From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Memory Game

How fast can you see and remember?



Here's a neat Chinese memory game that Fred sent today. It requires concentration and a quick eye. The game is played by clicking the numbers in order from smallest to largest.

Fred found this on a forum he frequents. The members there were reporting scores in the mid-30s. I have only broken out of the 30s one time, and I am sure that was luck, not skill. If you do better, give yourself a pat on the back.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you a wonderful holiday


It is a cool, bright morning in Kentucky. The sky is a cloudless blue. When I opened the kitchen door to let the cats out, I heard birds singing and the wind chimes moving gently.

I thank God for the peace and normalcy in my immediate world today. I am blessed in countless ways. I hope that you can look at your life today and say the same.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A favorite psalm


Yesterday in church, we sang "The Lord's My Shepherd". It's one of my favorite hymns.

Our hymnbook uses the melody "Belmont" (by William Gardiner, 1770-1853), but several melodies are associated with the hymn. You can hear a very nice recording of " The Lord's My Shepherd" sung to the hymn tune "Crimond" at Psalm 23, a British site.

During his sermon, Pastor talked a little about the comfort that many Christians find in the words of Psalm 23. He brought unexpected tears to my eyes, because I immediately thought of my mother reciting the 23rd Psalm as she went under anesthesia for surgery.

I think I was about five years old when my mother helped me memorize Psalm 23. Then, I best understood the part about the shepherd and the water and the green pasture. Those were things I could easily imagine, having seen the cows in my father's pasture.

Now many years later, the rest of the psalm is within my experience, too. I understand why paths of rightousness are better for me. My soul has needed restoring countless times. I have had enemies who wished me ill. I have passed through the valley of the shadow of death a few times, and I have had times of great happiness when my cup overflowed with God's blessings.


David wrote the Shepherd's Psalm 2000 years ago (or thereabouts). His world was vastly different from mine, but his words are still intensely meaningful to me. Timeless truth underlies each image in the psalm. Like the parts of the Iliad that made me cry when I read them, the setting may be ancient, but the truths are eternal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Days Are Just Packed

And the nights are a little chilly.




My 82-year-old neighbor lady and her daughter have returned today from ten days in the Holy Land. Their arrival home releases me from the responsibility of caring for their seven dogs, twice a day. (The son did come out from town for dog duty on the nights that I worked late.)

I feel a great sense of relief! If I didn't think it would hurt my back, I might leap up and click my heels.

The last few days of November

November has turned cold while the ladies have been gone . I've knocked ice out of the dogs' water bowls on several mornings. This morning, I found a miniature drift of snow on my windshield.

November has only eight more days and Christmas is just a month away. People are beginning to shop earnestly. We've been busy at the store where I work.

Shoppers and shoplifters

I try to serve the customers as quickly as possible with a cheerful attitude, and to treat them as I like to be treated. Simultaneously, I try to fulfill my employer's expectations and guidelines. When things go well, these two sets of interests intersect or, sometimes, even converge, and everyone is very pleased.

We also have some people in the store who are shoplifters, not shoppers. Shoplifting is a perpetual problem, but there is an increase during this time of the year. A few steal because of true need, but most are motivated by vanity or greed. Sometimes they steal to resell.

I'm better than I used to be at sensing bad intent, and I alert the security people if I am suspicious. Our store prosecutes shoplifters and requests maximum penalties. I'm glad we do.

Many sides

Like so many things in life, the Christmas shopping scene has its seamy underside. I understand the metaphor well because I sew. I know how imperfections can sometimes be gathered and hidden in seams that don't show.

Related figures of speech come to mind. Most people have good sides, bad sides, and sensitive sides. Some have wild sides, and they could cross over to the dark side. On the lighter side, people enjoy laughter. Optimists look at the bright side and don't worry about the flip side.

And then there's the sunny side. This morning, when I was doing the dog chores, I paused for a moment on the south side of the shed. A stout wind was blowing and the temperatures were below freezing, but the shed blocked the wind and the sunshine was warm.
Keep on the sunny side,
always on the sunny side.
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day,
it will brighten all the way
If we keep on the sunny side of life.
- Ada Blenkhorn (1899)

Music, lyrics, and info

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Substitute Frost Scrapers

Necessity is the mother of invention.



