Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Escape from the Office

It was but for an hour and a half, but it was fine. I met with some people involved in economic development at a local restaurant located on the Sandusky River, and helped guide everyone through a two-hour meeting to review a county comprehensive development plan while we chomped on our perch sandwiches and french fries. I brought the meeting to an end at promptly 2:00, whereupon we boarded one friend's boat for ninety minutes up and down (technically, I guess, down and then up) the river. The weather was hot but there was a breeze, and we were on the water so all was well.
Do you think the people who live here enjoy it?

It had been some time since I had been cruising on any body of water, aside from Lake Erie. It was somewhat reminiscent of my childhood, when I got quite a few chances to get out on various tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Of course, this river was different than the Bay of my youth, because (a) both shores are just right there, a couple hundred feet away; (b) no tides to deal with (c) that smell of salt water is just not there.
I was hoping for a train

But some things are the same. The friendliness among the brother/sisterhood of boaters. Every time another boat passes, everybody waves at everyone else. And why not wave? People are happy that they are out on the water and not in some office.

While the people out on the water were pretty much quite satisfied with their present lot in life, other critters were working the river, putting food on the table (or actually just down the gullet). But they must know they have a good thing going, too.
I was wishing I had my better camera to take shots like this

We got within about five miles of serious bald eagle country, but had to turn back and get back to work. I'll save that for a future trip, as our kind captain invited us back.

I can see why songs and poetry about rivers abound. They just lead themselves to creative urges and inspiration, from Stephen Foster to John Fogerty. I suppose the people of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and too many other places may have a few words on the awesome destructive power of the river, but here on this lazy afternoon, the water just licked at the shore and our passing motorboat did no more than turn the head of a curious heron.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Our Son, the Turret Dweller

For their senior year at college, our son and five other guys are renting half a house and enjoying the transition toward the "real world", with rent and utility bills and the like.
Our boy organized the rental and has been living there for the summer thus far, doing some research for a professor in his chosen field of physics. So, he got first choice of bedrooms, and he went for the turret.

It's a fairly small, octagonal room, maybe ten or twelve feet across, but the ceiling, which is cone-shaped, goes up maybe 15 or 20 feet. Hard to tell. It is one cool crib.

Wikipedia says this about turrets:

In architecture, a turret (from Italian: torretta, little tower; Latin: turris, tower) is a small tower that projects from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle. Turrets were used to provide a projecting defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification. As their military use faded, turrets were adopted for decorative purposes, as in the Scottish baronial style.

A turret might have a circular top with crenellations , a pointed roof, or any other kind of top. It might contain a staircase if it projects higher than the building. However, a turret might not be any higher than the rest of the building; in this case it is part of a room, that can be simply walked into.
This turret can be just walked into from a hallway. I always wanted to walk into a turret, and this weekend while visiting him, we got the chance. Some shots of the humble abode:
Looking up at the formidable turret

And looking down from the turret window
An interior view - yes, it's paneled...
And a look up at the ceiling and ceiling fan, which is helpful in a turret in the summer time.

For more examples of turrets, click here

Friday, July 25, 2008

W.O.F. 22 better late than never

What have we here???
I am a child of the City. Grew up in the east coast metropolis. However, in the place where I find myself now, I wind up in some pretty countrified settings. One would be the square dance club to which we belong - which is a lot of fun. So tonight may rank as about the most "country" I've been in some time. The square dance club was asked to put on a little demonstration out at the county fairgrounds because there is a tractor show going on. People collect, show off, and gather around old tractors for the weekend. Obviously, as we headed off this evening, I was thinking "W.O.F. Opportunity!" so I stuffed the little Sony in my pocket.

My selection for tonight comes from the tractor show, but it ain't no tractor. There was this fellow there who collects....hand crank ice cream makers. I love how the world is made up of people who get all passionate about such diverse things (hence the quote with the fireworks that I placed over to the right). This guy talked hand-crank ice cream makers with us for a good fifteen minutes and he'd have gone on if we didn't need to get back with the rest of the square for the next tip (squaredance talk for the next dance).

Anyhow, here's a selection of shots of this guy's collection.
This model dates to the late 1800's - early 1900's, as the sign says.
We were told ice cream was made in the 1600's, called "dainties", and eaten with a fork.

