Sunday, October 29, 2006


This makes my 142nd post in a little over two years. I am surprised to have gotten this far with it. Along the way I have met wome wonderful citizens of the blogosphere (see links at right). You know some things about me that F2F friends do not. Some of you have gone through terrors and the best I could do was to pray for you. I still do, you know.

If we regard the blogosphere as a virtual reality where people (or their avatars) encounter and interact with one another, then I have to say that I will be hibernating from that realm for a while. The non-virtual realities in my life are demanding attention. I think it is better to just say, "See you later, maybe in January" than to post sporadically and under a feeling of compulsion. When the hibernation is over and I am reawakening to the springtime of the blogosphere (virtual, of course) I will start dropping in on old friends and leaving comments behind.

To tie up loose ends, the play Community was enjoyable: great sets, engaging plot, wonderful orchestra, and snappy dancing. Yes, it was a musical (Sondheim). Most of the students playing the characters were actors rather than musicians, so everyone had to have a microphone (you know, one of those really thin ones that loop over one ear); the singing wasn't that great, but the acting was good. All in all, it was worth the drive and the price of admission.

The dusty little town in which I live participates in a community concert program with a number of other small West Texas towns. We always get season tickets, and this year, the first performance was scheduled for Saturday night. Cat had gone to Austin to have fun with her "girl cousins" and I worked all day on a Habitat for Humanity house. I seriously considered heading for bed after dinner, but then I figured I would go see the concert. I could always leave at the intermission if it was boring or I was too exhausted to stay awake.

The group performing was named Time for Three: two violins (Zach DePue and Nick Kendall) and one double bass (Ranaan Meyer). Man, am I ever glad that I went! They were phenomenal! It has been a long time since I have seen such intensity, such elegance, such virtuosity combined with wit and humor that delighted the audience. If you ever get a chance to see these three guys in concert, by all means, go. They do classical, bluegrass, gypsy, jazz, improvising along the way. You won't regret it.

Well, I will see you later, maybe in January. For now, I am going into my den.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Moving down the road

We have had this Saturn for almost ten years. We bought it new in Hawaii. And today it rolled to 122,333 miles: one one, two twos, and three threes. That averages 33 and a half miles a day. How's your car doing?
I have to confess--I stole something. From the church office. I went by today to drop off some photos and there was a tray on a desk with a few pumpkin squares left on it. And I just took one and ate it. I hope they weren't saving those last four for some needy family. Or that they were the ones that fell on the floor.
Well, we are going into Big Flat City tonight to see a thespian presentation. It's called Company and I have no idea what it's about. It's the big state university's presentation, so I hope it is not full of foul language and risque behaviors. They kind of like that daring stuff at the big state university theatre department. Hope your weekend goes nicely.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And now for something else

The other day my wife got something out of this drawer and then gave me a big hug. See, I made the little partitions for this drawer. You have your scissors-and-other-tools section and the square cell for sticky note pads. The rubber band ball is starting to get almost too big for its spot. There must be twenty-five or thirty pens on the right side. This drawer is in the kitchen and has been the "junk" drawer for the last six years. It used to have an oval basket in it to hold the small junk, but that was not organized enough. So I took my measurements and drew out a plan and built a partitioned box to fit the drawer. And my wife thinks that is terribly clever. Am I blessed or what? Any time I goof up, I can just walk over and open that drawer and she will give me the "Well, OK" look. It's a lifesaver.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

No one home but the birds

While in NM, my boss took several of us over to a chapel named Sanctuario de Chimayo. It is supposed to be the "Lourdes" of the Southwest, with people from all over visiting in hopes of physical healing for their ailments. There is a room filled with walking canes, orthopedic devices, testimonials, etc., left by the healed. I looked in the window, and it's all there. But no people were there on Tuesday evening. Only the pigeons were hanging out. Maybe it's better that way since we would have been curious onlookers intruding in the rituals of the ardent believers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Great place for a meeting