I'll pass this along in case anyone ever needs to know. In a pinch, a plastic dustpan will substitute for a frost scraper. It cleaned the windshield quite well for me a couple of mornings this week, and it seems unlikely to cause scratches.

The spatula works pretty well too, but I'm afraid I might scratch the glass with it. I mean the pancake-turner spatula, not the rubber-scraper spatula, of course. The rubber scraper doesn't work too well.

I do have a couple of real frost scrapers. I'm just not sure where they are. I think they were removed from the car when we went camping.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rufus

A little creature, loved and mourned



About a month ago, a starving kitten showed up at Keely's house. She saw it when she was leaving for work but she couldn't catch it. Later in the day, Isaac came to hang out for a few hours between school and work. He, too, heard the kitten's pitful cries, and he caught it by offering it a bit of food.

Keely had one of the vets at her job check him for parasites, feline leukemia, distemper, etc., and he was given a clean bill of health. However, he was very thin -- skin-over-bones thin. They named him Rufus for the rough life he'd led so far.

Today, after a month of nursing little Rufus and hoping for the best, he had to be put to sleep. He just couldn't recover from the severe starvation he had endured. I suppose his organs were damaged because he was near death when Isaac caught him. We will remember him for his loud purr and for his affection for humans.

Thank the Troops via Xerox


Monday, November 17, 2008

Seen at a Neighbor's House

The November garden -- cool and crunchy



Soon, some of this furniture will go inside for the rest of the winter, my neighbor told me. Meanwhile, it invites passersby to rest a moment and enjoy the tangy aroma of the fresh-fallen leaves.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autumn Color

Maple leaves



It's a bleak, damp day in western Kentucky, but the maple leaves are still glowing with color. The dark redcedar is a perfect backdrop.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seen on the Roads

Large mammals of the Kentucky countryside



Deer season started last weekend in Kentucky -- that is, deer season with modern guns. (We also have bow-and-arrow season, crossbow season, muzzle-loading season, etc.)

As I drove to work before daylight on Saturday, I saw several pickup trucks parked along the roadside. The drivers, I assumed, were in their stands out in the woods, awaiting the dawn with high hopes that a deer might cross their gun sights.

When I got home that night, Dennis mentioned that he'd seen a Mennonite man in a red hunting vest, bicycling down the highway with his gun in a sling over his shoulder.

I had a similar story to relate. I had also met a Mennonite man in hunting garb, bicycling down the highway. He had a little wagon hitched to his bicycle and in the wagon, he had a dead doe. He appeared to be headed for the tagging station at Fairview.

I have no interest in hunting and I don't like venison, but I am thankful that some people do. We have so many deer here that they are a menace on the highways. Dennis and I have had three collisions with deer within Christian County and another deer accident in southern Illinois.

The Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Company has been running radio ads, urging motorists to be especially watchful for deer this month. It's mating season, so the deer are unusually active, and hormones have overpowered their brains.

I kept that warning in mind this week as I passed through areas where I frequently see deer. Last night, I drove through one of those areas about 11:00 p.m. Just after I crossed the river and passed the Mennonite cabinet shop, I caught a glimpse of movement in the ditch. "Deer!" I thought, as I stepped on the brake.

Then I saw white legs and wild eyes in my headlights. Several Holsteins bounded out of the ditch and onto the road in front of me. I came to a stop and wondered what I should do. The cattle probably belonged to the Mennonite cabinet maker, but all the lights were out at his house.

In my headlights, I saw at least a dozen Holsteins. When one fell onto the pavement as she lunged out of the ditch, I decided that I could not drive away. For the sake of the animals and the safety of other motorists, I had to try to waken the farmer.

I backed my car several hundred yards to the farmhouse and left it running with the lights on as I pounded on the door. In a couple of minutes, a light came on and a slightly-frazzled Mennonite man opened the door. He had pulled on his shirt and trousers to answer my knock.

