Sunday, April 26, 2009

A-Z Monday: P is for...


Prop`a*ga"tion\, n. [L. propagatio: cf. F. propagation.]1. The act of propagating; continuance or multiplication of the kind by generation or successive production; as, the propagation of animals or plants. There is not in nature any spontaneous generation, but all come by propagation. --Ray. 2. The spreading abroad, or extension, of anything; diffusion; dissemination; as, the propagation of sound; the propagation of the gospel. --Bacon.

The holly plants are burning bright
Those holly plants are quite a sight
Flowering out and calling the bees
"Come and spread my pollen, please"

Our holly plants have spread out wide
With baby plants off to the side
Some day they'll stretch out over the nation
And that's why my word is "propagation"

Sheldon Marsh

Perfect weather yesterday so we took off for a greenhouse (perfect weather calls for more plants!) and then we explored a state nature preserve up near Lake Erie called Sheldon Marsh. For you birders out there, they boast sightings of 300 species of birds. We saw quite a few in our visit. Especially red-winged blackbirds, a personal favorite of mine, all over the place! And the usual assortment of other characters. Here are some pictures, including a swan that seems to hang out at the golf course next door. And a fellow who demonstrated for us how he had tamed a couple of the local squirrels. It was a nice escape. As for today: yardwork.

Friday, April 24, 2009

W.O.F. 57 Darkroom Door

door open

Every spring our city has a "toss out whatever you want and we will collect it" trash week. It took place this past week, and we made a small clearance.

There was once a time when we wound up with more stuff than we were able to toss. This was because our son was cruising the streets, scouting for treasures. One year he came back with a wheelchair and tried to impress us with his "wheelies". (I ended up tossing it in the back of a semi trailer heading for New Orleans and Katrina victims), That same night, thanks to a friend with a pickup truck, he brought home this wonderful item. Every home needs one.

Once upon a time, before there were digital cameras, people had to go into dark rooms (called "darkrooms") to develop the film in their cameras and print pictures from the film. It was a fairly arduous process compared with the lightning-fast digital downloads of today. Anyhow, William found this round darkroom door on the side of the road somewhere and brought it home, much as the cat of my youth used to deposit dead moles on our back porch. A trophy for sure.

The thing looks like an alien phone booth. Its round outer wall has an opening in the front and back. Then there is another circular, spinning "wall" inside that has just one opening. You line it up with the front outer opening, step inside, turn the inner wall 180 degrees, then step out the other side. With this thing lodged in a doorway, you can enter a room without letting any light in. Pretty cool eh?
a view (of my foot) from inside

Yeah, the boy used to wow the little kiddies in the neighborhood doing a "disappearing" act. Then one summer, we hauled the thing down to the church as a kid magnet during vacation Bible school. I think there was some space travel theme connected to the curriculum that summer, so this was a way-back machine or something.
door closed (and open on the other side)

And now, several years later, the thing sits out in a corner of the back yard, still a conversation piece.

I have this faint recollection that I may have reported on this one before. If so, I apologize, but I think it's weird enough for a rerun.

- - - - -

Ah, finally the good weather is here! After dinner we took a leisurely bike ride, then I moved a couple chairs out on the patio and we took in the sights and sounds. It was sort of like living in the flight path of a major airport. As dusk approached, the buzzards were finding their way back, in ones and twos and threes, to the neighbor's thick pine trees. They have again made those trees their home base for now, although they don't hang out in the trees up and down the road like they did last year, so I have not had the photo ops that I had last year. But it was sort of fun watching them going into their final approach tonight.

Now get out there and enjoy the weather this weekend (if the weather where you find yourself is, indeed, enjoyable...)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

cautiously, the bear emerges

It feels like the bear is just leaving the cave. I feel a bit like the bear. It's a bit like emerging and sniffing and blinking at the spring sunshine after a long winter.

This year has taken forever to really ignite. In January I had a lingering cold. Then there was the Dog Hospice experience that I believe we handled well, but it was draining and consuming.

Then...immunity down, I caught a cold...

