Sunday, December 26, 2010

Amidst the Holidays

It gets weird when the kids get big, grow up, become adult-like. They are no longer within your grasp. They come and go; free will seems to be at work. Anyhow, we went and visited the daughter and son in law, an hour away, two days before Christmas. It was a nice visit, and we were introduced to the X-Box Kinect, an interesting piece of technology that seems to know what you are doing out there, flailing about in the middle of the living room, chairs pushed safely aside. Well, almost safely, but that's another story.

The son came with us, and he has been back here around the house for most of the time. The daughter and son in law showed up late Christmas eve and stuck around for Christmas morning and the opening of the gifts, returning later for a game and a laugh.

Now we are contemplating a trip back to my homeland, abbreviated to only two full days, but still worth the drive, just to see my small family back in the land where I grew up.

Linda has suffered through Christmas with a bad cold (as if there are good ones). Let's say a vicious cold. Missed the Christmas Eve service. Missed the service this morning. Missed the quick, fast-food breakfast with the kids after church. But she's up and moving about now, packing and committing to making the trip.

Trips back "home" are always fun affairs, staying up late, sleeping in, then running around to make the most of the remaining hours. The return trip is usually kind of bittersweet - great recent memories recalled, a return to the comforts, pets, and Christmas presents abandoned all too soon for the road. Of course, our son will shortly be on his way to the bright lights and the big city, which is only right; not too long ago, we spent New Year's out for the night with sizable groups in that very same city.

I guess today is the eye of the holiday hurricane; a little recuperation, a little tinkering with my new toy (a USB turntable, for converting my considerable LP collection to MP3s).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that you are in a position to be looking forward to 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot

No, that's not my house. It's a few blocks away, and every year we circle around the loop to gawk at it, at least three or four times. Ohio Edison is very fond of these people. They do it up big wattage style.

Seems like a new fad on the scene is musical lights. There are at least two houses within a block of us that are treating their neighbors to the sights AND sounds of Christmas, piping out electronic bleep versions of the old chestnuts. I am okay with it, since the volume is kept pretty low, and hearing any Christmas tune chord progression tends to implant the song in my head for more than a few minutes, which is fine with me, as it often blots out those creeping thoughts of stressed-outedness.

'Tis the season, and if you let it, it can wear you down. We all have our checklists and try to move through them as best we can. On top of that, however, I have a couple deadlines at work which require a concentrated effort. Fortunately, the family has gotten easier and easier to shop for over the years, and sometimes a big package from some far away place only accessible via the World Wide Web can take care of someone's "list". And Linda and I seem to get easier to please, too, as there is some recognition that a house full of "stuff" does not really beg for more "stuff". A couple good books, the newest World Almanac, something to do with music, a sweater, and maybe one surprise, and I'm pretty well pleased.

I think I have at least all the major events leading up to the 25th charted in my internal Blackberry brain. The square-dance party Saturday; potential in-law meal on Sunday. See the daughter and son in law next Thursday. Work in a band practice or two for the flurry of activity at the church between the Christmas eve services and the Sunday morning-after (Boxing Day for the Canadians and British Empire affiliates among you) service-as-usual.

Christmas Day at our house is, as far as I am concerned, as it should be. I go nowhere; dinner has already been ordered, picked up, and put in the fridge for the re-heat. Getting dressed involves sweats and slippers. It is a day of peace and quiet, which is part of the point. An oasis of rest between the gift purchases and the gift returns. A time to ponder the whole Christmas story, read the silly poems, but also perhaps a gospel chapter or two; get out the book about the dog that had a Christmas eve adventure; play a game; work on a jigsaw puzzle. Enjoy the solitude with the family; a little snowfall helps embellish the whole scene. In many respects, it really is the best day of the year. Nothing fancy; nice, plain, and simple, like a birth in a manger.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

pictures don't do it justice

Had to make a road trip to a town along the Ohio River today. Picked up a co-worker around Akron and took a succession of back roads I have never seen in my life. It is amazing how much there is to the Buckeye State. It is also interesting to be in an area with towns named Lisbon, Calcutta...

I recommend the Route 7 trip along the Ohio River valley. The panorama presented is an odd mix of natural topographic beauty and icons of an industrial age that has largely passed. One particularly fascinating icon for me was the W.H. Sammis power plant. Its smokestack, at 305 meters, is one of the tallest in the world. Plus, Route 7 tunnels right under the plant's baghouse, the part of the plant that filters out much of the noxious stuff. Barges with coal on the adjacent river were offloading as we drove by, but I could only safely keep the camera phone trained on the plant directly ahead of me...
That stack on the left is MASSIVE!

