Friday, May 22, 2020

Pyramids of Giza... er Iowa

With a free afternoon on my hands, I decided the time was right to go seek out the pyramids that I've heard about that reside in our county. It has been something I wanted to check out but just haven't done it, I guess because they are located in the middle of absolutely nowhere. They weren't even along the way to somewhere.

The pyramids are located in the rear of an old cemetery about a few miles north of what remains of an unincorporated town. According to accounts, the person who had them commissioned was in a group of friends (perhaps more rightly labeled a cult) who all admired the pyramids of Giza and Egyptian culture. The original plan was for the the owner to be buried sitting upright in a sarcophagus facing his best friend with a table between them set with plates and an old news press. Concrete would then be poured into it entombing them forever. However when the owner died, his sister was left to make the final arrangements and found that his tomb didn't meet the laws at the time and so she had him buried with the rest of their family in a cemetery six miles away, in the normal fashion. The friend ended up moving to Minnesota, dying up there and presumably in a cemetery there.

I would assume the above is the sarcophagus where the owner planned to be buried upright. The article I read stated that it was 10 feet square and fifteen feet deep. Since the above room doesn't look anywhere that size, I'm assuming that perhaps there was a bigger room actually underneath the pyramid and the article kind of alludes to that but isn't entirely clean. The doors of the entrance have been pried open and inside looks more like an initiation site for teens to go have a beer if they are brave enough. It looked to be only four or five feet deep and maybe that much as wide. I walked around looking for some markings of some sort or places where they planned to put markers but didn't see any signs. It definitely felt a bit creepy being there for sure. Behind me in the above picture was also a stone bench set off into the weeds and leaning at an angle. According to the article, it was one of the benches cast for either the owner or the friend to sit on for eternity but was hauled out by some vandals. I might have sat down and contemplated things a bit but I was afraid that it might be in bad juju and didn't want to tempt fate. With the angle it was leaning, it might not have held me up anyway.

So I found the pyramids, learned some new things and now I've visited them so I can cross them off my mental bucket list.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


With mushroom season behind me (we did go out one more time and found seven nearly dried up yellows for a season total of 11 morel mushrooms), it was time to get cracking on my stairway railing. I'm not sure what to call the vertical elements in a horizontal railing. I don't think everyone would be considered a newel post and calling them baluster or spindle posts doesn't seem quite right either so for now, I'm calling them posts. Building the posts was the easiest part. Laying out all the holes for the gas pipe that will become the horizontal elements was very nerve racking. I only have one shot to get everything lined up and drilled in the correct spots and the correct angles. So after measuring everything for the 30th time (and I'm still not sure that was enough times), I built a jig to help me drill the holes for those going down the stairs and finally started drilling into my posts. For better or worse, the holes are in and I do have a hole rasp but I'm hoping not to have to use it much if at all. My plan is to get the posts fixed in place and screwed to the inner metal posts (horizontal ones) or to the stairway stringer (diagonal ones). Then I will cut the gas pipe so I can slip it in one side and then stick it in the other. My plan is to epoxy the ends of the pipes in place after they have been painted so they don't slide back out. Eventually, there will be a wooden handrail attached above the uppermost pipe on both sections so anyone using the stairs has something to hang onto.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Running In Circles

One of the things that became quite clear at the beginning of this pandemic is that our summer plans of flying my brother-in-law and his family over were not going to happen. It wasn't due to planes not flying (which is still unclear at this point) but because due to the lock down in his home country, he was forced to use up all his vacation time. Fortunately we bought trip insurance so it shouldn't have been hard to cancel the flight.

When it became clear that we needed to cancel, I logged onto Expedia where we had purchased our tickets and initiated a cancellation request. Six weeks later, I have not received one email, one text, one phone call, or one letter in the mail acknowledging the cancellation. I attempted to call their customer support number but am told that due to high call volumes, they won't take my request. I have and still get this message now six weeks later. I try to get around by going to different areas but all roads are thwarted by requiring me to enter my itinerary number before speaking to a human agent. Apparently they have no "I don't know my itinerary number" or "speak to an operator" options that I have been able to find. The best I can get is a robot telling me to use their online tools or ask me to fill out an online cancellation form which I do but it never gets submitted and instead says that unless my flight falls within the next few weeks, I need to use their virtual agent to cancel any flight. Okay by me so I try the virtual agent. I choose my flight and it say, great, we can cancel your flight do you want to proceed or start over. I click proceed at which point it says that due to high call volumes that an agent isn't available and starts me over in an infinite loop.


Are they trying to tell me that eight weeks into this pandemic that they haven't gotten their act together?  I suspect that the airlines don't have the money to refund all these flights and so they are just stalling for time when people will actually start booking flights and like a pyramid scheme, pay off those of us on the bottom tiers.