Anyhow, the good news is that signs are pointing toward a late but very sure start now, well into the second quarter of the year. It is supposed to be eighty degrees tomorrow, fifty more than it was this morning. The birds are announcing their presence at dawn and at their evening vespers. When things settle down at night the spring peepers get on with their pronouncements of being and their drive toward life. The trees are putting on their greenery and none too soon. The early spring mud is giving way to grass in need of a trim. Peonies are shooting up where a month ago last year's dead stalks still held sway. Legitimate garden flowers are blooming, as are the unsolicited yard flowers (mostly the yellow dandies). Even inside, the house has filled with the aroma of the lily carried home from the Easter service, and the so-far-unplanted hyacinth in the kitchen, awaiting its spot of honor in the garden.

A trip to the greenhouse is in the offing this weekend, and maybe a tromp down some trail.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the bear has left the cave. Elvis has left the building. Have I ever been this ready?

Monday, April 20, 2009

A-Z O stands for


When I was a kid (in the age of Nero!)
You needn't look far to find a hero
I found a bunch down on 33rd
at Memorial Stadium, the home of the Birds
Me 'n' the boys loved to sit in the bleachers
And take in the ballyard and all of its features
The greenest grass on the whole East Coast
and a roster of players, well, I don't wanna boast

But Brooks Robinson was my favorite Bird
Wielding his bat and fielding at third
And the 20-game winners tossed it right down the alley
Pat Dobson and Cuellar, Palmer, McNally
A mountain named Boog took care of first base
And along came Frank Robby for a true pennant chase
And when we were losing and down in the dumps
The skipper, Earl Weaver, would dump on the umps!
Yep, those were the days, when it felt so carefree
And the players stayed years (for Brooks, twenty-three)
But the stadium's gone and now salaries soar
And free agents pack up and leave Baltimore
But I still recall fondly when we had a blast
Rooting that magical team of the past!

Note 1: Great minds think alike. I was committed to this topic for the letter "O" and noticed my sis is also rooting the O's on her blog!
Note 2: As hard as I tried, I could not figure out how to rhyme anything with "Luis Aparicio", so at least I had to get his mellifluous name in a footnote.
Note 3: A tip of the Bird Cap to the Murrays who got me a brick from the old stadium. It resides in a place of honor on my dresser. And, hey, the new stadium is wonderful, too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

W.O.F. Huge Ungainly Abandoned Hotel

Maybe I have blogged about this before; I am not sure. But it somehow continues to pique my curiosity and prey on the dark recesses of my imagination. It is one of the great mysteries of humankind, as far as I am concerned. Here you have this secretive North Korean government - you know, the one that just kicked observers out for snooping around their nuke plans - that seemingly wants to make some sort of statement about the success of their nation. So they build this crazy huge iconic hotel right smack dab in the middle of the city, so huge it sticks out like some sort of jazzed up intergalactic spaceship. I mean, you cannot miss this thing. A great way to make a statement, eh?
Except for one problem. They never finished this monster. I mean, they got the whole exterior up. Huge amounts of concrete were poured and formed. Hundreds of rooms roughed in. But that's about it - they dropped the ball. Now there is this incredible reminder for everyone who looks skyward: "Our big plans for domestic revival are sundered." Maybe we oughta go spend our money on - oh, I don't know - firing a rocket up into space or something."
And so there this thing sits. An amazing monument to a stimulus program gone horribly wrong. Don't be booking a room anytime soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

a-z Monday: Nutty Nature

Nature can be Nutty

Hey little birdie, wanna go for a ride?

"No, I want that fellow on the other side!"
Just hold on tight while I hit the gas

"But I just want to meet that bird behind the glass!"

Silly little titmouse, can't you see?

"Yeah, I really know, that bird is ME."

(scenes from our driveway this morning)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WOF/WOS 57: Good Enough Clock - Wrong Season

Linda likes to hit the after-holiday sales and reap rewards. Off-season shopping can bring great rewards _ I just got two sweaters for five bucks apiece last night, and Linda scored a couple tops at Macy's for three bucks.