I apologized for disturbing him, but he assured me that he was grateful for the warning. He said he'd telephone his brother because the cattle might be his brother's yearling heifers.

When I got back in my car and drove toward home again, there was not a Holstein in sight. Maybe they ran back to the pasture they came from, frightened by their experience in the greater world. Maybe the brother came out of his house and found his heifers waiting for him in his front yard.

Whatever the case, I went home with a clear conscience. I hope the farmers found their strays, and then got some rest during the remaining hours of the night.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Rears Its Hoary Head

And other news from our house



I haven't had enough of autumn's golden days, but winter is at hand. We had our first hard freeze last night, and early this morning, the windshields were frosted over for the first time. I need to remember the possibility of windshield-scraping when I think about my departure time for work!

Tomorrow, I'm going to get out the rakes and leaf blower and clear away the leaves around the house. Out here in the country, we don't worry about bagging them up. Mother Nature either blows them away or rots them.

Firewood

Dennis usually helps the leaves decompose a little faster by running them over with the lawn mower.This year, I guess I'll mow the leaves because Dennis is devoting all his spare time to cutting firewood. He has already hauled home enough wood to last us all winter, and he says he has a lot more waiting. He is cutting up branches from some oak and hickory trees a co-worker removed around her house.

Now someone else has offered three oak and hickory trees that fell in his pasture. We are thinking about buying a log splitter. Does anyone have comments about the brand we should get?

Books, computers, and sewing machines

In other news around the homestead, I've been working toward my goal of setting up my office and sewing center in the back bedroom, aka Keely's room. My two sewing machines have been back there for a while already.

After analysis (hauling my books back there and realizing that they greatly exceed available bookshelf space) I'm planning a large floor-to-ceiling bookshelf on each side of the south window. (Yes, Keely, when I get the shelves built, I will give you the long bookcase that has always been in your room.)

Last Saturday, I bought a used computer for my new office. It has a Pentium 2.8 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 2 hard drives with a little over 200 GB total, 128 MB video card, and Windows XP. The previous owner reformatted the hard drives and reinstalled XP the day before I picked up the computer.

I will upgrade to 2 GB RAM and get a new monitor, and a "roll-y chair" when my discretionary budget permits (sometime after Christmas.) All in all, I'm pleased with my latest slightly-outmoded computer. We are now a 3-computer house, but we'll probably get rid of the little Linux machine in the hallway, which is really outmoded.

Holidays

And so we go, full speed ahead, into winter and the holidays. The holiday shopping season has begun. My store has been doing fairly well despite the nation's economic problems, and I certainly hope that continues. I've been training a holiday-hire employee for the last week. She is in her early 20s, and she's the mother of two little children. This is her first job.

Isaac, who works part-time at a grocery store, is dreading the season. He remembers how busy they were last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's hard to predict what this year will be like.

Keely says she is going to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I'm glad to let her do it, to tell the truth. I'll contribute the pumpkin cheesecake and anything else she tells me to bring.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Poll Worker Report

Working the election



Dennis and I were poll workers in the November 4, 2008, election. He was the Democrat judge and I was the Republican judge. (Yes, we really are registered that way.)

We arrived at the polling place at 5:15 a.m., the appointed time, and found the other poll workers already setting up the signs. Dennis and I hurried to set up the voting machines. We have a good system -- I read the directions and he does the setting up. It went smoothly, and we were ready about 15 minutes ahead of time.

At 6:00 a.m., we opened for voting. A line had already formed outside the door. With our new E-Scan system, the voters moved through at a steady pace. Each voter received a paper ballot and went to one of five privacy booths to mark it. Then the voter brought the completed ballot to the E-Scan machine to electronically record his/her vote. Many expressed appreciation for the quick and easy voting procedure.

Just one complaint

We had only one disgruntled voter. He arrived at the polls mid-morning, feeling cranky and hoping for a problem. He let us all know that he'd been listening to news reports about malfunctioning machines. We assured him that we had a very good and totally up-to-date system, but he was clearly dubious.

