Friday, February 27, 2015

Snowfall On Big Bluff

There was a full moon gracing the sky when we reached the Goat Trail that leads across the face of Big Bluff. The naked trees reached up and surrounded the light leaving only dappled pieces to reach the ground at our feet. We carefully snaked our way through the rocks careful to keep our centers of gravity on the uphill side of the sheer 300 feet cliff just a few feet to our right. We came to a spooned out portion of the Goat Trail in the face of the cliff and sat down on the ledges of sandstone to rest our feet and treat our eyes to the river valley in front of us and 300 feet down and 200 feet of vertical sandstone over our heads.

The emerald green waters of the Buffalo carves through the wrinkled and worn mountains to our right, slam into the base of Big Bluff below our resting feet and carve through more wrinkled and worn mountains as it runs away to our left. We are miles from the nearest road, house and probably people so the night is deathly quite. So quite we can hear the river gurgle and coo as it makes its way over the rocks below, lost from our view in the shadows of Big Bluff.

Clouds start making their way down the valley and soon they choke the light from the moon and it becomes dark. The valley in front of us becomes a dark void where all sense of anything is deprived from us. Even the sounds of a forest are gone and not even a rustle of a leaf remains. The stillness is intoxicating and we sit there drinking our fill. Then we see it.

From the dark void up above, a large white crystal snowflake appears softly tumbling end over end. We watch it as it falls into the void below and disappears. More of its brethren follow. Normally we rest here for an hour before continuing on across the face of the bluff and down to the river or if like tonight we are just stretching our legs, turn around and head up the mountain to the comfort of our cabin. However, the snow falling out of darkness and disappearing into darkness captures our eyes, our minds, our very souls and we sit there transfixed for another hour, perhaps more. Time ceases to exist.

Finally the cold begins to seep into the deep recesses of our bones and we are forced to retreat but not without longing glances over our shoulders as if departing a lover. We carefully pick our way across of the face of Big Bluff along the Goat Trail careful to keep our centers of gravity from the void just off to our left. As we exit the Goat Trail onto a saddle ridge between two mountains and the relative safety of the main trail the snow tapers off and the moon's light is once again released. We walk the three miles back up the mountain through the moonlit snow lost in our thoughts of the beauty we had just left behind. I still think of it every time it snows in the evening.

The Goat Trail across Big Bluff during warmer times.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 18th, 2001

As many of you recall, I grew up in a televisionless house. It wasn't for any religious reasons or my parents concern about the decline in moral values, we just never had one. We were farmers and put in long hours and when it came time to doing something for free time, we read or did hobbies. The latter explains why I have a thousand and one hobbies today. Anyway, all this is to say that because we didn't have a television, I never watched televised sports.

When I went to college, I was amazed at all the sports that people consumed via the boob tube. There was always something on all weekend long sports related and if you wanted to use the commons television to catch a movie you didn't see during your televisionless years growing up you were shit out of luck. Eventually I moved off campus to an apartment with my younger brother, who also grew up televisionless, and a mutual friend. I bought my first television seconds later.

Still, the mutual friend, like everyone except for the two Abbey boys, watched sports on television and that is why I still can't hardly watch a baseball game to this day. All was not lost however when I graduated college and moved up to the land of the frozen tundra where since they were about as far away as possible, was full of NASCAR fans. Everyone watched the race on Sunday and even churches scheduled around races when need be. Although I never became addicted, I must say that like a bad beer after watching it for awhile, it began to appeal to me. I even entered a NASCAR fantasy league for a couple years and won both years. I found my calling.

My boss at the time, and fellow fantasy league participant, took notice and one year when he couldn't attend the Daytona 500, the World Series or Superbowl of NASCAR, he offered me his tickets. A friend of mine and I took him up on the offer and we flew down to Florida to visit our grandparents who lived 30 miles apart and watch the Daytona 500. This will play an important part in just a second but my friend suffers significant hearing loss and can only hear well out of one ear with the help of a hearing aid.

