid all of one dollar for an organ, carted it home, then figured out it would not fit in the trunk and thus could not accompany him to his college home. So here it sits in the parlor. I decided I might as well make the most of it, so I fashioned this little "Rick Wakeman" style arrangement with the piano and my other keyboard.

Meanwhile, outside, the maples are deciding to really promote and promulgate their species big time, with a huge helicopter raid on the lawn. The picture shows the 'copters all over the ground, the lilacs still in bloom, and my wife's artistic rendering of said lilacs on the nearby garage wall.

It seems there are more copters than usual. The wind today was really bringing them down. I guess I will be mowing more baby maples than usual later in the summer.

Then there is "the cat who came to stay"...not. This cat has taken up residence on the deck. Specifically, in this box on the hot tub on the deck. Acts like it owns the place. As you can see, this has resulted in a standoff of sorts, once the dog has realized that there is a squatter about.

And finally, four of these birds showed up for a bath while we were eating dinner. Anyone recognize the species? We're thinking catbird, bu t not sure. They were silent while they bathed, so we didn't get to hear their call.

I hope you are having a good weekend. Our forecast was for showers, but they have not materialized yet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

W.O.F. 12

This week's Weird Object Friday object comes from El Salvador. Our son brought it home to us from a mission trip there during spring break in 2007. It is ceramic and clay-like. It is maybe seven or eight inches long. It is home made by....someone. It is sort of armadillo-like. It has interesting cuneiform-like triangular stuff going on. I am not sure what species it actually represents. But it has that rough quality that makes it one of a kind. So there it is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Midweek Update

Not that there's really anything earth shattering to update. The earth, unfortunately, seems to be doing a good job of shattering all by itself these days.

Closer to home, I thought I'd post some shots of this crazy wisteria down the street whose owner has been encouraging it to grow up into the curbside maple tree. In the widest shot, you can see parts and pieces of wisteria way up into the tree. It is sort of fun to walk under/through the thing when going down the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, in our yard, irises, lilacs, a mystery flower (any ideas?), and next to pop will be the white azalea.

And here's one reason why I appreciate local government here in rural America. Yesterday my wife calls the City and says we need to have some dead pieces taken out of a big maple on the street (it is on the city's right of way and thus their problem, ultimately). The street superintendent says he will be out shortly to size it up. Within a couple hours he shows up. He says, yeah, they can take care of it. Then today, by the time I get home from work, the tree has been trimmed, with big pieces cut off 30 feet up there or so. Note the fresh cuts on the tree. Anyhow, that is a pretty rapid response in my book. Now where is my "stimulus payment????"

Finally, I forgot to post what the little ol' shack looks like at the Kingwood Estate that I raved about the other day. Here it is:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mansfield Welcomes Kathy Mattea

We spent a few hours down in the city of Mansfield last evening. Headed down early enough to accomplish a little shopping. Also made the mandatory stop at the Kingwood Center, a 47 acre garden estate once occupied by some captain of industry down there, and open to the public since the '50s.

Here are some quickly snapped photos to give you an idea of the place and what's blooming right now (it changes, quite nearly week to week. Sorry I didn't get a picture of the strolling peacocks!)

The gardens at Kingwood are great and, as some of the pictures here indicate, it's tulip time. Also, it is evidently prom time in Mansfield, as the place was overrun by tuxedoed and prom-dressed young 'uns and family members wielding cameras. It is a great setting for a prom shot. These pictures only show a small portion of the grounds, as we were on a tight schedule. For more info on Kingwood Center you can click here

We had tickets for a concert by Kathy Mattea in the old Renaissance Theater downtown in Mansfield. I am far from a country music fan but I have a soft spot for the more bluegrass oriented branch of country. Kathy Mattea hit the charts with some mainstream stuff in the 80's and probably made her biggest mark with the moving "Where've You Been". Since then she has done some interesting stuff involving a new concept album centered around coal mining.

She appeared with three outstanding musicians: a lead acoustic guitarist, a stand up bass player, and a utility mandolin-fiddler player from Ireland, who was quite adept at both. They went for maybe over two hours and it was an excellent show. Her voice is as perfect and strong as ever. She even closed the encore by playing a very Celtic instrumental with her playing a piccolo and flute as well as guitar (and she is a very competent picker, I'd add - a true musician).
This was a sort of mother's day present for my wife, who wanted to go on the basis of her really liking "Where've You Been" and Kathy Mattea's voice, and who was happily impressed by the whole concert. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the show, as well. Mattea comes across as a humorous but genuine and concerned person with abundant musical gifts.