My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
OK, so I've finally been convinced (read that strong armed) into doing a blog. Frankly I hate the name...|
It's simply amazing the things you can buy at the grocery store these days.
|Preface: Today at work one of my cube mates sent an email advising us of an environmental program on the History Channel tonight. Jokingly he added that he expected a 500 word essay on it. Sooooo....
500 word essay on "it"
"It" is a funny word, so small but yet so useful. Just think, without "it", sh** would merely be "sh". Warnings would go unheeded. "Look out! Here it comes!" would fall meaningless into the vast cauldron of confused statements having become, simply if confusingly, "Look out! Here comes!"
"Here comes what?" You ask your verbal informer, only to have his answer drowned out by the rapidly approaching train. So you can see without "it" we would be severely handicapped, not to mention most probably the hood ornament for a Norfolk Southern locomotive.
We literally, as the song says, "can't live without "it" "
Now I remember, in my younger more rebellious years I attempted to eliminate some of the more useless words in the English language. Words like "smutch". Now don't go running to look that word up, Bob George can tell you the meaning. He has smutched more than once in his life, I'm sure. But I never once thought of removing the word "it" The value of "it" is tremendous. Why if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me "How much is it?" I'd be a wealthy man. You cannot put a value on the word "it" The copious rules of numismatics simply do not apply. Its value goes beyond any mere mortal's attempt at quantification.
"It" represents so many things. From "It's a beautiful day." to the fatalistic "I guess this is it." the word "it" can be used to cover most any situation. Try and do that with some lame brained word like "hovercraft" and see where that gets you. (Hovercraft is totally uselesss unless you happen to have an abundance of eels)
You can use "it" to locate things.
"Hey Joe, where's the button to shut down the reactor?" Bill asks as steam lines burst and alarms sound and flashing lights...well... flash behind him.
"Why Bill, I have "it" right here."
Because of "it", Bill is greatly relieved. The reactor is safe as long as they know where the button is. Big mistake. Bill should have asked the follow up question:
"Hey Joe, why isn't "it" connected to the panel anymore?"
"Why Bill, don't you know? "It" never was." The maniacal laughter from Joe should be sufficient to pucker Bill's sphincter.
Now of course, Bob, you have me puzzled as to why this sudden interest in "it" After all "it" has gone about "its" business all these years with little or no fanfare, and I have no idea what "it" has to do with the upcoming environmental program but I try to accommodate you as best I can. (Your doctor told me that was the safest thing to do)
I hope that I have satisfied your curiosity and that you understand the importance of "it", a small but mighty word. And remember the famous last words of Bill as the reactor glowed red.
"Bend over, put your head between your legs, and kiss "it" goodbye."
I hope this is a satisfactory report on "it"
Do I get extra credit for being first?
Might I suggest that for tomorrow's assignment you use the word "hotch"
PS You don't even want to know what I did with the phrase "Moose hunting on a Bicycle"
OK, so life takes some crazy twisting turns every now and then. That’s what keeps it interesting. I’m sitting here on this fine early autumnal morning (I know it’s still technically summer but I like the word autumnal and I figure we’re close enough.) wondering if I’m about to embark upon a new journey.
First, a little background.
I was born and raised up in northeastern PA in a small town sort of on the junction between the Poconos and the Endless Mountains. This is hard coal country (anthracite). Those of us that hail from that region affectionately refer to each other as coal-crackers.
Twenty-two years ago I moved to southwestern PA along the Allegheny Front. Out here we are referred to as ridge runners. So that makes me a coal crackin’ ridge runner and in my book, that’s a dangerous combination.
And now I’m waiting to hear if I’m about to embark on a journey that will take me to the topographically challenged home of the Flatlanders, Harrisburg, PA. I wonder how I’ll fit in? Do they even speak the same language in the Flatlands? Will they get excited when the moving van pulls up and the first thing off the back is my gunsafe? Will they let me put up a deer stand in the county park? And will it be okay for me to butcher my deer on the patio outside of my apartment?
And that’s another thing. I’ve owned the place I lived in for the past 20 years? And now, at least in the short term I’m looking at renting. The ironic part is that I’m also a landlord. While I’m living the life of a flatlander, I’ll also be managing a rental property up in the mountains of southwestern PA and helping out my folks in the northeastern part of the state. I’ll be getting periodic doses of Coal Cracker and Ridge Runner. Will that be enough to offset the influence of the Flatlands? Am I becoming the melting pot of PA? Maybe I should run for Governor.
I view the impending move (it’s not definite yet, I figure I’ll get the word just before the blizzard of ’06) with more than a little trepidation. The logistics alone will prove to be a nightmare, I’m sure. Then there’s new doctors, new grocery stores (What do flatlanders eat, anyway?) new auto mechanic and….and… (shudder)… finding new places to hunt and fish. And in the middle of all this I need to learn a new job.
Oh, the insanity of it all. Or as Hannibal Smith would say:
“I love it when a plan comes together!”
|Okay, first…nobody panic!
Yesterday, I received a packet of confusing email messages that through some stealthy and thorough investigation I determined came from my niece Karen.
It appears my niece has been kidnabbed. No I didn’t spell it wrong. The word kidnapped has been spelled wrong and I’m attempting to correct it. Let’s break it down. First there’s “kid”. Now while this word is most often used in reference to young goats, it has over the years become firmly ensconced as a way of identifying children of the humanoid kind also. Any resemblance between the two is purely coincidental, I’m sure. It could be said that at twenty something or other, my niece is no longer a “kid”, but since I just turned fifty she’s still a kid to me. Nap involves sleeping or doing something strange and probably illegal with leather. It has absolutely nothing to do with spiriting someone away against their will. The word “nab” means just that…so kidnabbed it is. But I digress.
The emails themselves were somewhat garbled and included several code words which I believe were purposely included for us to use in locating the “kid” and rescuing her. I turned the emails over to our local cryptography club and they have been diligently working on them down at Moe’s Fine Eatery (where the Yoo-Hoo is always cold). At present we definitely know the following:
Karen, aka, the kid, is my niece.