We got to the track early and hit the various tents and sideshows before slowly making our way towards the track entrance. Just as we were getting close, I could see a car come flying along which of course was on the side of my friend with no hearing aid in his ear. The car started swerving towards the entrance to the track tunnel which we were just about ready to cross and my friend and I were in the way. Since he didn't see or hear what was happening, I grabbed his elbow and yanked him back and the car swept by with only inches to spare. That is how we both came to see Richard Petty sitting less than a foot from us on the other side of the window glass as he went rushing by us.

Flash forward to the final lap of the race and the guy I most admired, Dale Earnhardt got caught up in a wreck and hit the wall hard. Since we had to still go clear across the state to our grandparent's houses, we decided to leave without seeing the closing festivities. We were walking outside the track, just crossing the tunnel entrance and an ambulance came screaming out of the track and would have run us over if we hadn't stepped the pace up and jogged out of the way. For some reason, it didn't cross my mind that a dead or dying Dale Earnhardt might be in that ambulance.

Mired in traffic jams a couple hours later due to a major fire closing down the interstate, we were listening to the radio when the announcer came on and told people to stop calling the radio station and asking if Dale Earnhardt was dead because he was. I couldn't believe my ears but another song later the radio announcer came back on and apologized and said that Dale had died in the wreck on the track.

That was the only time I've been to see a NASCAR race live at the track and will probably be my last. I still watch it occasionally though with my cable package I have now, I only get to see a handful of races a year and this year, I won't even be able to see the Daytona 500 since it will only be on cable and a channel I don't get. But I almost never sit down to watch a race and don't remember the day I almost got ran over by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt's body.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Did Bob Simon Have To Go and Die?

First the television anchor that I watch nightly had to go and lie about his experience in the Iraq War and get suspended without pay for the next six months. Although I like Brian Williams, I do agree that he must be punished for lying to his viewers especially since he is in a position of trust. Otherwise I guess that would just make him a politician. Lester Holt has always done a good job reporting the news so I guess I will just have to get used to seeing him. If I were Brian Williams, I think I would call it a career and retire.

Then the next day, Bob Simon of 60 Minutes was killed in a car crash. I watch 60 Minutes and have enjoyed his many reports of various topics over the years. But while watching a newscast about his life, I learned that he had been held captive in Iraq for 40 days at one point and wrote a book about the experience. I knew nothing about this.

As you know I am a book worm and immediately I thought this sounded like a book I would want to read. I checked online and found the book but it was selling for over $100 for a used copy. Immediately I suspected that people were trying to cash in on Bob Simon's death by selling his book for exorbitant prices. I checked back the next day and they were up to $160 a book, the following day over $200 and the last time I checked almost $220 a book. (Just checked before this posted and they are up to $2400 per used book!) What a rip. I don't think I have found a book worth over $200 and I don't intend to start now. I checked on Ebay and actual bids have the book value up to around $60 but with days left in the bidding process. This is a much more reasonable price but still one I don't want to pay just because I know this is people cashing in on someone's death.

So now my only option is to wait until Bob Simon's death has been forgotten and people vaguely remember who he was or that he had a book and try again. That is assuming I will remember I was looking for that particular book. I have made a note on my phone to remind me from time to time but I'm not sure how long it will take for his book prices to go back down to normal used book prices. If only I had learned that he had a book before he died.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Goose on the Loose

(Warning, this post contains a picture of a dead Canadian Goose at the end.)

While waiting out at the bus stop recently having one of those father/daughter talks I so enjoy, my daughter said there was a plastic bag down in our ditch with something in it. Sure enough, I noticed it too after she pointed it out to me.