This is an ice crusher. It has some vicious spiked prong-like things inside to shred the ice.
More of the collection - lots of colors.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trouble in the Heartland

Perilous times, these. On Friday word leaked out to the 500 or so employees of our city's largest manufacturer and second largest employer after the hospital: don't bother to show up for work on Monday. The business makes furniture - upscale, upholstered furniture like $2,000 sofas and such.

The easy target for this local crisis is the crushing competition of the world economy. These jobs in this factory are the kind that have raised families, paid mortgages, sent kids to college, made hefty payments on nice cars. Now 500 of them are on the ropes.

The company is scrambling to raise capital. Summers are always the slow season, but this summer came with a roundhouse punch - hopefully not a knockout. The company's financier is evidently getting skittish about its investments in the rust belt and is tightening its own belt. So there is a mad scramble on for working capital to throw the doors back open and get back to fulfilling orders. The Mayor and economic development director and Chamber director and numerous others are making phone calls, working with upper management, tracking down leads, trying to fill a gap.

Meanwhile, at 1:00 today the local human services office held a meeting in the high school auditorium for the 500 idled workers to go over the procedures for registering for unemployment compensation - if it comes to that. Simultaneously, the workers and their spouses and significant others held a rally to signify some solidarity in facing this whole thing.

I admire a friend of mine who told me today he has enough work lined up on the side, roofing houses and such, that he can go a month or two without problem - not sure what happens when the weather turns cold. But for now he has a pretty good "Plan B" - makes me wonder what mine would be.

But hundreds of families in this area are probably wondering tonight how things are going to go. How to keep that four dollar gas in the tank, and that three-fifty milk in the fridge.

I hope and pray the capital is raised to bridge this gap - and the next one, and the next one. I hope the spark of a cash infusion will cause the corporation to sputter back into full production. I hope there is still a market for upscale, American made furniture - not that it's easy to overcome the chasm of international wage differences, and not that the furniture industry as a whole is enjoying particularly good times.

This is just a story of one manufacturer in one Midwestern town. I have seen it occur several times in a host of similar towns. And who knows - they may dodge this bullet and emerge a strong firm. But there is an inescapable feeling that these times are a little different - some new variables in the mix - some new challenges looming out there. I'd like to think we're up to the challenge, but it will take some reinvention, some altered priorities, and a whole bunch of smart and productive people. And for now, someone or some bank willing to roll the dice with some serious money. Perilous times, yeah. But perhaps there is some new era that we can't even sketch out right now, out there beyond today's gnashing of teeth. Let's hope so, and get working on it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

GrandDog Report

It was our daughters birthday, so they visited this weekend, and so I...took pictures of the new dog. Sign of a doting (or maybe dotty) grandfather. Lily's favorite spot is up on top of the couch. Looks pretty comfortable up there straddling the back of the davenport, eh?

Oh, and Ana is fine as well, as is our Silky, who came through a visit to the vet with flying colors; not bad for a geriatric canine, and a relief to her guardians, since I do not believe the family health insurance plan covers four-leggers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We're all Thirsty

It's 87 out with 50% humidity. Makes you thirsty. Makes this butterfly thirsty as it takes a sip from the fish pond.
Took in a play, a musical called "Honk" based on the Ugly Duckling story, and pretty entertaining. There is a local educational playhouse up in Huron, Ohio's oldest continuously operating summer playhouse (60 years), where college students, professors, and other flock to turn out five plays in five weeks. Next week is a Neil Simon play and the conclusion is Brigadoon, if I recall correctly.

The play was followed by the traditional and required ice cream cone at the local ice cream joint right there on the main drag in Huron. The trick was to devour the cone before rivulets of sticky melted ice cream render your hand totally unworthy of driving a car home. I did not master the trick, and the kind worker in the window provided a wet napkin for mopping up. The cone was great though, but that ice makes you thirsty.

Meanwhile, down in our daughter's in-laws' pond, there's enough water to go around for everyone...
while a pair of doves watch from the wire

Friday, July 18, 2008

W.O.F. 21 Weird Bug Friday

OK, I'm going to roll with the insect theme that seems to be predominating this week. Here is a picture of a "little" feller that was hanging out on our deck two nights ago. This beetle probably measured two inches, head to tail. He's a big guy. The odd shadow in the above photo would be the result of using a close-up macro lens and a flash, whereby the lens itelf casts a shadow. Hmm.