After he marked his ballot, he fed it into the eScan and read the message: "Your vote has been recorded. Thank you for voting!" Then he told us that was not satisfactory. He wanted the machine to also display a summary of what it had read from his paper ballot -- that is, to tell him who or what he had chosen on the ballot. (Can you imagine the bottleneck this could potentially create?!)

We told him that it was the voter's responsibility to ensure that the ballot was correctly marked before feeding it into the machine, but we would write his suggestion on the Sheriff's Report. (And we did.)

Our oldest voter was 101. He voted by the eScan with assistance from his son. We had quite a few voters who were in their 80s and 90s. They had all voted by eScan during the spring primaries, and they had no problem at all with it in this election.

We had to turn one lady away who wanted to vote. Her name was not in the voter roster, and when we called the county clerk's office, they couldn't find her name in their list of registered voters. She said she hadn't voted for over twenty years. Apparently her name had been inactive for so long that it was removed. She didn't seem surprised. It's a shame that she didn't check on her registration before Election Day.

Our son Isaac voted for the first time, and we, as election judges, helped him cast his ballot. That was a moment of pride and joy for us. I think he will be an informed citizen and a faithful voter. He is interested in history and current events.

By our unofficial estimate, based on the number of ballots used and the number of registered voters in the book, over 2/3 of the registered voters in our precinct came to the polls. It's possible that some also voted by absentee ballot. We didn't have any statistics for that.


Long Day

The polls closed at 6 p.m. Dennis and I closed down and locked up the machines, following the instructions step by step. Three tapes were printed from each machine, and all of the election workers signed each tape. One tape from each machine was hung on the door and the other tapes were for the county clerk's office.

As election judges, Dennis and I had the responsibility of carrying the briefcase with our election materials and results to the county clerk's office. We got there ahead of the rush and didn't have to wait in line at all. The girls went through the bag quickly and checked to see that nothing was missing. I am always relieved when we successfully complete that checkup!

It was about 7:30 p.m. when we got home. We attended two classes before the election and worked about 14 hours on election day. In this county for this election, workers will be paid $150 each for working. Judges who drove the results to the courthouse will also receive a small milage payment. At our house, these payments will go to Isaac's college fund.


eScan Success

In my opinion, the eScan performed flawlessly at our precinct. I like the E-Scan system because the paper ballot, marked with ink, is retained when the ballot is scanned. A numbered stub from each ballot is also collected separately. The number of ballots, ballot-stubs, unused ballots, and signatures in the voter roster all must agree, so it seems to me that the system would be hard to cheat.

If there was a question about the results, the ballots could be scanned again. No "hanging chads" will create uncertainty or confusion. In fact, if there is any problem with the ballot (such as too many votes or no votes at all or stray marks on the ballot, it's immediately apparent. The machine rejects the ballot, and the voter can correct the problem on the spot.

Christian County also provides an eSlate machine for voters with disabilities. It has a dial that the voter turns to select names on a lighted screen. Than a button is pushed to cast the ballot. It is more confusing to use and it does not provide a paper record of the votes cast, so we encouraged all our able-bodied voters to use the eScan instead.

I was quite surprised to read on the Hoptown Hall that someone was unhappy with the eScan's system of paper ballots. The voter seemed to feel it was a step backwards rather than an advance. I suspect that he was disappointed that it was so easy to vote.


Results

About 75% of our voters chose the John McCain/Sarah Palin team in the presidential race. In combined results for the entire county, the election was a little closer, but McCain still won: 13,669 to 8880. McCain carried the entire state, and in fact, Kentucky was the first state announced for McCain in the election results.

On the national level, voters in our county preferred Mitch McConnell (Rep.) for U.S. senator over Bruce Lunsford (Dem.) and Ed Whitfield (Rep.) for U.S. representative over Heather Ryan (Dem.) The electorate in other western Kentucky counties agreed, and both of these men are being sent back to Washington.