Yeah, it has been a while since I updtaed this thing. The weekend was really busy as I got ready to leave town. Sunday through Wednesday I was gone to a meeting (actually a series of meetings). The acaademic and administrative leaders of our univeristy campuses (about twenty-five in all) all came together in Glorieta NM (not far from Santa Fe). The weather was wonderful. Maybe this photo doesn't do a whole lot for those of you who live up north, but for those of us who live in West Texas, this kind of stuff is magical. The trees were beginning to turn, the ducks were squawking for snacks, and there was a chill in the air. Very refreshing. And the meetings went very well also. There have been times in the past that the atmosphere was acrid with antagonism, but the Glorieta meeting was really productive and harmonious. Maybe it was the Mexican food.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Remembering Sydney

One evening in Sydney we went down to the bay and looked across at the sights. Downtown Sydney, all lit up, is quite beautiful. This is the opera house, of course. It has now been a month since we were in Australia and it seems like a year. What is a memory, after all? Several neurons agreeing to link up like they did once before? How do the cells contain memories? Time is a river flowing by, always moving, irretrievably gone. OK, that's enough philosophic pondering. Cat and I went to the fair last Saturday. We enjoy seeing the flower arrangements, the produce (biggest pumpkin was 203 pounds), art exhibits, and the animals. Only, going through the swine barn, I stepped on something squishy. Even though I have scrubbed the sole of my shoe, the smell still lingers. That's a memory that won't go away. I will try to have an audioblog posted on Saturday.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Something from Arthur Miller

Whew, this last week has been very full. At church we have been in the middle of a missions emphasis and I am the chair of the missions committee. I have had something to do in the worship service for the last three weeks (and today I had to run the slides that get projected onto the two big screens at the front). So I have been busy.

But I got double-dog-dared to do another particular audioblog, and I just couldn't refuse. Here is the setup for this clip. The character I am playing is a 90-year-old Russian Jew, an antiques dealer, who has come to an apartment to bid on some furniture. When he gets there, he discovers it is a LOT of furniture and that is troublesome for him. The fellow trying to sell the furniture accuses the old man of jerking his chain. Here is the old man's reply.

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A little bit of drama

Some time ago I was in a play called "The Young Man from Atlanta" by Horton Foote. The lead character, Will Kidder, is a Houstonian in his mid-60s who is about to be fired from the company he has worked for all his life. The young boss will claim that they have to downsize. To compound the pain, Will's son Bill has recently drowned. In the following speech, Will is rattling off his views to his younger associate (who will wind up taking his place in the company). Hope you enjoy the accent.

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, September 14, 2006

There's just no call for this except it's interesting

Well, it is interesting to me. The other day when I was looking up "puggle" in my dictionary (just to make sure it was not readily available to all you guessers), I saw some other words that were interesting. Imagine that! (I love dictionaries.) There was the word puisne [pyoos-nee] which comes directly from French puisné [pwee-ney]. It literally means "born later" and refers to a younger sibling. But what amused me was, following a hunch, I discovered that the word "puny" comes from this term. I think that's what I will start calling my younger brother. You can try it, too, Rachel.

Here's a puny looking critter, especially considering his reputation. This, my friends, is a Tasmanian devil. Taking a nap, evidently. He wouldn't even give us a snarl. So much for Taz.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I kid you not

Yes, it is an echidna. Only two mammals native to Australia lay eggs: the platypus and the echidna. After choosing the wrong one first, Patti did finally get the echidna. And Rachel gets a point since she said it was an anteater, because this spiky character does eat ants (although he prefers termites--they're juicier). The one in the photo was poking his nose into holes in the rocks looking for lunch. Check out this website if you want to know more: Australian Wildlife--Echidna. Really, they are fascinating creatures. I mean, can you flick your tongue out seven inches beyond your lips 100 times a minute? I'm just saying . . .

And speaking of platypuses, we did see a couple of these at the aquarium in Sydney. But the little rascals swim pretty quickly so the best picture I got was just the bottom half. So there are his two hind legs and his tail viewed from the underside. I say "his" because, well, . . . just because.

And for our last photo, here is another shot from the aquarium. I have done my dead-level best to enhance this so you can see this very odd creature. It is something like a seahorse, only the fins look like leaves. I think they call it a sea dragon. It didn't dart around the tank (fortunately) since it obviously hides best by acting like a plant. It's about six inches long. Hasn't God created some mind-boggling creatures? He's amazing, really. (God, that is.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Now it's time for a "watzat"

But this time the item is not in my study. It is from Australia. Here's a clue: you are looking for an animal in this photo. And a further clue: the infant of this species is called a "puggle" (at least in Australia). We had to go to a wildlife park to see one of these; they weren't just running around everywhere.