Perhaps next trip I will try to capture some of the more pristine natural beauty in between the electric plants and abandoned mills...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I guess we've always gone to Christmas tree lots that handle a decent mix of urbanites or neophytes or whatever you want to call us. Places that wrap the tree up to make it slender so you can pop it in the trunk of a sedan and get it home safely.

This time we went down into the more rural reaches of our county, and got a tree for a very reasonable price. It was overgrown and the lot owner wanted to part with these monstrosities for cheap.

Armed with a tree saw, I faced a formidable task. Well, down there on that lot, people are a bit more wise about how to acquire a tree. They come prepared with (a) chain saws and (b) pickup trucks. We, on the other hand, had a hand saw and a labrador retriever who just wanted to meet everybody and, if we had let him, leave a little something on some of the trees.

We found a tree that suited us, and one of the chainsaw brandishing customers offered to cut it down, size it up, and trim off some of the unnecessary lower branches for us. He felled the pine and held it up, asking if it was to our liking. We said yes and offered him a few bucks for his time; he wouldn't take any money.

Then I began to realize this baby was not the typical pliable pine I have always gotten. It held rigidly to its ridiculous girth, and the sight of the tree and our meager trunk looked like an absurd optical illusion. We gave it a shot, but even with rope, there was no way this was going to happen. About this time, kindly stranger number two came along with the requisite pick-me-up truck. We were pretty far from home, but our daughter's brother in law's family lives about a mile from the tree farm, and this fella was happy to deliver the tree up there for us. I think he didn't mind sitting in his warm cab for a while, while his family was making a selection out among the pines.

So he followed us up to their house, where we left it. We are pretty sure a member of that family, with a pick up truck, heads to our town in the morning, and they are willing to complete the journey of the pine for us.

I was fairly perturbed about this whole experience, and we rushed home to a childrens' Christmas program at the church. We are of the age where we have no dog in this fight, and know fewer and fewer of the little cherubs up front, but there is something about the tiniest of the kiddies in their little angel outfits, reciting Christmas poems to the best of their ability, that takes the edge off of silly little scenarios like our tree procurement. And if the carols with the kids didn't work, the potluck dinner that followed completed the task.

So now, attitude adjusted, I am looking at the whole thing as a big plus. My faith in humanity, soured lately by the likes of North Korean wackos with weaponry and that Wikileaks guy, has been reasonably restored by all these people who just up and volunteer when they see someone who, appearing perhaps too "citified" for their own good, is in a bit of a pickle. I can only hope that I can pay it forward sometime when someone needs a more urban-style favor.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Songs I 've Liked #1: Eight Miles High

It was 1965 and things were still pretty subdued in the popular music scene. Along came this crazy Rickenbacker 12-string from outer space, spazz-jamming to the unmistakable harmonies of the Byrds. Those vocals just seemed to glide out there over those staccato stabs, melody-over-harmony, vaguely referencing the band's good and bad experiences playing England.

Commercial airliners do not reach an altitude of eight miles, but the Byrds achieved that lofty height. And yeah, the alleged (ok; they eventually admitted it) drug reference yielded a ban from the AM radio world, back in those innocent days. I admit I was a naive kid back then, or maybe more accurately, blissfully oblivious. I liked the song for what it was.

What it was - was unconventional. It was longish by AM "hit" standards. Its purported influences have ranged from Coltrane to Shankar. It reached #14 in the USA and Britain. It was also Gene Clark's swan song with the Byrds, and the band would never chart top twenty again.

I kept following the Byrds as they morphed through their spaceman, cowboy, and simultaneous spaceman/cowboy phases, Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker weaving a common thread through their long descent from the lofty eight-mile altitude, culminating with "Chestnut Mare", a long ditty about a horse.

1965 was the dawn of an era of experimentation, stretching the bounds of music. Later would come the likes of Sergeant Pepper, Pink Floyd echoes and animals, concept albums and rock operas. But when I heard the those high-altitude harmonies wafting out of that transistor radio back in March 1965, it felt like some musical doors were being opened.

Monday, November 15, 2010

falling back while hurtling forward

Well, quite a few days got by me between posts. 2010 has been all like that. No way to just freeze time or slow it down. Saw the movie, Inception, over the weekend, with the daughter and son in law. I was able to completely suspend my disbelief and get into the odd dreamworlds created by the ground rules of the movie. My wife was not. "How can you use a real, physical object while in a dream?", she asks. I get her question and all that, but prefer to be wowed by the things that went on in that movie.