In state races, we returned Myron Dossett (Rep.) to Frankfurt as a state representative and Joey Pendleton (Dem.) as a state senator. Both of these men were incumbents.

For more results in Christian, Todd, and Trigg counties, see the Kentucky New Era's election page

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Season Changes

Beautiful autumn days




I stopped to photograph these yellow maple leaves on the way home from work tonight. I've had little opportunity to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. Autumn isn't waiting for me; the leaves are taking on their final colors and, one by one, drifting to the ground. The old maple tree in the front yard has already lost most of its leaves.

The season is changing in another sense, with the election of a new President. He's not the person I'd have preferred for the job, but he will be the leader of my country -- my President for the next four years. I will pray for him and his family. May he be blessed with the wisdom of Solomon, because he's certainly going to need it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Whooping Crane Migration

Helping endangered cranes survive


Carolyn Hall, of Bassett, NE, sent a link for Operation Migration, a group that is helping to establish a new flock of migratory whooping cranes. This flock will winter in east Florida and summer in central Michigan.

Eggs are collected in the wild and hatched in incubators. Even before the eggs are hatched, the baby birds are imprinted with the sound of ultralight aircraft, the "birds" that will eventually lead them as they migrate. The imprinting with ultralights continues as the baby birds are born, grow, and learn to fly.

This year's "crop" of whooping crane chicks is now migrating from Michigan to Florida, and the ultralights are teaching them the safest route. You can read a daily log of their progress in the Field Journal. Start at the bottom of the page to read the entries in chronological order.

Today's entry includes a video of the young whooping cranes taking some exercise after a couple of days on the ground due to weather conditions. With a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet and long legs stretched behind them, they are beautiful in flight -- and a joy to see, because they are rare and precious.

According to Operation Migration's Crane Count, the total population of all whooping cranes (wild and captive) was 539 on July 14, 2008.

Related: Whooping Cranes Threatened by Wind Farms

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trench Coat Travails

All's well that ends well


I've gone so long without writing a post that a couple of my readers have emailed to ask if I'm OK. I appreciate your concern. I am well, and my family is well. I've just haven't had time for the computer lately.

When I wasn't busy doing other things this week, I was busy in Keely's bedroom. (It's still called Keely's room, though she has moved out and has her own place now). I have my sewing machine in that room, and I'm planning to move my computer and my personal library back there soon.

Last weekend, Keely moved a chest of drawers and a vanity out of her room. I had some things in and on those pieces of furniture, so I had to find new places for them. I had to get the room cleaned up quickly because I needed to sew a trench coat I had promised Isaac. (You may remember that I hoped to sew this coat while I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago. Ha!)

Reason for the trench coat: On Halloween night, Isaac went to an "Alice in Wonderland" costume party (hosted by Keely and Taurus), and his character was the caterpillar. He wore the trench coat with a fez and a matching vest that Keely sewed for him.(According to my kids, the caterpillar is dressed like that in a non-Disney Alice film that they've seen.) We couldn't find a pattern for a regular trench coat, so we used a pattern for a long Matrix-style coat.

I had quite a time with that coat. It wouldn't have been bad, except that I decided to line it. The pattern didn't have directions for a lining, but I thought I could manage it -- and I did, but it took my spare time for the rest of the week.

About midnight Thursday night, I finished putting in the sleeves. Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, I came home from work, hemmed the coat, and put in the collar. I finished it at 7:30 p.m., took it to town, and met Isaac when he got off work at 8:00. Never let it be said that I break my promises -- though sometimes I cut it close!

Isaac donned his coat and went off to his party, pleased that his costume was cool (and complete). As for me, I came home and sat at the computer to read my e-mail and the news headlines. In just a few minutes, I was nodding over the keyboard, so I went to bed.

This morning, Isaac and Dennis talked to me a few times, but I dismissed them quickly and kept on sleeping. All in all, I got about 12 hours, and I loved it.

Was all that intense sewing worth the time and trouble? Of course it was, because it made Isaac happy. He said he got lots of compliments on his coat. Tomorrow, I'll try to get him to pose in it for a picture to post.
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.