Anyway, she picked up this seasonal clock maybe the week after Christmas. It's supposed to chime on the hour with favorite Christmas carols and songs of snowmen and all that. well, it did not work. It sat in the house with a receipt for weeks, waiting for us to get around to returning the thing.

Then one day about three weeks ago, maybe someone stuck some different batteries in or something, but it started working. Linda was elated. Ok, that's overstating it. Linda was happy the thing was working. At any rate, up it went on the wall, replacing another one of these battery driven things that never worked right. It didn't even sit still and get the time right twice a day, as the joke goes. It just lagged behind or sped up and you could just never trust it.

This one works like a charm. It also hammers out a jolly, cheap-song-chip carol on the hour. And because we are so happy it works, we've let the thing play on.

Bottom line is, we are spending time here during the Holy Week leading up to Easter singing along to the likes of "O Little Town of Bethlehem". It's not so much a weird object as a weirdly oddly-timed object. And perhaps we are a bit dim for letting it play on...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

alma mater and ultimate

The "Old Kenyon" dorm, viewed through the trees

Back on Saturday we drove down to Granville (home of Dennison University) to watch our lad play in a big Ultimate Frisbee tournament. He had signed on to be in charge of the whole shebang, involving 28 men's teams and there were another 9 women's teams as well. So there were about 600 people out there on this huge field, and William had to handle things like getting a check to the local grocer at 7 a.m. for enough bananas, bagels, and oranges for the teeming masses yearning to play ultimate.

On the way down, we took a left turn in Mount Vernon and quickly visited my alma mater, Kenyon College, tucked away at the top of a hill in bucolic Gambier, Ohio. There were not many students about, but the buildings were still there, looking all historically significant and such.
Pretty funny: Those birds up there are sculptures
This one, staring down at us on the path, is real

It is always weird to me to go back to that hallowed ground that I trod for four years in what seems like centuries ago. College for me was The Best Time Ever, So Far, back when it occurred. There was just this general acceptance of other people and their ideas, no matter how far-fetched those ideas, or far out those people, were. I have never lived in such an accepting and generally supportive atmosphere, and such a true sense of community, since.
Peirce Hall, an interesting place to take a meal
Of interest to fellow Kenyon alums: this is the "new Dempsey" -
alas, no more Berberian Pea or Montgomery Fork in the ceiling.

Anyhow, the daydreams of years gone by came to a halt with the vibrating cell phone and the son asking our whereabouts. So we hit the road to watch "college: the next generation". And actually, and rather sadly, William's college days are indeed numbered - down to about a month.
Middle Path - the spine and central nerve system of the campus. A perfectly straight, mile-long path down the center of the campus, piercing right through the center of the town (what there is of it). They say Guard fighter jets used to sight on it and fly along its length from time to time.

OK: Ultimate Frisbee - it's sort of a combo of our American football and the rest of the world's futbol (soccer). One team lines up and one guy on that team heaves the disk down to the other team, like a kick-off (but they call it a "pull"). The offensive team then works the disk down the field to their end zone by a series of throws from player to player. You cannot run with the disk, except for a couple steps after catching it. And you have to end up with someone catching it within the end zone. If someone misses, it is the other team's disk right where it was dropped. And of course there can be interceptions.
A busy field of play

A cool aspect is that there are no refs. They are replaced by a general feeling of sportsmanship and goodwill called "the spirit of the game". Defenders count to ten for a player with the disk to throw it. Once in a while there are disputes, and I cannot recall all the rules for resolving them, but it is done by the players themselves. It seems like a defender with a beef generally gets his day in court.
typical situation with offense and defender