The big problem is that our land goes to the junction of a side road with a main road where traffic stops at a stop sign on the side road before going onto the main road. Because there are trees on both sides and no close by houses, people seem to feel that this is their chance to rid their vehicles of their litter. Back when I bought this house, I used to mow the few feet of grass before the timber on my side of the road and keep the litter picked up but I found that it was taking me twenty minutes to pick up the litter before I could even mow it for fear of hitting something like a bottle with the lawnmower. After a year of doing this, I finally gave up and just let the trash accumulate and the grass grow high enough to cover it up. Also forcing this decision was the cities decision to install an electrical pole in this area to replace an aging one on the other side. In digging the hole, the dug up a whole bunch on concrete filler that they must have used to build up the road base and left it strewn everywhere. It would take a large sledge hammer and quite a bit of time to break all that stuff up and dispose of it. Since it is along a wooded right away, the city comes by with their brush cutter once a year and mows it for me to keep the young saplings from growing up. This chops up the debris and scatters it out so that it isn't such an eyesore.

All this is an explanation of why I didn't notice a plastic bag with what appeared to be a bird in it until my daughter pointed it out to me. I pulled open the plastic bag and exposed the bottom side of the bird. It was a very large bird but wasn't an eagle, turkey or vulture, all of which we have a lot in the area. When my daughter was gone to school, I returned and turned it over and saw that it was most likely a goose and after doing some internet research, I think a Canadian Goose. We do get Canadian Geese in Iowa and there is a hunting season but here in the landlocked rural Southeast part of the state, I don't know of anyone that hunts them. Mostly they go to the east or the west along the rivers that border our state to hunt geese. So why was there a dead goose tied up in a plastic bag on my property?

I wasn't sure what to do. I suspected that the bird came to be here for some nefarious reason because most hunters I know wouldn't waste a goose and besides, hunting season was long over for them. After thinking it over, I decided to call the local law office and report it just in case someone was missing a pet goose. They transferred me to the animal control division where I left a message along with my number. As I write this, the goose is still laying in my ditch/deep freeze thanks to the recent cold snap. If it is still there in a couple days, I guess I will just roll it on down into the woods to let nature dispose of it as it does.

(Updated this morning: The goose is still there and the animals have started working it over. When they get finished, I would like to go back and see if I can find the skull. It might be interesting to look over with my daughter.)


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Missed Opportunity In Writing

Written by request for Sage over at Musings about a comment I left on one of his blog posts.

If I had one career I wish I was good at, I would choose to be a writer. Growing up without a television, I have spent more of my life reading than probably an average 100 people you can find on the street. I literally read an entire library growing up and got special permission to visit a much larger library a county over. To this day, I still read more than the average person. But while reading these books, I can't help but want to write one of my own someday. I actually have a couple planned out in my head and one with notes enough to fill a notebook but whenever I have sat down to write it, my mind turns to lead. The words I write seem childish, clunky, unwieldy. I can get maybe a paragraph down before I give up and put the project aside to gather electronic dust.

This isn't always the case though. Occasionally the words come and I can get them on paper. One such case was when I was in high school and taking a writing class. We were tasked with writing a comedic piece on a subject of our choosing and at the time. I don't remember what I wrote but it was enough that my English teacher sent it into some sort of statewide contest and my essay along with a handful of others were selected to go spend a day at a college to learn more about the craft of writing.

It has been so long ago that my mind is unsure of many of the details of the day but a few stick with me. We were ushered into a room where we listened to several people speak during the morning and then in the afternoon, we were allowed to select from several options of what we wanted to do. I remember that because of the picking order, I didn't get to select the option that I wanted because it was already full. Instead I was forced to go listen to another person speak about writing and as it turned out, I was the only one signed up so essentially it was just me and the speaker in a small room for a half hour.

When I walked into the room, a man with flowing long hair and feminine features was sitting at the other end and his looks surprised me. It was the mid 80's when schools were full of buzz cuts and flat tops and here was a man with hair past his shoulders in a long ponytail. I introduced myself and he did the same. He was an author that had just published a well reviewed book entitled Lake Wobegon Days. If that doesn't give it away, it was none other than Garrison Keillor. At the time I didn't know him from Adam and his stature within the writing community met nothing to me. Perhaps that is why not a shred of memory of what we talked about for the next half hour remain with me.