There you have it. I feel this is a good start and am sure that in no time we will have rescued “kid” from her evil kidhnabbers.
The cryptography club, aka, Skitch, Goose, Little Jim, and Moe (of Moe’s Fine Eatery where the Yoo-Hoo is always cold) have deciphered several of the word clues.
Holla – Little Jim feels this is a Northeastern PA word meaning…hole, as in, “Hey Stash, dere’s a holla in da bottom of da boat!”
Moe, on the other hand believes it is an expression of surprise as in “Holla guano, Batman, did you see that!”
Skitch and Goose believe it is a simply a round plastic hoop worn about the hips. It is said to have strange hypnotic powers causing the wearer to sway from side to side.
There are of course, other clues.
There’s the photo of “kid” in the evil clutches of a Californis type “dude”. Based on his “shades” (It appears they have been surgically attached to his face), it can only be said he has the look of one determined to commit evil and nefarious deeds. Little Jim says, “Don’t worry, Joe. He’ll never know what hit him.” Did I mention Jim just bought a crossbow?
In addition several of the kidnabber’s accomplice’s names appear throughout the emails. They include:
And somebody named Puerto Escondido
The general consensus is that, that horse’s pa-toot, Sally and Californis Dude are the ringleaders. Obviously, Boob can’t spell.
There are other code phrases, such as “estoy aqi” and “uno café” which leads us to believe that “kid” is being held in the storeroom of a Chili’s restaurant. This restaurant evidently is located on water.
There’s the code phrase yo cansada. This one is easy. The restaurant is in Canada.
And then there’s the phrase “boogie board”
Jim says it’s like the wall down at Moe’s (where the Yoo-Hoo is always cold) where everybody flicks their boogies. When I pointed out that what were flicked were boogers, Jim simply added that a boogie is an immature booger that was “picked” before its time. Orson Welles would be appalled.
Moe says, “No way. We’re talking disco!” You should see him strike his John Travolta pose. (it also explains the disco ball at Moe’s. (where the Yoo-Hoo is always cold) We were speechless... Jim flicked a boogie against the wall.
Then there’s “manana” which we all agree is a misspelling of the word banana.
One other detail has just come to light. Apparently the kidnabber, aka Californis “dude” is pregnant.
Karen is my niece.
She has been kidnabbed.
Her kidnabber is a nefarious Californis type dude and his aforementioned accomplices
Californis Dude is pregnant
Karen’s being held in a floating Chili’s restaurant.
The restaurant is in Canada
The restaurant has a wall covered in boogies
Boob can’t spell
And somebody is bananas
Any idea who that might be?
PS Don’t worry Karen, The boys are loadin’ up da boat as we speak.
We will find you. Canadensis isn’t that big.
We’ll be leaving as soon as we get the holla fixed.
The Arlo Guhrie Syndrome
The Alice’s Restaurant Defense.
(with full orchestration and five part harmony)
Admittedly, I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to learn something and sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. My wife says it comes from being over analytical. She hates watching a mystery show on TV with me because usually within the first fifteen minutes or so I can tell her how it ends. My foot could be on fire while I’m trying to figure it out...and I’d never notice that.
So it should come as no surprise that it just finally dawned on me that my son has fallen victim to the Arlo Guthrie Syndrome. Well more accurately, he is the perpetuator of the syndrome and I, poor I, his unsuspecting victim.
I guess I should shoulder some of the blame. After all, during his formative years, I did introduce him to Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie (with full orchestration and five part harmony). Yes, I do have the album. You remember records, don’t you?
One of the last things I do before going to bed is wash the dishes that are in the sink. In the morning, before I leave for work, I do the same thing. As I am usually first up and since I emptied the sink the night before, the only dishes I expect to do are my breakfast ones. This is never the case. They seem to multiply throughout the night. Prolific little buggers if you ask me. I also began to notice that if I left a dish or two in the sink at lunch, by dinner there would be a veritable mound. I began to suspect foul play.
What was actually happening, never occurred to me, until a few weekends ago when I was sitting at the table eating breakfast. My son comes down from his room, dishes precariously balanced in one hand and laundry tucked under his other arm. He walks to the sink, studies the several dishes in the sink and then summarily adds his to them. Turning towards the washer he does the same with his laundry, adding it to the pile my wife had placed there.
My son is 26. When I asked him if he ever thought about actually washing the dishes or doing the laundry, he adopted a puzzled look and after what I can only assume as being several long moments of brain strain, answered, “No.”
Something about the whole process struck me as vaguely familiar and that’s when I remembered Arlo Guthrie’s song, Alice’s Restaurant (with full orchestration and five part harmony). For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it revolves around Arlo’s attempt to help a friend, Alice, (Alice’s restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, it’s just the name of the song and that’s why the song came to be called Alice’s Restaurant), by getting rid of her garbage (after a Thanksgiving meal that just couldn’t be beat) and how after getting arrested for littering he was deemed not fit to serve in the Army. I’ll not divulge any more than that in case you want to track it down and listen for yourself.
But what we’re dealing with here isn’t Alice’s restaurant, and it isn’t the armed forces draft. What we’re dealing with is the novel approach Arlo used to get rid of the garbage, and no one could say it better than Arlo. We pick up where Arlo arrives at the town dump.
“Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.
We didn't find one. Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw our's down.”
And there you have it – The Arlo Guthrie Syndrome, straight from his lips. Rather than wash the dishes in the sink or do a load of laundry, my son simply added to the piles already there.
In closing I leave you with this thought:
“You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant.