Anyhow, without spoiling things too much for the uninitiated, there were levels of dreams, and time could elapse more and more in each succeeding one relative to the preceding level. A few seconds at level two may get you ten hours a couple levels later. This seems like a great resource to tap if it is only possible, and I would be diving down to a seventh or eighth level dream right now to get everything done that needs to be done by the end of the year if this really worked as presented.

Well, as too many people remind us, "nobody dies with an empty in box". To which I would mumble a reply that some folks sure seem to have pretty skimpy in boxes, something to which one can only aspire.

The to-do list (aside from work and home maintenance and all that reality stuff that ain't going anywhere until you actually deal with it) lately has consisted of watching the slow, younger maples release their leaves in batches, then raking or sweeping them, waiting for the next batch to drop. It was unseasonably warm (or is 60 degrees the new 40, Al?) this past week, so I spent a little contemplative deck time watching the leaves in the breeze. I swear there is some sort of telepathy going on up there; someone is getting out the message: "release another 4,000 leaves....NOW!" I am happy to say we are at the 85-90 percent released level at present.

Also got a perfect day on Veterans' Day, and I managed to walk the dog clear around the reservoir. Did not get a perfect day yesterday, but we got out to our favorite orchards, finally, and got ahold of enough Fuji apples (and a bag of mixed varieties) to keep the doctor away for the rest of the year, knock on wood.

"Rest of the year". Yeah, right, like that amounts to all that much. We are clearly, if you believe your television and your super-overloaded Sunday paper, in the throes of the peak of the holiday shopping season. The sales are on NOW, folks; no need to set that Black Friday clock for 2:30 in order to be able to reach out and TOUCH the door as the intrepid sales staff unlocks that door and backs off quickly in a primordial fight-or-flight spasm of self-preservation. No need to be part of that stampede, folks! The sales are on NOW. And anyway, many of my peeps are really into gift cards or even more pliable cold, hard cash, so this "brick and mortar store" thing doesn't really hold much sway in my shopping plans.

Oh, I do like to get out to the malls once per season, not really to shop so much as to just experience the joys of American retail commerce, observing that whole hustle and bustle thing. But once is enough, and to be honest, I do shop, but with a list and a fairly rigid plan with specific measurable goals. There is no art to my shopping, and little science. Get in, get out, check 'em off.

And lost in the shuffle, this being, as I said, part of the peak of the Christmas season (for those who, unlike me, do not procrastinate), is the fact that a perfectly good and honorable holiday is coming up just next week. I am a reasonably big fan of Thanksgiving. It seems to be as good a holiday as any for reconnecting with family and planning shared experiences (minimally, a large meal; for extra credit, the whole post-meal, tryptophan-induced, football-accompanied state of shared inception, if there are enough comfortable couches, La-Z-Boys and other overstuffed chairs to go around).

But enough rambling. Here are highlights of the past week caught on camera and cell phone:
Well, you can't really see it, and it's a cell phone picture so the resolution is not spectacular, but the actual object of this picture was cracking me up. They put out these decoy geese at the reservoir to attract the real deal on the days that the hunters are allowed to thin out the flock, and anyhow, here was this bird spreading out its wings, standing right atop one of the decoys.
The only other thing I have to offer is the lovely sky through the trees yesterday up in Edison Woods, which consists of hundreds of acres of forest and such donated or horse-traded to the Erie County Metroparks by the local power company. The land was originally going to be used to site a nuclear power plant, which in my view would have been okay, as I am not sure that we have really trumped nuke with anything else, but I have to say the sky looked really attractive through those trees.

Friday, November 5, 2010

God paints the autumn sky

...or so it seemed as I drove home from Salt Fork state park in southeast Ohio on Wednesday. Some examples of the changeable sky, all within minutes...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moving Along

Whoa. When I started this whole "blog" thing, the goal was to check in and post with some regularity. I see where some time has elapsed since the last post. A lot of leaves have fallen since that walk down the path. A lot of leaves remain yet to fall.
Still quite a bit of color out there, but it is going fast. I am at the point in our yard where I can rake a little now and a little later, or slack off now and deal with a whole bunch later. I have chipped away at 'em, but the bulk remain on the ground or up in the trees, mocking me.
When our daughter visited a couple weeks ago, we took a three-dog trip out to the reservoir to see what was going on out there. It was one of those pleasant, decently warm days that I am beginning to miss.
SOMEBODY thought it would be cute for the doggies to have matching bandanas (festooned with electric guitars - I am not sure of the connection, but they're colorful). So there we are...
Halloween came and went. My wife became Tweety Bird (as someone said on Facebook, "Trick or Tweet"...) Tweety brought interesting reactions - the toddlers were a bit apprehensive, the older kids reciting "I tawt I taw a putty tat..." The adults in tow gave knowing glances.