The dude fell into the (not hot) hot tub later that night and my wife fished him out. Maybe he meant to be in there and is mad that we chased him out of the water. Anyhow, that's my entry for this nice, sultry hot W.O.F. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Practically in our own back yard

For tonight's dog-walk, we drove over to a county owned park about a mile from home. It is small in acreage but a very nice setting, a real break from the flat farm fields that make up most of northwestern Ohio. We hiked around for 45 minutes or so, enough to make the dog thirsty enough to take a good long drink from the fish pond when we got home. Scenes from the walk:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blessed with a New Grand-Dog

rather humorous underbite - will she need orthodontics?
Well, our daughter found her growing family a new member this past weekend. This new pup (about a year old and pretty much fully grown) was free to a good home, complete with a really nice foldable travel cage and some other dog "notions".
Her name is Lily (unless they change it a little). She is a pug mix, and I know how several of you out there in blog land are pretty favorable toward pugs. She spent a trial night at our house (a "Three Dog Night", if you will) getting used to the other grand-dog, Ana, the Fox/Boston Terror - I mean Terrier - and our ol' spaniel. She passed the test and has joined our daughter and son-in-law at their apartment. Word is that all is well and, whereas Ana used to demand human attention whenever she was awake, she is now spending her time running all over the place with Lily, which is by and large a good thing for all involved.
We are so proud, doting grandparents that we are.
another lily, the day variety, this one in our yard

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Relay for Life

Another local Relay for Life is in the history books. A considerable sum of money - maybe $80,000 - was raised for cancer research. For the fifth year, I stayed up all night until about nine this morning, pulling the night shift with my son and a friend of his. It is interesting, to me, to stay up all night once in a while. It is sort of like when our family traveled west in 1998. You know the west exists and may have flown over it but there is nothing like traveling through it to get a real sense of the land. Same with "traveling" through a night. We decided we like it best around 4:00 - dark and calm.
The hustle/bustle of Relay by day contrasts with the quiet at night, when people tend to hunker down in their tents and under their canopies.
Selling that ice cream!
We were busy raising money for cancer research, selling a lot of ice cream (weather was in the 90's), with one guy manning the bounce house - hugely popular with the kiddies.

The bounce house - a big hit
Members of our square dance club, enough for at least one square, showed up at 8:00 and we put on a very brief demonstration between all the other announcements and events. 9:00 was time for the lighting of the luminaries and a lap around the track honoring and remembering people who have dealt with cancer. It is a moving ceremony amidst what is really a celebration and a very upbeat event.
Then around 10:00 members of our team started heading home, one by one, until the woman still doling out the ice cream sundays took her leave around 12:30, and my wife held out until 2:00. Then it was down to the three of us.

Talk about a total non sequiter - at midnight or so, a demonstration from a nearby park district on turtles and tortoises. Not sure of the connection, but they had some nice specimens on hand!
It gets pretty surreal when you find yourself learning about turtles and tortoises of the world.

A half dozen of my son's friends were still hanging around at 1:00, and I joined them in a game of bocce, which was won, by some fluke, by the boy and me. Bocce is a fun and very simple game where someone throws out a small white ball, the everyone takes turns tossing their own balls, about the size and weight of a duckpin ball (for my Baltimore area friends) to see who can come closest to the white one. (It is especially fun under the bright lights of our football field at a time where most sane peopple in town have been sleeping for hours.)

Another victory between 3 and 4, when they held a Poker Run; for a small admission fee, you walk or run the track (as you are able) and they hand you a playing card for every lap; at the end, you make the best poker hand you can from it, and the winner takes the pot for their team.

I got about 13 laps in - a little over three miles and 13 cards, producing a full house - and the boy ran the whole thing, covering 6.5 miles or 26 cards/laps. He was able to produce a winning straight flush for his second win in a row, and the pot went to our relay team.
Pretty desolate at 4:30!
We then retired to chairs under our canopy and nursed our aches and sores.

Around 5:30 a breakfast crew arrived and served breakfast burritos and juice. I ordered a round for the lads and myself, and then they took off for home. I stuck around to help tear the camp down a bit, and got a picture of our team leader accepting a "gold" plaque for raising over $5,000, at the closing ceremony.