My apologies to Arlo.
|I almost did it again. Back in 1985 or 86, I got up one morning about 5 AM, as I was wont to do, performed my morning ablutions, walked out my door and headed for work. Since I lived, at the time, only several blocks from my office, and it was fine summer morning, I chose to walk. The office opened at 8 AM but I was in the habit of arriving at least an hour or so before. I found that hour, with no interruptions, was one of the most productive of the day. I walked to the local eatery, ate breakfast and proceeded to the office. I was involved in reviewing surface mining permits and since we had been without a reviewer for quite some time before I took over there was quite a backlog of permits to review. I buried myself in the next permit and did not look up for several hours. It was at this point that I realized I was the only one in the office. Now, at this point, it should be noted that I was relatively new to government employ, (about 2 years) and I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there was some big meeting I was suppose to be at that completely slipped my mind. Panicking I picked up the phone and dialed the home of our clerical supervisor, figuring her husband could bring me up to date on what I had screwed up. I was completely surprised when she answered the phone. Apparently, the day of my uninterrupted permit review was a national holiday; July 4th. Who would have thought it?
Fast forward to the year 2006, after some 22 odd (the emphasis should probably be on the “odd”) years working in government, I almost did it again. To my credit, I realized a holiday was imminent, I even knew which one. I just wasn’t sure what day. So it came to pass that I was sitting in a Perkins restaurant last Wednesday with my boss discussing my plans for the upcoming week, specifically Monday and Tuesday. He looked at me, somewhat puzzled, which was a look I was not unfamiliar with as he often forms it when I speak, and finally he questioned why I was planning to work on the 4th of July and more importantly why I hadn’t taken Monday off as was expected of someone with 22 years seniority under their belt. I grinned sheepishly and shrugged my shoulders. Upon returning to the office later that day and not wishing to upset the natural balance of things I immediately filled out a request for leave on Monday.
I freely admit to being calendrically challenged. In part I blame it on my upbringing. When I was a mere child my calendar consisted of simply two seasons; school and summer. It worked very effectively for a number of years until I was forced to expand upon it. Neither the Gregorian on Julian calendars were sufficient for my needs as I matured. They were too problematic, counting each and every single day. I settled for the hunting and fishing season calendars, which more aptly reflected a simple expansion of my school/summer calendar into blocks of time during which I could legally kill or catch a particular species. It is true, there were some corollaries to the everyday calendar, for instance, I knew that the Monday after Thanksgiving was the first day of deer season and that once deer season ended, Christmas, as well as ice fishing season were soon to follow. It all worked quite well for a number of years.
Unfortunately, at this nexus of my life I am being forced to reexamine my form of chronology. For it seems the rest of the world is hung up on this day to day thing and haven’t quite got the hang of setting up meetings so as not to interfere with Spring gobbler season or the opening day for walleyes. Much is their loss if you ask me. So to humor them, I carry a PDA, and I use Microsoft Outlook and a Daytimer and heaven forbid, I’ve even taken to wearing a watch and carrying a cell phone, though I must add, the date on both is wrong. Still, with all these new found ways of keeping track of time. I still, when it is my responsibility to set up a meeting, make sure I get to hunt the rut for deer, or toss a crankbait for bass.
And yes, I must admit, I’ll probably accidentally work at least one more holiday before I retire. Oh, woe be the natural order of things!
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|Tomorrow is my 16th wedding anniversary. Well actually, it’s our wedding anniversary. Since it takes two to get married. I don’t think anyone has tried marrying himself or herself yet, but if they have, I can pretty much guarantee you somebody out there would object to it. But I’m not here to discuss the societal mores of marriage. I’m here to discuss my marriage.
If someone had told me twenty years ago that in 2006 I would have been happily married for sixteen years I would’ve have told them they were nuts. Twenty years ago, in 1986, I had just a few priorities in my life. Fishing and hunting were the two biggies. They were followed closely by having a good time; (alcohol was usually involved) and chasing women, again the alcohol connection. Now one would assume that if you were chasing women you would eventually catch one, but at that time I didn’t give a whole lot of consideration to keeping one on a permanent basis. In fact, if the truth were known, I didn’t give a whole lot of consideration to actually catching one. I was quite bad at it. I know, I know, you’re sitting there reading this, shaking your collective heads somewhat like a stadium wave, and saying, “but it’s women that do the catching.” You’re quite right about that. The reason is – men are quite bad at it.
I look back at the last sixteen years in wonderment and amazement. I have never been so happy as I am now and I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am each time I travel and wake up in a motel room wishing my wife was there beside me. She is, without a doubt, at the risk of sounding cliché, the best thing that has ever happened to me or will ever happen to me. How I got so lucky is beyond me. I certainly did not expect it.
Without getting into specifics, over the past sixteen years we have had our ups and downs and have weathered some pretty rough seas. We have experienced things that I know would have, should have and could have driven us apart. The tougher the times were, the closer it drove us together, until finally we were not two separate people anymore. We are, quite literally, of one heart and one soul and that is what makes us strong enough to weather any storm.
Because we married later in life, in all likelihood, we will not have the luxury of celebrating our fiftieth or even fortieth anniversary, (My parents will celebrate their 59th this year), so we make each anniversary as special as possible. I take the day off from work and we spend it together. Sometimes we do nothing at all except be together. Sometimes we go away for a long weekend. Tomorrow it’s dinner and a movie. Each and every moment we spend together is extra special to us no matter what we do.
When I read about marriages that last a long time (and I know sixteen years doesn’t qualify as a long time) someone inevitably asks the question, “What’s the secret to having a good marriage?” Allow me to share what I’ve learned:
1. Love – you cannot have a good marriage if you don’t love each other. You can still have a long marriage, which will be made to seem even longer, because you don’t love each other. Love, however, by itself, will not make a marriage last.
2. Talk – honest communication is at the heart of every good marriage, no matter how painful it may be. If you don’t communicate, nothing you do will save your marriage.
3. Listen – It’s the other side of talk. There are two of you. It’s a partnership and each of you has an equal say. If you don’t listen to your partner and try to satisfy their needs you won’t have a partner for long.
4. Don’t give up – From time to time your partner and you will disagree. That’s ok. But don’t give up on trying to understand each other. Respect your partner and their position. You don’t have to agree on everything but don’t give up on each other. If you truly love each other, you will survive.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
Tomorrow, my wife and I are going to celebrate our love for each other and together we look forward to the next sixteen years.