And I have to mention here that of the 170 or so kids that graced our porch that evening, almost all of them were quite polite - most saying "thank you" without a prompt from Mom or Dad down in the shadows. And what the heck - kudos to the moms and dads who were along, trying to instill that politeness in their kiddies.

I always look for trends in the costumes - what (or who) is in, what's popular. I have to say I did not see any trend this year - no hero leapt out and stole the show. There was broad diversity. I think if there was any trend, it was toward the kids (and parents) doing the home-made thing, rather than buying costumes off the shelf. I would attribute that to the still stinky economy around here.
Finally, a friend gave me this two-seater squirrel feeder for my birthday a while back, and I finally got around to screwing it ("Hillbilly style", my daughter admonished) into the highest reach of our dead redbud tree that I cannot just cut all the way to the ground yet because birds around here love to use it as their staging area as they prepare to attack the birdbaths or various feeding stations. Anyhow, I love how squirrels are now going to do anything but actually sit in the chairs, human style. This guy found the chair back to be a more than adequate perch.
So now we're caught up and, like the little guy up there, I'm outta here...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Trails (no, no; this is not the last post...)

Basically, one the times when I am happiest is when I am hiking or just walking on a trail somewhere. It is one of my favorite things to do. There is something about not knowing what's around the next bend.

Well, the trail we were on this afternoon does not lend itself to bends, since it is one of those "rails to trails" deals where trains once rode along the trail. So, not so many hairpin turns or abrupt changes in elevation.

Another thing I like about trails is it tends to bring out the best in people. We passed maybe twelve people today - not a lot, but the point is, they all said hello. A couple teenagers started chatting with us in detail about the railroad bridge we were looking at. When I am downtown, or in a mall, or anywhere in "civilization", I do not get 100 percent "hello". Not even close. People on trails just seem to have this loosely affiliated comraderie. Maybe because everybody out there is pretty much there by choice - they want to be there, they are getting some good old exercise, and it's great to be out in an attractive place.

So, anyhow, a handful of pictures from our hour or so on the trail...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Change

The TV's a-squawking about the changes either being made or that are promised to be made, depending upon whom you vote into office in three weeks. The changes that were promised two years ago may or may not sit well with the electorate, and big changes are being proffered by those on the outside looking in. It's a pretty volatile time in the hallowed halls of the nation's city halls, county courthouses, state houses, and the white building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meanwhile, out at the Conservation Club, change is coming, too. You wouldn't know it from the temperature, still peaking out in the mild and highly comfortable 70's. There is barely a breeze stirring the water, but the leaves tell the tale of a changing season.
Those leaves seem to be clinging to the trees like we are clinging to the notion of summer. The deluge and the pressing need for a rake just hasn't happened yet. At church yesterday, the youth director announced the cancellation of the day's planned leaf raking project - and its postponement until nature ran her course, and the leaves let go.

Yeah, I hate to let it go, too. The place just looks better with leaves on the trees. But, Mother Nature knows what she's doing, and I am sure the trees can weather the wet snow and chilling Alberta Clippers much better when stripped down to streamlined branches.

So, change is occurring and there is nothing you can do about it short of moving to one of those regions where they don't know what the four seasons are all about. Like most great things, the beauty of autumn is far too fleeting; I recommend getting out and gawking while you can.

Not much time left for the luxury of floating around,
catching the warm sun on the water

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Sadly, it is the last of the color blogs in Jen's eight week meme. This is it. Time to strike the set and turn out the lights and all that's left

So, here is my last of these color quizzes: fun for most, pain in the brain to others. See how well you can do - I think this one is fairly easy (except for perhaps one or two obscure ones...)

It's the last one, so we went into overtime with 23 clues for you to identify.


1. Name the actress
2. Avoid this spider. 3. Remember this old thriller?
4. What's her married name? (They don't get easier than this...)
5. Doesn't everyone have one of these in the family?
6. Ozzy's old band
7. A figure of speech
8. Nice kitty
9. This was a bad day at the stock market
10. Name the movie
11. These are symbols of this practice..
12. A band that you probably don't know if you're not 20-something, but you never know.
13. A good thing if you're in Vegas
14. Reverse the words from #13 and you get..
15. This guy's "supreme"
16. I hate it when I get sucked into one of these things...
17. Name the confection..
18. Another popular musical group has led to some individual careers too.
19. I understand the woman on the left was quite the rage in Britain back in the '60's. Who is she?
20. OK, there have been some tough ones after all, so here's your "gimme" - don't let this guy cross your path...
21. Name the bird22. Communication device
23. Name the movie...or the book...or the horse...