Years later and a great admirer of Garrison Keillor, I would pay a heavy price to get a do over with him and spend a half hour talking about writing. Perhaps I would be able learn something about writing that would allow me to write that book that I've always wanted to write. Among meeting famous people, my meeting of him ranks right up there with almost getting run over by Richard Petty (and later that day Dale Earnhardt's body), chatting with John Prine backstage after a concert or sitting in a limo with Charlton Heston. But those are stories perhaps for another day.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Brain Games

My daughter has recently developed an interest in magic due to a filler gift from Santa. Evidently Santa was looking to even out the number of presents both girls got because he is fair like that and decided to even things out with a Melissa and Doug Magic Set. It turned out to be the favorite gift of the year and she loves putting on magic shows to all those who come to our house.

Since then I've gotten her a couple books on magic and card tricks geared towards her age group and she has been working on learning some of those. She has also developed a liking for watching a show about some boy named Troy who does street magic that is on some cable channel we get. So a couple weeks ago when I saw this show called Brain Games which studies why we perceive things the way we do, I called her over since it pertains a lot to magic and why it works and she has been absorbing it like a sponge. Me too.

The most recent episode was about how we perceive color and began with three circles full of multicolored smaller circles. On the first two, my daughter could see some number a midst all those smaller circles and I could not and on the third one I could see a number and she could not. As the host later said, the first two circles had numbers that could be seen only by those who weren't colorblind and the last circle had a number that could only be seen by those that are colorblind. I was familiar with the colorblind circles but never knew there was a reverse colorblind version of the test.

I have known that I am colorblind (red-green which is also referred to as deuteranomaly) most of my life so it came as no surprise. For the most part, I get through life just fine but occasionally it gets brought to attention when it turned out the tan paper was actually green or something that I thought was blue turned out to be a shade of purple. It always elicits people holding up various objects asking me what color it is as they try to graple with the thought of not seeing color but when I answer with the corect color they get confused. Being color blind does not mean I can't see color, it just means that I see color differently. I can tell red from green from blue from yellow, etc. What I tend to get lost on is if that light purple is actually blue or if that subtle shade of green is actually tan in my eyes. From a distance, red apples will blend into a green tree so that all I can see are the silohettes of the apples. That brilliant red sugar maple tree in the fall doesn't look so brilliant red to me (more of a burnt brown color) but I've come to 'see' its color as you do so when I take a picture of fall leaf colors, nobody would suspect anything. I also sometimes have a hard time telling yellow from red lights at night which isn't a problem until I come to the single flashing light at an intersection. In that case, I just follow what everyone else is doing and get by just fine.

These things I've always known but the show we watched recently highlighted some things that I didn't know. For example, people who are colorblind can actually see better at night which is counter intuitive when I can't tell red from yellow at night. But I've noticed that when walking out after a party at someone's house at night and everyone else is groping and feeling their way and I can for the most part see fine.  I've also noticed that driving at night is not something I like to do because everyone's oncoming headlights seem to effect me more than others, especially the newer lights. Another thing I learned is that I can evidently pick out things camouflaged a lot easier than normal sited people. The military did lots of testing years ago when they realized that their camouflage patterns really didn't do squat against people who were colorblind which one in 12 males have. Evidently their new camouflage patterns work better on both these days. I've never personally noticed that I can pick out a deer standing among trees easier than anyone else but I don't have 'who can spot the camouflaged critter' tests with other people every day either. I also learned that the defective gene actually is on the X chromosome but since females have two of them, their body compensates so they are not normally affected. Males on the other hand only have one X chromosome so if it is defective, and that area of mine most certainly is, we are just crap out of luck.