It’s a darn good thing my wife caught me.
“Hey Jim, have you seen Joe around lately?”
“Nope. Pete, from down the hardware store said he saw him a couple of weeks ago. Said he wandered in, bought a length of stovepipe, half a case of starting ether and an industrial sized funnel.”
“Pretty weird assortment, if you ask me.”
“Yeah, Pete thought so too. When he asked Joe about it he mumbled something about being fed up with the Neanderthals around here.”
“You don’t suppose he was making a bomb, do you?”
“Naw, Goose. Besides, the only two Neanderthals around here are you and me and Joe can’t blow us up. If he did, he’d have nothing to write about. Pete said he muttered something about building a rocket and heading back to the home planet.”
“That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought it was sumthin serious.”
Hello all my friends,
Yep, it’s me, Joe, the guy that disappeared for a couple of months. I figure I owe all of you an explanation. So if you will allow me I’ll pick up where I left off, a week out of brain surgery.
The big challenge after the surgery was getting my left ear balance nerve to take over. When I came home from surgery I figured my equilibrium was about 50%, which according to the Doc wasn’t bad for one week out. I knew I had one more week to get the other 50% so I could go back to work. Doc said walk. We walked.
The one thing I hadn’t counted on was the sheer exhaustion that hit me after the surgery. When I came home the simple act of carrying my duffel bag up ten steps into the house exhausted me. The following day walking the equivalent of two football fields did the same thing. All I wanted to do was sleep. Looking back, I’m sure this was a combination of things.
1. My body doesn’t like anesthetic. I always tell the anesthesiologist this when I go for surgery. I tell him I’m a cheap date. One drink and I’m out like a light. They nod their heads, smile and agree. And all along I can see the wheels turning in their heads. 300 lbs? Lets give this boy the bull elephant dose. Sigh. Nobody listens to poor Joe.
2. Somebody cut a hole in my head. That can’t be good. And any self respecting body would take affront to being so invaded. It would devote as much energy to healing itself as possible. No energy left over for me!
3. I now only have one balance nerve. Nobody warned the remaining one about was coming. There was no preparation. All of a sudden it’s expected to do the job of two when it had been happily cruising along comfortable in the knowledge that it was only responsible for half my balance. The guy on the other side of my head was suppose to take care of the rest and all of a sudden somebody up and offed him. What a rude awakening for the remaining balance nerve. There goes his day off. More energy needed here.
So I guess it’s not unusual that all I wanted to do was sleep. So that’s what I did for the second week. I slept. I walked. A half mile, then a mile, then two, finally three, and today six weeks or so out, four miles!. I walked like a drunken sailor at first, sometimes like a toddler taking his first steps, eventually, with concentration, like a semi normal person.
After the second week I figured my equilibrium was about 85%. Doc was amazed. I deemed myself ready to go back to work. I did. Sat at my desk all day. Came home and immediately went to sleep. Oh, and I walked. Four weeks out, equilibrium about 95%. My first big test at work came with helping to teach a course on wetlands. No problems. I was ecstatic.
There was one other thing that came from all this. I had absolutely no desire to sit and write. I don’t know if it was the exhaustion (My energy level is still not back to norm) or what. Luckily that appears to be slowly reversing itself.
But now that brings up another two problems.
1. Work is in high gear. You all no doubt have noticed the increase in energy prices. When you see that happening, you can pretty much bet Joe’s a busy guy. I leave tomorrow for Pittsburgh – all week. Next week it’s State College and the week after that Harrisburg and so on and so on.
2. This is the time of year where my writing and computer time take a back seat to other activities; fishing; gardening; hiking; fishing; traveling; and did I mention fishing? (These are the activities that give me the fodder for some of my stories.)
So, my apologies to all of you for not being around, I hope I didn’t worry you. (If the truth were known I worried myself) I will endeavor to make my presence more known than it has been but I doubt it will be as steady as it was in the winter. I can pretty much guarantee that my blog reading/writing will suffer somewhat.
Oh, my equilibrium is about 98%. There are only a few things that give me trouble. Standing in the boat is one of them. The first few fishing trips I made were quite interesting. I actually crawled out of the boat and onto the dock on my hands and knees. The last two trips I walked. Still haven’t tried getting up in a tree stand for hunting. Maybe I’ll wait a bit for that. (grin)
|Just a short note to let everyone know that I am alive and well and home.
I just finished reading Michael's blog...between the laughter and the tears. Everything he says is pretty much exactly like it happened. Funny, I don't remember being all that amused at the time.
It may take me a few days to get back to blog entries. I actually have to concentrate on hitting the right keys at the moment. I'll see if I can convince the Weekly World News Aficionado to give you another entry. i agree with you. He needs a blog of his own. Now we just need to convince him.