They play to something like 13 points or goals. First team to get there wins, and it takes 45 minutes, an hour, or a bit more to get there.
William's team underperformed a bit and went 2-3 on the day. Not good enough to advance from this tourney (sectionals) to the next (regionals), so William's career in Ultimate may be over. He can play a fifth year if he goes to a grad school that fields a team. It is not a full-fledged team sport by any means, so it is a "club" sport, and as such is a bit more loosely practiced than, say, college football, where you live and die for the team. These guys are pretty cool about the whole thing.
All in all, a fun day for us, ending up helping the crew in charge to pick up banana and orange peels on the various sidelines. After a fairly quick meal at a Chipotle up in Columbus, we bid the boy and a bud of his whom he had recruited to help run the tournament good night, heading back into our way-post-college lives.
And I almost the midst of the tournament, there was this dramatic FLYOVER. I am not sure whether William arranged for this or not, but it was SPECTACULAR. I happened to swing the lens skyward and capture the pageantry...

Monday, April 6, 2009

A-Z Monday: M is for

I've always had a big thing for maps
My geography's weak, so they fill in the gaps
I pore over them when on a journey
So we get to the end with no wrong turn-ey

I like to study the rivers and streets
Train tracks, mountains, and County Seats,
And plot my pathway wherever I roam
But most importantly - find my way home!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I think I have written about this before, so indulge me as I take a trip back about 4 decades. That, in itself, is ridiculous. But anyway...

While other ninth graders were playing football, fashioning crude tools out of rocks and sticks, or whatever we did back before video games and computers, my bud next door and I used to put out a monthly magazine called "Interests Illustrated". Our circulation figures soared into the mid-twenties at our peak. We charged about two bucks a year, and I think the whole thing only stayed afloat, financially, because I had some grandparents who kept renewing their annual subscription every three or four months or so.

We typed the thing out (early issues had a lot of hand printing, too, as witness the "Street Polo" explanation in the header up top) on these obnoxious Gestetner mimeograph sheets, then had to ink this monster machine up and apply the sheet to it, and hand crank the thing, pumping out our 20-some good issues and a bunch of illegible waste product.

The subject matter was all over the map, reflecting our interests (hence the title?) at the time, which ran to music, cars, some sports..and then we added things we thought our beloved readership would want to see.

Perusing the contents of a couple issues (we had a great run of about a year and a half, as I recall), one would find some regular features, such as:

* Our own monthly editorials and a "sound off" op ed section that, in retrospect, seems quite unbalanced.
* "Groovy World", our page on music and pop culture, where we reviewed the tunes of the day, and presented out monthly "who is in and who is out" guide. In July 1968, for example, the Union Gap, Young Rascals, Association, Buckinghams, Four Tops, Miracles (Smoky Robinson), Temptations, and Simon and Garfunkel were IN. At the time, the Beach Boys, Doors, Marvin Gaye (sorry Don Corley), and Shondells (of Tommy James fame) were out. A bunch more were "rather in" (Beatles), "fairly out" (Bee Gees), neutral (Fifth Dimansion), climbing (Mamas and Papas), rather in (Paul Revere and the Raiders Featuring mark Lindsay), or almost out (Turtles). These markers of status changed monthly, mind you. A new hit could take one from OUT to IN quite rapidly.
* "The Plot to Destroy America", our serialized comic strip
* "Mutual Fund", our eye on the stock market. This month we were tracking American Motors, American Airlines, and Sperry Rand. Do any of them exist any more?
* "Woods and Water", our outdoorsy feature, this month going over the details of camping: pitching a tent, digging, sleeping, and eating.
* "Scope of Horror", our absurd monthly horoscope.

Then there were feature articles. For some reason, the February 1968 issue was our "Big Aviation Issue". I tihnk it was so dubbed because we had gotten a pile of those 3-D postcards with a Delta Airlines DC-9 Fanjet on it so we stapled one to each cover. The wrote about aviation.

We'd take on any topic.
The March 1968 issue included a "Sewing Spectacular", with the following amazing advice: "First thing to do when sewing is thread the needle...To thread a needle, get some thread...The next thing to do is to get a needle. Now let's get into the nitty gritty. .." and sew on.

We reviewed comics, road tested cars (not sure how ninth and tenth graders pulled that off...), wrote about handwriting analysis, included a very brief short story, and on and on.

Well, weird enough to qualify for a W.O.F.