Watching the show got me curious especially when I learned that they make glasses now that can help correct colors so that I can see them more like everyone else though it does come as a loss of intensity for other colors. There are numerous tests out there showing people have used them say they really do work but at the end of the day, most colorblind people stop wearing them. Most stop wearing them because they don't need them. We've lived in this world all our lives and for us, it is the other world that is just fantasy. I will never be allowed to be a bomb defuser because I can't see the colors of wires in low light conditions but if I were wearing glasses to correct my vision, would it make you or even I feel safer? I doubt it. So I don't think I will be shelling out an extra $400 anytime soon just so my reality can be over turned. So for now, I think I am going to try and get a group of friend together for some night time paintball games while wearing camouflage. Any takers?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bartending

A fraternal organization that I belong too holds a stag party this time of the year as a fundraiser. It gives area men the chance to come out, meet other men and spend a few hours talking without the presence of a female. Because this time of year is usually cold and everyone is in the beginning stages of spring fever, we get a good turnout and make quite a bit of money which we in turn give out to needy people and projects.

For the second year, I ran the bar though I never ran a bar until last year at this very event. I think the reason I got the job last year is because the average age in our fraternal organization is about 25 years my senior and many physically can't do those things. I on the other hand am considered a young buck and thus was nominated. I had a lot of fun running the bar last year and so I volunteered this year without even being asked.

I got to the event a couple hours early and spent the time stocking up the bar. With 500-600 people soon to be crowded into the club, I knew it was better to have a full stock to start things off or I would be playing catch up the rest of the day. My initial stock lasted for about an hour and after that I think I probably restocked the cooler under the bar at least six or seven more times at about eight cases of beer a time, numerous specialty beers and bottles of liquor best served chilled.

Beer is the main staple at these events, especially in the beginning but soon when people start getting lubed up, I have to start making mixed drinks. The vast majority of them are pretty easy comprising of the name of a type of liquor with a name of a soda drink. Not a problem. The previous year though there had been a few oddball drinks that I have never made so I studied up on a couple. This year, the only oddball drink asked for was a bloody mary which happened to be one of the ones I studied up on so I was good. Nobody complained so that was good.

Standing behind the bar is a unique perspective for sure. Conversations start off quiet and contained and as the hours pass by it gets louder and less contained. Suddenly everyone thinks they are the comedian or the knows everybody and thus has to shout out at the top of their lungs at the person leaving with some witty comment, or at least something that in their inebriated mind they think is witty. It gets pretty loud and from my perspective pretty entertaining. More than once I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

In total, I worked the bar for about five hours before the 'raise money for a cause' crowd was whittled down to just the every evening bar crowd and at which time I gave the reins over to the regular bartender. I made it home but by the time I got there I was starting to feel it in my calves, knees, thighs and lower back. Who knew bartending to hundreds of people was such a physical job. I think before this, I always had the impression it was more like Sam Malone occasionally pulling a tap or wiping down the bar. Instead it was non-stop trying to remember the six types of beer and drinks the guy ordered and the four others the second guy wanted. It took a couple of advil, a hot shower and going to bed at the ungodly early hour of 7:30 to get back to my normal self again the following day. At the end of the day, it was for a lot of good causes and I did have fun even if I wasn't the one three sheets to the wind who thought myself funnier than Jerry Seinfeld.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Snow


Back when I was an eight year old child, I stood out at the bus stop all by myself waiting for the school bus without any fear in the world. I'm sure my mother wasn't worried either. Back then child abductions still occurred just like they do today but they weren't publicized and thus easier to ignore. These days, everything is publicized and though child abductions happen less often, the fear of it happening is more intense for both the parent and child. So every morning, I walk with my daughter the hundred yards from our house to the bus stop and wait with her for the bus. I do admit that I don't do it just to alleviate my fears of child abduction but also to spend some one on one time with my daughter when we can talk about anything. I think I will keep doing so as long as she allows me too.