| Greetings and salutations bloggers. This is Joe's son, Michael, Chairman of Wildlife, Vicar of Vegetation, and temporary Baron of the Blog-u-verse. I just wanted to update you all on Joe's condition. I went to Pittsburgh today with my mother to visit him in the hospital. When we arrived we ate some fabulous cafeteria food and proceeded to the gift shop to get him some presents. We purchased him a balloon, a stuffed frog, and I also got him a copy of the Weekly World News. Its always good to stay on top of current events even if you are stuck in the hospital. When we arrived in his room, he was sleeping peacefully, and drooling on his pillow which was encouraging because he basically sits around and drools all day at home. Things were looking up. He was even holding down food ok which was great because the surgery caused nausea. Joe didn't have his reading glasses so I took it upon myself to read him some current events from the Weekly World News. Apparently, scientists have discovered compelling evidence that the reason aliens abduct cows is because they suffer from a calcium deficiency. This also explains why it is very hard to milk an alien. I also read him a heartwarming story about a young biologist in Vermont. Throughout her childhood years she had seen many poor snails crushed to death on the pavement. So, as an adult she became a specialist in animal cross-breeding and was in a perfect position to do something about this injustice. She took it upon herself to breed snails with cheetahs, creating an adorable hybrid known as the "Sneetah." The Sneetah was capable of reaching speeds in excess of 60mph and was virtually impossible to step on. However the Sneetah inherited many behavioral characteristics from Cheetahs. The Sneetah stalks its prey from a distance selecting old and injured animals. The Sneetah then gives chase and attempts to bring down its prey. Unfortunately the Sneetah lacks the powerful jaws, razor-sharp claws, and size of a Cheetah. The intrepid little Sneetah only manages to annoy its prey with high pitched squeals and a trail of goo as it repeatedly rams its small, striped, shell-covered body into its confused victim. Eventually the Sneetah is crushed to death by its prey 9 times out of 10 bringing us back to square one. However the biologist hasn't given up yet. She is currently working on a project to breed a snail with a gorilla(Snorilla), which theoretically should offset some of the snail's evolutionary disadvantages. After I filled Joe in on the happenings in the outside world, we were informed that we should take him for a walk and see how his balance was. We agreed, and Joe was sedated and catheterized for the adventure. My mother had to hold his hand but he did very well. We walked up and down the hallway and he had no adverse reactions. He was quite a bit faster than a snail but didn't quite measure up to the Sneetah. His only complaint was that his butt hurt. Apparently there was some mishap in surgery and it got a crack in it. Perhaps they can stitch it back together. We took Joe back to his room so he could rest his butt, and he was very tired. We tucked him into bed with his stuffed frog and after a tearful goodbye, headed home. We expect Joe to be home Friday or Saturday of this week, so I would think the next blog entry should be coming from him within a few days. Until then, I hope I have been informative and a worthy overseer of the blog.
I was really planning on making a number of blog entries this past week. My employer, the fine people of the Commonwealth, had other ideas. So I just had time to unpack, kiss my wife and Ii was off again. True, they were day trips, but between trying to wrap everything up at work and do the same, in anticipatioon of tomorrow's surgery and two week "vacation", the blog got lost in the shuffle. I know many of you are probably waiting with anticipation to find out what happened to Turrtle, so before I leave for the hospital today, I will attempt to bring you up to speed.
One other note before I begin the rest of Turrtle's saga. My wayward son, otherwise known as the Vice Chairman of Wildlife, has agreed to update my blog in a day or so and let all of you know how the surgery went. I'm not sure what else he'll say, but just remember, this was the same son that when he was younger, and building a fort in the woods, managed to hit himself in the head with a claw hammer...the claw end no less. Enuff said.
One of you expertly picked up on the fact that one of Turrtle's favorite foods was goldfish and that did not bode well for the goldfish in the pond. I lobbied long and hard against introducing turrtle to the pond, but as is often the case, this here "King of the Castle" lost out. ANd so it was, one bright and sunny spring afternoon, Turrtle was transported from his wintertime home to the pond. The VC of Wildlife placed him in the water. Turrtle floated for a minute checking out his new environs and then promptly sank from sight.
The VC looked at me with a puzzled look. I shrugged my shoulders and together we stared at the black murkey depths waiting for Turrtle to surface.
I pointed out to the VC that turtles have the ability to stay under water for a very long time, a fact that I personnally thought ay good VC of Wildlife would have known.
We waited some more.
At this point the VC of Wildlife took matters into his own hands and began searching the bottom with his hands for Turrtle. Numerous rocks and a couple of rootballs later, up came Turrtle in his hands. He was promptly returned to the denizens of his indoor aquarium.
The VC pondered the pond placement of Turttle. Being ever the good dad and wanting to assist my son in his learning and growing. I suggested a couple of methods that might work.
"How about glow-in-the dark spraypaint?" I offered. "It would make him easier to spot."
For some reason that didn't go over big. I then suggested he use either a tether or a radio transponder.
In the end, Turrtle was resigned to live out his days in our house, with occasional forays into the backyard for sun and such.
Turrtle was well cared for and well fed I might add with goldfish from our pond. Eventually as he grew older, he required more attention than the VC was able to give. At that point he was handed over to the VC's former girlfriend who is also a lover of animals and he currently resides with her, just as fat and happy as possible.
Me? I finally got to run a train. Sse?
|I’m Back! Did you miss me?
What a week. I left home at 5AM on Tuesday and got back last night at 9PM. Put 700 miles on my new (used) Ford Escape. Next week is shaping up to be just as crazy. After that I get a two week vacation…sort of.
If you remember, a while back I told you about my Meniere’s disease and the options that the doctors offered. I chose the one that requires cranial surgery. SO, on the 20th of March I get to have my head opened up…boy are they in for a surprise. My friends are very concerned about this procedure. They feel that with the size of the vacuum between my ears the entire operating room could get sucked in, once they crack me open. Some even feel it could affect the time -space continuum. So if your watch starts running backwards on the 20th you’ll know whom to blame. The really bad part is I’ll have to stay in the hospital for a week and then stay at home another week. But enough about me, without further delay I present to you the image of Turrtle (Yep, that’s his name.) and his sad but true story.
Turrtle was just an innocent painted turtle, minding his own business, getting some sun one spring day when the evil hand of the Vice Chairman of Wildlife for the N.P.D. & S. reached down and plucked him from his wilderness home. Turrtle hissed at him. The V.C. laughed a hideous laugh as he deposited him into the darkness of his backpack and headed for home. Turrtle was destined to join numerous other unlucky creatures that had met their match with the V. C.
Turrtle, who at the time of procurement was all of about four inches long, was unceremoniously deposited into a 10 gal aquarium in my son’s bedroom. It sat alongside other glass and wire containers that at any given time might hold frogs, crickets, sharks (littly ones) snakes, tadpoles, spring peepers, etc. It was for Turrtle that the V.C. conceived of the notion of a Turtle trail.
In time, as Turrtle grew, he was moved to a 30 gallon aquarium and given all the comforts of home. He was fed live goldfish and tadpoles and the occasional frog or minnow. If he got ill, it was off to the vet, but my son longed to give him a more natural home in our backyard.