Hey, did you notice that I joined a Baptist blogring? I wonder if that means I am supposed to say something "Baptist" in my blogs? Or at least religious. I'll work on it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ME-ME time

Here's an idea: this is a me-me with oral responses! So here are the questions that I will be answering. If you listen to these responses, then you must do this me-me on your own blog. (And it would be great if you would use audioblogging, but, hey, no pressure.)

1. Name something over which you had no control that you got teased about as a kid.
2. Describe a choice you made that you got teased about as a kid.
3. What do you remember most about your first boyfriend or girlfriend?
4. What was something your parents did that embarassed you?
5. What was something your parents did that made you proud?
6. What piece of furniture first comes to mind from the earliest house in which you remember living?
7. When did you first break a bone or get a bad cut?
8. How did you get your first traffic ticket?
9. When you were a kid, who or what did you dress up as for make-believe?
10. Which of the previous experiences have you thought about most recently (before taking this quiz)?
this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, September 04, 2006

First stab at an audioblog

Hey, have any of you tried audioblogging yet? This is my first attempt. Click the link to hear me talking. When you click the link, you will get a new page with just a progress bar. After the recording has played, click your browser's back button to return to my blogsite.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, September 03, 2006

More photos from abroad (not a broad)

Let's focus on birds today, shall we?

These owls look they had been used for dustmops. They had loose feathers sticking out at odd angles. I wish that I had snapped the photos three seconds earlier when one of them was yawning. Their mouths are as wide as their heads.

This kookaburra landed on the railing of the deck at the house where I was staying. He stayed in place while I kept walking closer for a better shot. I must have gotten within four feet of him before he finally took off. I was a bit disappointed that he did not laugh before leaving.

There were so many brightly colored birds in Australia. This one was in a zoo, but I saw lots of green (and red and blue) parrots as they zipped past. Did I already mention the fact that parrots fly really fast? The pink cockatoos in the background looked like they were scooped from some kind of sherbet.

Here is the placid pelican whose eye now graces my bio. The lines on his beak seemed watercolored, they were so definite. He patiently endured many admirers clicking away with their cameras. There are areas of Sydney where every other lamp post has a pelican atop it. Guess they like the view. Click on the photo to enlarge it and look at the stubby feathers on the back of his head. Very cute.

Now this fellow pestered us while we were picnicking near Sydney harbor. He and his buddies came dancing up to see if we had snacks to share. Then a fresh group of tourists arrived, and he left to try his luck with them. (There were kids in the group.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back in Fake Cow City

That is one very long flight coming back from the other side of the world. Because we passed through New Zealand on the way home, we had to go through four security checks in one day. At least we broke up the trip by stopping in LA for a few days to see our grandson (who is really quite cute).

Strange how, after two days of work, it seems so long ago now. Let's see if some photos will bring the memories back.

Look, Princess, they have painted cows in Australia, too!! This one was rather incongruously located inside a very pricey jewellery store. She is an "opal cow." Cat looked at a ring here which the saleslady confided she could sell her as low as $1400. We said, "Thanks, but no thanks" and scooted away.
Now, that's a croc, mate! He reposed peacefully at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Blacktown (I promise that is the real name of the town) on the west side of Sydney. I guess we should have tried to come at feeding time. Speaking of which, see photo below.
And this is an Australian hamburger. The cafe is right on a low cliff overlooking the ocean. This burger was NOT the biggest one they make. That one is called "The Works." Greg had it. Cat ate all of the pictured burger, but not all the fries. Greg nearly passed out from eating his massive two-hander. Seriously! He got kind of woozy at one point. But then he finished his thick shake and felt fine. It is so wonderful when Dad pays for lunch.
One morning we hiked up a chunk of land that pokes out into the ocean. This was the view we saw when we looked back. The central coast of Australia features an alternation of cliffs and wide beaches. Gosh, it is beautiful! If you click on this photo, perhaps you can enlarge it enough to see the red-tile roofed house sitting on the green-tufted ledge of the cliff (about in the middle of the photo). Would that be a great view in the mornings or what?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Look, Ma! No hands!