Because we live along a ridge with a quiet dead end street that runs along the crest, the trees are cleared in a path along the road. Much of the time during the late fall and winter months,the sun at this hour in the morning is off to one side of the ridge or the other and behind trees when we are waiting for the bus. But for a few days in late fall and again in late winter, like a newer Stonehenge, the sun aligns with the ridge line and road and we get a blast of sun while waiting for the bus. Eventually when spring gets here, the sun will be high enough in the sky that it won't matter that it doesn't align with the ridge but for now it does and I enjoy the change. So as we were waiting for the bus and talking about life as an eight year old, I notices how the sun shone on the snow with an early morning glow that felt pleasing to me and thus the picture above.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dealing In Hazardous Materials

These past couple weeks I have been painting the various main living areas of our house and we have been doing general deep cleanings of the rooms once they've been painting. We sort through our belongings, ditching some, rearranging others and replacing other things. One of the rooms I first got painted was our living room and we did the deep cleaning but haven't yet finished the other things.

For many years, we've had a prefab armoire that housed our television, stereo, kids game system, cable box, etc., etc. It has served us well and fit nicely in our old home where the living room was quite a bit bigger than in our current house. Our current house has about the same sized living room but a basement stairwell eats up quite a bit of it leaving it functionally smaller. Also the orientation of the living room and the addition of sliding door leading out to the deck (they weren't in the living room of our previous house) means that things are tighter.

After getting the painting done, we started looking at things and coming up with solutions to fix this problem. Because our living room didn't have a ceiling light at all when we moved in, we use two torch lights in the corners where we have switched outlets. Though not big, they do take up room. We plan to replace them with wall sconces which I will wire into the switched part of the outlets below them. This will free up some space. Eventually I will replace the armoire with a lower and much narrower entertainment center that they market for flat screen televisions these days. I am planning on custom building that to our specifications so that part needs to wait for warmer weather. The television itself is already a flatscreen but I am going to buy a mounting kit and mount it directly to the wall and fish the wires in the wall cavity so for all practical purposes it will look just like a framed picture. This will free up the top of the entertainment center for setting more useful things such as plants or butts when entertaining and give the illusion of a lot more space from your knees up.

Finally, as part of this renovation, my wife wanted me to get rid of my stereo speakers. I've had them forever, probably since shortly after I got my first real paycheck post college and they have served their purpose. They are still good speakers but being about 16 inches wide by 12 inches deep by 30 inches tall, they eat up a lot of floor space and they kind of stand out visually. This was the idea back when I was younger but these days I am more content to just hear them and not really see them, especially since the size of the speaker no longer really aligns with the quality of them. So to free up that space, I invested in a pair of compact bookshelf speakers that will fit inside the future entertainment system I will build and be hidden from view.

After much research, I ordered some from Amazon. While all the compact bookshelf speakers were sold in pairs, the one I selected wasn't and I didn't realize that. So when only one speaker arrived, I realized my mistake and ordered another one. It arrived a few days later and when I started opening up the package, I noticed right off that the packaging was completely different that the first one I received. When I set it beside the other, I noticed that they were very different speakers made by the same manufacturer. So after doing some investigation, I realized that they had sent me the wrong speaker though charged me the correct price and had the right speaker listed on the order form. The wrong speaker was also about 50% larger and since this is all about freeing up space, I want to get the correct smaller speaker.

Since it is a third party selling on Amazon and they listed no returns on the order, I had to call up Amazon's customer support. Within seconds I was speaking with a real human being, something that shocked me, and within a couple minutes of answering their questions, they refunded me the full cost of the speaker. I was surprised that I didn't have to provide any proof but then, I'm a loyal shopper from Amazon and this is the first time I think I have ever called them about anything. The real kicker to all this is that the speaker is considered hazardous materials which is why it was listed as no returns available and can't be shipped back to the manufacturer, despite the fact it was shipped to me. They just told me to give the wrong speaker to charity or dispose of it in an environmental fashion since it is considered hazardous. I'm guessing they are referring to the magnet inside that drives everything. For now, I am putting it with my other hazardous materials... I mean speakers that are in the garage sale pile down in the basement. I'm not sure anyone will want a single speaker anyway so it may well have to go to Goodwill assuming they accept hazardous materials. If it comes to that, I may phrase it to leave out the hazardous material part and just say speaker.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winter Came


The hottest recorded temperature in Iowa was 118 degrees Fahrenheit and the coldest was -47 degrees Fahrenheit which means Iowa has a temperature span of  165 degrees Fahrenheit. Food for thought.