One day, why turtle was getting his exercise, (My son took him for walks in the yard. No, no leash.) I casually mentioned that if a natural habitat was what was lacking, he could return Turrtle whence he came. “No,” I was told, “Turrtle no longer knew how to fend for himself.” Evidently he would not survive in the vast wilderness from which he was so violently plucked. I was pretty sure this wasn’t true, having observed Turrtle’s lightning fast jaws in action on unsuspecting goldfish a number of times. I let the subject drop.
At the same time, The Vice Chairman of Horticulture and I had taken an extreme liking to our original pond and would spend time daily sitting by it, feeding the fish, watching the flowers bloom and enjoying the sound of the waterfall. It was decided another, much larger pond, would not be a bad idea, and if we were going to do that, well we might as well have a turtle trail between the two, don’t you think?
Sigh, all I ever wanted to do was play with my trains.
To be continued.
|Just a quick not to let everyone know I'm back...but I'm gone again.
I was gone over the weekend to visit my folks and was here on Monday, and now it's Tuesday and I'm gone again. This time it's work. I will be back on Saturday.
Such is my life at times.
Honest...there is a turtle.
Read my Blog!!!
You never know, you might be in it!
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Here's the pond.
The pond is located at the far end of the rock wall in yesterday's photos underneath the pin oak.
If you look real close in this photo you'll see a couple of goldfish hiding under the lily pad. Good luck trying to find the black bug eyed fish, which, by the way, received the name Angel from my wife. She even trained it to eat from her hand.
I will be away for the next few days, but I promise when I come back we'll finally see a turtle.
Today I took first place in our office soup cookoff. Each March we have a soup contest. it's called Aftonase's Winter Doldrums Soup Cookoff. It's named after my great-grandfather Afton Sembrat. He liked soup.This is the first time I've won in 5 years.
Here's the winning recipe.
Aftonase’s Archipelago Gulag Goulash
1 3-4 lb beef roast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 chopped garlic cloves
2 cans beef broth
1 large can whole tomatoes
2 cans Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can cut green beans
1 can sweet peas
1 can navy beans
1 can great northern beans
1 bag (72 count) frozen precooked Italian meatballs
Brown a 3 to 4 lb. beef roast in a Dutch oven with olive oil and chopped garlic. Place the roast in the crockpot, add two cans beef broth and one large can whole tomatoes. Cook on high setting for 4 hours. Remove beef. Smash tomatoes. Add two cans of Italian seasoned (basil, oregano, garlic) diced tomatoes. Using two forks shred beef roast and add back to crockpot. Add the following: one can whole kernel corn, drained; one can cut green beans, drained; one can sweet peas, drained; one can navy beans, drained and rinsed; one can great northern beans, drained and rinsed. You can substitute frozen vegetables for any of the canned vegetables.
Depending on whether you like thick soup or more broth, you can add another can of beef broth and/or seasoned diced tomatoes at this point. Your meatballs and beans will soak up broth.
Add Italian meatballs – as many as will fit in the pot. (usually about half the bag)
Finally, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the top as per your taste. Put the lid on the crockpot and simmer until meatballs have thawed and soup is heated through.
This recipe will fill a 6 qt crockpot…and then some.
|Today's blog and at least tomorrow's also, will be devoted to catching you all up with photos of the N.P.D & S.
Here's the first.
This is prettymuch what he "wildflower garden looked like prior to me having my way with it. The brown vegetation is where I've already become to get ready for rock wall construction.
Rock wall construction is in full swing.
Last phot for today. Rock wall is completed...at least until I decided to tear part of it down. Tomorrow I'll show you some photos of the pond.
|Today’s blog will take a momentary respite from the saga of the N. P. D. & S. Well…mostly.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I checked my WDC email and found this,
given to me by my dear brother, TeflonMike .
Many of you, I’m sure, did not realize until this moment that Mike and I are, in fact, brothers. Recently, we have been comparing our lives and there are just too many coincidences for it not be true, so I have concluded that we are indeed brothers, probably twins separated at birth.
For some reason I’m seeing Arnold Swarzennegger and Danny Davito.
In this respect, I truly hope Mike remembers my birthday this year, as it seems he has missed the last 49. No need for a present, Mike. Just knowing I have a brother is present enough. Just in case, I like Angel food cake the best…you know, the one with the sprinkles inside that makes it look like confetti… now don’t tell me we have something else in common!
Of course, I’m not sure how we’re going to break the news to our sister, Twila. She’s 55, somewhat old and feeble minded (geez I hope she doesn’t read this.) I’m not sure she’s up to having another brother. In fact, sometimes she denies having one at all.
Mom will be cool. She’ll just try and fatten Mike up. It’s a mother thing. Dad, on the other hand will be somewhat bummed. He’ll start thinking about how much more work he could’ve got out of two of us instead of just one. And then it’ll really hit him. Fishing! We could’ve brought home another limit in bass…at least legally. Same goes for deer hunting. Man…opportunities lost.
Anyway, thanks brother Mike for making my day.
Yesterday’s entry on the N.P.D. & S. is the last one from my archive. Since everyone is wondering what comes next, I will attempt to bring everyone up to date with a few more entries. I should be able to add some photos tonight.
|My apologies for being away so long. Occasionally my life gets interrupted by the mundane. You know, work and such. And once I get away from something it seems to take forever to get back to it. I was jarred from reality and back to flights of fancy by a hand written note on the cover of my current PGRS newsletter, which simply said “ Any more stories?”
Here I am, meticulously committing to paper the ongoing saga of the N. P. D. & S and someone calls it a story. Would you call War and Peace a story? Is the Encyclopedia Britannica a story? Well okay, maybe volumes C through F, but the rest is definitely not a story”. I was busily working up a good harangue for this unknown note writer when I suddenly realized… I have a fan. Someone out there misses “Notes”. Either that or nobody’s writing for the newsletter. I prefer to cling to the former. After all it is my flight of fancy. At least that’s what the voices in my head tell me….