At the end of the day, I really don't care if I get the money tomorrow or two months from now. All I would like is for someone to acknowledge that my flight has been cancelled and that I can go about my business instead of getting weekly text alerts that this or that flight on my itinerary has changed and asking me to respond if it isn't, which as I said before, is impossible to do.

Friday, May 15, 2020

This and That

I wish I had taken a before picture of how the road behind our house looked but I never did. partly because there wasn't much there to see except for the road disappearing over a hill that was probably close to five feet higher than it is now, the same hill that made our intersection dangerous. Now with the hill flattened off (I'm standing in the intersection), I can see quite away off into the distance, more than enough to see someone coming. Another advantage is that they are widening the road four feet which doesn't really mean a lot except that we live on the edge of a subdivision where there are no sidewalks and so when we go for an evening walk, we have to walk in the road until we get to areas of town with sidewalks. Because the road above was so narrow and had quite a bit of traffic during certain times of the day, this meant we often went the back way out of the neighborhood which had even more narrow roads but hardly any traffic. When this opens, hopefully we will feel more safe walking the eight or nine blocks to sidewalk land and it will open up more walking options.

The cycle of life is beginning again in our bluebird house. Most of the other bluebird houses already have all their eggs laid and one even has a few hatched out before our birds finally completed their nest and laid their first egg. This year I'm hoping to see a few broods reared in the bird house which sits about ten or fifteen feet from our back deck. Thanks to cellphones with cameras, my daughter is able to take this picture. It is such cramped quarters that I wouldn't be able to stick any sort of dedicated camera in there to get a picture but a cellphone works just fine.

I went down to the farm again for a second picking of asparagus and some mushroom hunting. As you can see above and below, I only found two partially dried up yellow morels, which doubled my yearly haul to four. Pretty terrible but we had a cold spell during the early week of the season followed by two dry weeks afterwards. Every rain on the horizon went past without leaving a drop and sadly there are just a couple very iffy chances now a week off so my season is pretty much over. It was getting hard to look with all the undergrowth getting big and leafing out anyway. In over 40+ years of searching, this officially ranks as the second worst year ever for me. The worst year happened several years back when I didn't find a single one. So I didn't get to fry any up. The first two I cut up and put on a cheeseburger and these two my wife has claimed for some dish she is upstairs making right now.

I should mention we've been eating asparagus pretty heavily with most of our meals but still had lots extra so I pickled the rest. I made I think eight pints of spicy pickled asparagus and five pints of regular dill picked asparagus. Probably four years ago when we had more than we could eat, I tried pickling them on a lark and accidentally bought a spicy pickling spice. It turned out so good, that I've been dreaming of doing some more ever since. My wife doesn't like the kick so I had to promise to do some regular dill asparagus as well. I'm hoping for one more good picking which I plan to do another batch of spicy so that I have enough to get me by for another couple years.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Update On My Update

After writing the last post, I started seeing dump truck after dump truck full of dirt heading down the hill which I thought was a great sign of significant hill lowering. The hours ticked by however and they never stopped working. Finally a little after eight, the last of the equipment shut down and the workers headed off so in the fading light, I hustled out to see what had happened. The temporary gravel access road that the fellow on the right is walking on was about the same height as the original road so as you can see, it is a lot lower. In fact, I can see the piece of equipment off in the distance  which means I will be able to see any car coming as well. This sight made me very happy and I can't wait for this project to be done.

I should note that I found out later that someone from the water department had knocked on our door and given a notice to my mother-in-law that the water would be shut off sometime while I was in the garage. So I have to take back all my bad thoughts that I wrote about in the last post.

This year's mushroom hunt has been a struggle. We got a cold snap and snow during the first part of the season and then several windy days in a row so now everything is pretty dry. I had hoped the shower that passed over the day before would produce mushrooms and it did, one single yellow mushroom. Unfortunately this is a sign that the gray morel season, my favorite because their flavor is much stronger, is over for the year and the one I picked is the only one I'll get this year. As I right this, we are supposed to get another round of showers tonight and tomorrow morning so I may make one more trip later this week to see if the rain was enough to pop up more of the yellow mushrooms. I did find the above mushroom, which isn't a morel mushroom but I left it be as I don't know if it is edible or not.

Skunked at mushroom hunting, I went on to the farm to check on the tomatoes which were still doing good and hauled around 100 gallons of water out to the garden and gave them a drink. I said I wouldn't do that but since I was there already, why not. I went over and checked the asparagus bed above and as you can see, it was time for our first picking. I picked about a third of a paper sack full of asparagus so I'm thinking about pickling some of those like I did a couple years ago as a test. I accidentally pickled them using a spicy pickling mix that I bought from the store and they were so flavorful, they became my favorite side dish with just about every meal. Since I have free rain over the asparagus this year with my parents not eating any, I plan to put up a lot of pickled asparagus and eat a lot of it fresh as well.