We had an extremely cold November that I think was the third coldest on record and a little snow but not much. Then December rolled around and it was pretty much snow less and right around seasonal averages for temperatures which in this neck of the woods means highs above freezing and lows below freezing. Then January rolls around and it was the warmest one I have ever seen. Officially I don't know how it stands but my records go back over 60 years. Finally February came and on its first day, we got 11 inches of what you see in these pictures.


Here is a picture of my weather station on the deck though I don't refer to the thermometer anymore with smart phone technology. My rain gauge, sans glass tube, is buried in the snow. I used to just turn my glass tubes upside down for the season but during a move, my old glass tube that was nearly 20 years old broke. I searched around high and low for nice rain gauges that weren't all plastic and finally found an outfit in Vermont that made a brass and glass version similar to what I had. Unfortunately, the glass is so thin that the first year I left it outside turned upside down, it still broke. I got a replacement one and keep it safely tucked away in my sock drawer awaiting spring.


The first half of the 11 inches of snow we received was the wettest snow I've ever seen. I could pick up a handful and squeeze water out of it and it stuck to every thing. My snowblower, a heavy duty industrial kind, that can typically throw snow 20 feet away, could only puke up cylindrical blocks of packed slush if I took anything more than about a six inch swath at a time. Even then it was lucky to throw the slush five feet to the side. Another phenomenon that I witnessed for the first time was that it was TOO wet to make a snowman with the kids. The weight and density of the snow kept large chunks sluffing off the ball we were trying to roll. We ended up just packing it by hand in place. The second half of the snow came in dry powder form and with wind. In my neck of the woods which are wooded river valleys, this doesn't mean too much but when you get into the open, it means whiteout conditions and huge snow drifts that can literally be taller than a house crossing the highways at random points. With roads, businesses and schools closed, it is no wonder there was a record turnout for watching the Superbowl.


The road out in front of our house follows a ridgeline going from east to west. Off towards our east property line, another road intersects the east-west road and plunges off down the ridge line to the south and this is what you see in the above picture. During the winter months, people coming up the ridge in the dark shine their headlights towards our house and so we planted fruit trees there to break that up and provide fruit for our family. They look cold and lonely in their cages which I erected to keep the marauding deer away. At night they often set off our motion actuated security lights and I can see them bedded down in our yard chewing their cud.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Taking a Trip Back In Time

Being somewhat retired has its advantages. When my wife gets to go to someplace I've never been but have always wanted to go too for a conference, I can go along for the cost of a plane ticket and my daily walking around expenses. The room and her airfare are paid for. So when my wife said she had a conference in Boston this April and asked if I wanted to go along, I said heck yes, or something along those lines!

I love reading and learning about history and I know Boston is a bonanza of historical sites so I've just started prepping for the trip by reading a couple books about the Revolutionary War especially as it pertains to the Boston area. I'm beginning to make a list of places I want to check out while I'm in the area and want to enlist my reading audience's help in this endeavor. Have any of you been to Boston and done some exploring? What were your favorite stops and what would you avoid the next time? Let me know if you would please.

Our hotel room will be in downtown Boston and I'm going to have four or five days to entertain myself while my wife attends her conference. We are trying to avoid renting a car so I'm planning on walking or riding mass transit for the duration of my stay. Right now I will probably spend a day or two walking the Freedom Trail and seeing all the sites along its path that look interesting. I would like to visit the waterfront. Other than that, I'm up in the air.

Being a foodie, I'm also open to suggestions of good places to eat. On my list is to get a Boston lobster roll sandwich and perhaps eat at an upscale place that serves courses during the meal instead of everything on one plate. I've never eaten at a place like that but want to try just once to eat something like you might find at Hell's Kitchen, but perhaps without the drama. I'm a firm believer in the saying when in Rome, eat like the Romans so I would love to hear what food is quintessential Bostonian.

So what say you all?