Now where were we? Ah, yes… bug eyed fish. It was fall when I finally completed the wall and installed the pond so I couldn’t see the sense in putting anything in it until the following spring. Through the Winter I stared wistfully out the window and occasionally contemplated my navel. In January I discovered I could make a few bucks on Ebay selling all the things I’d been saving for a garage sale. $600.00 later I ordered 4 boxes of Aristocraft track, taking advantage of their annual sale. Buy 4 get one free! 300 feet of track was resting comfortably in my basement by the time the crocuses started to bloom.
One day I woke up, walked outside and immediately knew winter in Ebensburg was over. My eyes beheld my neighbor cleaning up all the little doggie presents that had remained hidden by the snow these last several months.
My first goal was to get the pond up and running. I installed a ground-fault receptacle and dropped the pump in the pond. I was going to buy one of those flowerpot filters until I saw the price and decided to build my own. About 20 bucks later I had an operational filter sitting above the pond and trickling down the rocks like a waterfall. My son came wandering by at the time and I asked him where he was going. “Walmart” was the reply. I reached in my pocket handed him 5 bucks and said, “ Bring back a couple of goldfish to throw in the pond.” He looked at the sawbuck and asked “Is 5 dollars enough?”
“Yes” I replied. “You should be able to get a couple of goldfish for a dollar or so.” About 45 minutes later he shows up with two goldfish and tells me I owe him another 5 bucks.
The first goldfish was just that… gold. It was also about 5 inches long. I asked him why he bought such a big one. He said “ You won’t be able to see the small ones” I asked if he, my Vice-Chairman of Wildlife, understood the concept of how animals start out small and grow larger as they get older. Sort of like him… (I did point out to him the exception to this in that some parents in the animal world eat their young.
He simply handed me the second bag. This goldfish was… well… it was black and it had bug eyes. I asked him, going back to his prior reasoning on buying the large goldfish, how he expected to see a black fish against a black pond?
“But he’s neat, don’t you think?” Well one of us wasn’t thinking but I decided to let that pass. In go the fish. The following day during a trip to Wally World I confirmed my suspicions that indeed you still could buy goldfish for under a buck and I added four more to the pond. At this point the vice chairman of horticulture arrived on the scene. Inspecting my creation, she commented only that we needed plants in the pond.
Will I ever get back to the railroad????????
Next Installment: tadpoles, snails and toads “Oh my”
|Note to my devoted readers: Some of you have inquired about photos of the outside version of the NPD & S. Yes, there are photos. Umfortunately they are not digital so I need to scan them. My scanner is sitting on my desk at work, so please be patient and I will add the photos with in a few days.
It has often been said that misery loves company. I find just the opposite to be true. I had managed to negotiate the right – of – way for the N. P. D. & S and the cost had made me miserable. My newfound vice chairpersons were however, not miserable. They were quite gleeful and in my opinion made very poor company.
Construction of the N.P. D. & S. proceeded somewhat slowly. Having devoured all of the garden railroad reading material I could lay my hands on and having drawn numerous designs on everything from a napkin to the back of a report that was read by one of our Department Chiefs… no, he wasn’t a railroad fan… I decided to just build the darn thing.
Being in my 40’s I knew I didn’t want to work on my hands and knees so I decided to raise the railroad above the current grade of my yard. I also decided that if money were to be spent it would be spent on trains and tracks, not on retaining walls. Some might question the wisdom of this, but so far it has proven sound. I set goals for the first season of construction on the railroad. First would be the construction of approximately 50 ft. of stone retaining wall. Stone I might add that has been carefully handpicked by me, one piece at a time, from the numerous stone storage areas in our area known as township roads and areas marked with the unusual sign “Free Fill”.
I have no idea who Fill is or what crime he has committed but he sure has some nice rock.
My second goal was to place on layaway at Wally world a pond liner and all the necessary accessories such as a pump and goldfish. Hint: It has been determined by the V.C. of Wildlife that goldfish do not tolerate several months in a cardboard box very well. What a valuable part of the team he has turned out to be. Rock hunting went very well and I was able to complete the wall by early autumn.
The V.C. of Horticulture was able to free up the necessary funding to get the pond and pump out of hock and it was installed also. All was looking well until the V.C. of Wildlife told me he had been thinking. A teenager thinking… this could only mean a couple of things. One, he fell and hit his head or he had contracted a rare disease, which resulted in a high temperature and delirium. With some trepidation I quietly asked “About What?”
“Turtles” he responded.
“I see.” I said thoughtfully. A pregnant pause ensued. (Just what is that anyhow? How can one pause being pregnant? And if it is the pause that is pregnant…how did that happen?) Ouch, I just gave myself a headache.
“Well,” he said; “we have a pond and we’re going to put fish in it and if we’re gonna’ have fish then we should have frogs and if we’re gonna’ have frogs we should definitely have turtles and if we’re gonna’ have turtles we will need a turtle trail.”
There you have it. A turtle trail. I shuddered to ask but I did anyhow. “ What’s a turtle trail?”
“A turtle trail is just that, a trail of water. A little creek that the turtles can walk back and forth along to the other pond.”
I chuckled, a river, he wants a river to the other pond. How cute. Calling a river a turtle trail… “WHAT OTHER POND?!!!!!!” I asked.
“Oh, did I forget to mention we need another pond?”
Next Installment “Of Bug eyed fish and tadpoles”
|Simultaneous with the building of the N.P. D. & S. in our living room I was beginning to have thoughts, no, dreams, no, fantasies of a real honest to goodness outside garden railroad. At times I would stand on our back porch, lean on the railing and envision the empire of the N.P.D. & S. sprawled out before me.
I was usually snapped back to reality by a voice in my head that said. “Don’t you think you should finish the house remodeling first?” At least, I think the voice was in my head. I did notice that Linda was always in the vicinity at these moments but as far as I know ventriloquism isn’t one of her many talents.
During meetings at work I would find myself drawing railroads instead of taking notes. This was slowly becoming an obsession. I bought track templates, software and videos. I devoured Garden Railroad magazines and joined online mail lists. I read and listened to everyone’s advice until I was so confused people actually thought I started to make sense.