As with most people who get involved in Relay, cancer has touched us in a very close way, and getting involved just seems like a small but meaningful way to try to fight back a bit. I look forward to it every year, and to anyone who has never been to one, I'd urge you to go - it's actually fun and upbeat, there's usually music playing and good stuff to eat. And a few laps around the track at the pace of your choice can't hurt too much, either - I mean, unless you overdo it, like, say, me at 3:00 last night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

W.O.F. 20: Another Chicken

Sorry to be posting a bit early, but I will hardly be home tomorrow - off to work, then to a long overnight at our local Relay for Life - about which I will hope to post later this weekend.

OK, on to the chicken. This one is special. It belonged to my grandmother. It may very well be home made, but I don't think she made it. It was a doorstop, basically; it has a brick sewn into it.
Why is it special, you ask? Every time we visited with the kids, our daughter would pick that heavy chicken up and carry it all over Grandma's house. She would hardly put it down. I mean, she would walk laps around the house with that thing.

So this summer my Dad found the chicken and my sister said I should take it back home, which I did. Then I presented it to my daughter, who was visibly thrilled to be reunited with it. So now it resides with her. I hope she isn't carrying it all over their apartment...but that's her choice...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

dove rescue

We needed to go somewhere last night so I took the dog for a quick walk before we left. When I returned to the yard, I knew we'd be late, as we had a new project - there was this very young mourning dove wandering around in our yard with no parents evident.
Since our neighborhood can be rife with cats looking for trouble, my wife grabbed a spare cage and some gloves, I flushed the little guy out of a bush, and we kept him in the cage indoors for the night, with a soft nest we had saved from some previous occupants in our yard, and some grain and seed and such. The guy appeared to be a fledgling, probably at least 2 weeks old - and could fly short distances yesterday.
Today we decided to see how far he could get on his own. Well, he flew up onto a railing on our deck (as in the picture below), and his next flight was to the peak of our garage roof. Then up into a high maple branch.
Needless to say, we have not retrieved him. He's on his own - and we do hear some cooing around the area, so maybe mom and dad are not too far away.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Watch this and Feel Better

A quick entry here: In case news of gas and food prices, war, economy in the dumper, pestilence, etc., gets you down, take a break. Watch this video of a guy dancing his goofy dance with people all over the world. You have my guarantee: you'll feel better.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Post Parade

The remainder of our Fourth o'July weekend commenced with a picnic down at our daughter's in-laws, then fireworks at the Fairgrounds.

Note to self: Henceforth, do not even THINK about parking in the Fairgrounds parking lot for the 'works. We drove right in and got a spot, enjoyed the twenty minute show, then spent well over an hour waiting to get out through the gridlock or lotlock or whatever you want to call it. My wife called the non emergency police number just to see if they were directing traffic anywhere and the dispatcher noted that the police were trying, somewhat in vain, to get TO the site to direct traffic. Seems like they have things like sirens and lights that could help in a situation like that. I'm just sayin'...

Note to police: Show up BEFORE the fireworks, stay for the show (you know, in case anything happens? Which, incidentally, it can. We watched a little episode of domestic violence play out right in front of our car. Fortunately, before it got too idiotic, two people walked away in one direction and the idiot perp walked back to his car, which was lotlocked in right next to ours, making for a bit of a nerve-wracking time there in the car.) Anyhow, if they show up for the show, then the police will be in position to direct folks out in a more efficient manner than the chaos, anarchy, and frayed nerves that we enjoyed.
OK, soapbox over. The actual show was great, including the "firebomb" (above). The show went 20 minutes, which, according to a certified pro fireworks engineer (or whatever) whom I know, is about the length that people really want. Any more than that, and we get restless, he says. Probably true. Maybe that's why sitcoms run about 20 minutes of content.
We spent part of Sunday watching a couple blue jays keep watch over their two young'uns, bringing them an occasional bite, but the young'uns were doing well by themselves on the mulberry tree, which is enjoyed by a variety of species, including squirrels.
Then yesterday, we took a walk down the local rails-to-trails, um, trail. It is a wonderful asset and I hope to bike it some day. As a walking trail, and being a former rail right of way, it tends toward being straight and flat, although there is a very nice and scenic river valley at about the point where we turned around and came home. It runs all the way to the next town, five miles away, and beyond. Long range plan is to be able to tour pretty much the north coast of Ohio by continuous trail.

Anyhow, for you plant lovers who know your plants, we saw two plants along the trail that we could not identify. I liked their symmetry. The first one has a sort of nut-like thing attached to it. Any ideas what these are?
Anyhow the hike was a success for the dog, who came home "dog tired"...