Finally last spring (99), at the dinner table, I announced to my wife and son my plans. Casually I mentioned that I might start building an outside railroad this year. I waited for the inevitable question. Not disappointing me my wife said, “Where are you going to put it?”
“Well, you know where the wildflower bed is?’ I responded.
“You mean MY WILDFLOWER BED!” came the retort.
“Yes” was all I could think to say.
Now at this point, I’d like to take a moment and explain to you about the wildflower bed. The wildflower bed is actually a pile of dirt left over from a driveway improvement project. When it became covered in weeds Linda asked (demanded) I do something with it. Having the slightest stirring of outdoor railroad thoughts at the time but having no time or money to spare, I bought a $7.00 bucket of wildflower seeds, rototilled the weeds under and planted the seeds. Now see it was my pile, my seeds, my labor and now I was faced with “HER WILDFLOWER BED!!” Be forewarned all ye of the male persuasion.
After much intense negotiation across the dinner table I obtained the necessary right-of-way in the wildflower bed. Though to make this happen I had to relinquish my total control of the N. P. D. & S.; offer up some stock options and create the office of Vice Chairperson of Horticulture. Through this whole negotiation my son sat at the table eating his dinner enjoying my obvious discomfort. It wasn’t until I indicated that I thought I’d make a small pond in the one corner that he got into the act. Enter the Vice Chairman of Wildlife and Turtle Trails.
It simply amazes me that we managed to link this continent by rail over 100 years ago.
Next Installment: What the Heck is a Turtle Trail?!!!
|Running two loops of track around the perimeter of our living room did have its challenges. One corner of the room didn’t even exist. I had to hang two five-foot curves of track out in mid air. It turned out to be relatively simple to do using ¾ in plywood.
The real challenge came at the opposite corner. There I would have to tunnel through the hall closet. The tunnel however would just be for the outside loop. The inside loop would go along the wall of the closet. Sort of like one track tunneling through the mountain and the other going around it. I completed the inside loop rather quickly and began seriously thinking about the outside loop. I had built that closet. I knew where each stud was and I also knew that it had a double sill plate at 8 foot from the floor that corresponded just about exactly to where the tunnel would be. Blasting I’m sure was out of the question.
I pondered this for a while. Four years to be exact, give a month or two. Finally this past fall (1999) with chisel, saw and hammer I started tunneling. The gypsum rock gave way fairly easy to my efforts and I was beginning to have high hopes when my saw encountered the sill plate. Several frustrating hours later with numerous grunts, groans and Holy Huckleberries, I finally stepped back to admire my creation. This is the part where it is important to note that it is not a good thing to step back when standing on a stepladder. Mostly, all I could admire, was the ceiling and the underside of the top two rungs on the ladder. Dis you know spiders live there?
Linda asked, “What’s all the racket?”
“Just Tunneling Dear” I replied.
“That’s nice, did the snow melt yet?” were the last words I heard before I lost consciousness.
Having completed one side of the tunnel, the second proved to be far less difficult. It wasn’t long before I was able to look through the tunnel and see daylight at the other end. I chuckled. “Hon, look I can see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
From down below came a reply, “Can you also see the dust, dirt, insulation and wood on our coats because you didn’t empty the closet before you started working?”
Not missing a beat, I replied. “You know this railroading thing would be a lot more fun outside.”
Boy has dry-cleaning gone up in price.
To complete the tunnel I cut portals from two pieces of 2-inch urethane and used a file to cut groves that resembled joints between cut stone. I painted the whole thing gray and placed the portals at the ends of the tunnel. I hand bent a piece of track so it would lead into the tunnel and took my Bachman EBT caboose and rolled it through the tunnel. It worked just fine. Now all I needed was track for the rest of the loop.
Next installment: You don’t really want that flowerbed, do you?
|Here in Ebensburg Winter lasts until about the 4th of July. We usually get a couple of warm days around then with no rain and very little wind. This is immediately followed by fall and winter, both usually simultaneous in arrival.
I worked diligently on my honeydew list until I had it whittled down to nothing and then began working on the shelf railroad. The winter had given me lots of time to think while my back recuperated from snow shoveling.
We live in an old house. We occupy the 2nd and 3rd floors while we rent the first floor out as an apartment. The house has plaster/lathe walls. From doing quite a bit of remodeling I knew two things. There wasn’t a square corner in the house and the plaster varied in thickness sometimes as much as 3/8 of an inch on the same wall! I had already decided to use oak plywood as shelving for the N.P.D. & S. I also decided that I wanted two loops of track and not just one so my shelf would have to be wide enough to accommodate both. To handle the plaster and the corner problem I bought colonial oak baseboard and attached oak brackets at two-foot intervals to it with wood screws. Once stained and given a satin finish I inverted it and screwed it around the perimeter of the room at the height of the shelf.
I used 3-inch long brass wood screws with a round head and a decorative washer to attach the molding. This gave me about 5/8 of an inch to play with when positioning the shelves and would leave no visible gap where the shelf met the wall. Next I purchased 3 sheets of ¾ inch oak plywood and cut them to fit. Two sheets were needed to complete the four corners. The radius on my curves is about 5 ft. The remaining sheet was cut to fill in between the corner sheets. When I was finished I had a complete shelf railroad… almost. I couldn’t believe it, but I was five feet short, and had no plywood left. I hated to purchase another full sheet just so I could cut a five-foot piece to span across the top of a window.
A railroading friend came to my rescue and also reaffirmed his superior intelligence at the same time. When I told him of my problem he looked at me somewhat incredulously and said, “Build a bridge.” With that he turned and walked away. I on the other hand took several moments to reassess what had just transpired. After picking up my jaw from the ground I quickly determined that there had been no one in earshot and knew that my secret was safe. “Build a bridge”, who would’a thunk it? I knew there was a reason I paid him all these years to be my friend.
Thus was born The Bridge over Sofa Gulch.
Next Installment: The Light at the End of the Tunnel