Yesterday afternoon, my son says to me, "So Dad, are you ready to try surfing?" In less than three minutes, the fellows were loading boards on the car and I was walking around in a wetsuit. Now, I have not ever surfed and the three other guys in the car are half my age. To say that I was a bit anxious is not overstating the case. We drive down to the beach, park on a curb, and the guys leap out of the car. "No, Dad, leave your clothes in the car. Yeah, and your glasses, too. Did you take off your ring?" I am beginning to wonder just how violent this experience will be.

The guys are carping because the water is "flat and choppy." That means that the waves are low and they break frequently. I do not realize that this means I will have to paddle like a madman. So they leash me to the board and Greg escorts me into the surf. It is cold. Really. It is winter here.

First obstacle was sucking down a mouthful of salt water trying to jump over a breaking wave. Makes me feel queasy. But there is no time for that; I have to get on the board now and paddle hard to get beyond the breaks. They have already told me that when I feel the board catch the wave to immediately jump to my feet, be sure to line them up on the center of the board, and stand up. All in one move. Before the board shoots out from under me.

Well, friends, this is the best I could do. That is me on one knee and one foot. Greg watches behind me. As soon as the wave dies and I fall off, he encourages me to get back on and paddle out again. I am exhausted. But the next wave is coming up. "Hurry, hurry, Dad! Paddle!" Boom, I get knocked off the board. "Get back up, Dad! Come on, push. Here, I'll turn you around."

When the next wave comes, I try to stand up and I feel the board slip out from under me. It goes one way; I go the other. Not one fiber of one muscle in my body has any strength left. I call it quits for the day. What do you expect from a guy who spends almost every day exercising his fingers (well, six or seven of them) on a computer keybord? But at least I got up twice. And I didn't die.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you?

There are several zoos in the Sydney area, though none are very close to the heart of town. Today we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. It is not massive, but the variety is good. There is only one crocodile, but he is huge. What is most striking is that many of the animals are wandering around loose in the park, so you can pet them or take their photos very close and they don't seem to be bothered. We petted a napping koala as well as a wombat and several kangaroos and wallabies. The cassowary, pictured above, gave us a stern look. These birds are actually capable of killing a human.

OK, I guess it would not be fair to talk about the kangaroos and wallabies without showing you a photo. Here is one of a mama wallaby with a joey in her pouch. We also saw a kangaroo with her joey's legs sticking out of the pouch. The resulting photos are too difficult to decipher, unfortunately.

Oh, yeah, we went to the Sydney aquarium as well (yeserday). Besides lots and lots of fish, there was a walk through tank with rays, turtles and sharks. Here is one now. Sorry the photo is blurry, but you get the right impression.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

News from down under

Our flight from Big Flat City to DFW was cancelled, as we learned ten minutes after boarding was supposed to have started. So there was a tense couple of hours as we waited on standby status for the next (and final) flight out. The DFW to LAX leg as well as the LAX to Sydney leg had to be rescheduled. And we had to wait to see if any of this would work while sitting in the Big Flat City airport.

OK, suspense is over. The very helpful airline employee brought us two tickets with the explanation: "They haven't shown up yet, so you get the tickets. I am going to hide now." When we got to LAX we called our son in California to ask him to call our son in Australia and let him know we would arrive at about 8:00 AM instead of 6:00 AM. It worked out for everyone.

Sorry I didn't get a photo out the window as we circled Sydney. The photo posted here is taken from the back deck of the house where we are staying. The name of this area is Palm Beach, if that gives you any clues. On Wednesday, we are invited to be in a sailboat race across this expanse of water. I will let you know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Parting shot

Tomorrow afternoon, Cat and I leave for Australia. We are very excited, and perhaps a bit nervous, given the recent travel restrictions. New Zealand Air was boasting about increased traffic since they have a route from NZ to the UK via Asia. Don't have to fly through the US.

Here is the last Madison cow for a while. It was hard to decide which shot to choose, but this one seems the most beautiful and whimsical. I can't believe how much time the artists spent on these cows. The photo below is taken closer up. If you click on it to enlarge, you can really see the details.

OK, I promise that I will try to post a time or two while down under. There are bound to be some interesting photo opportunities, although it is the end of winter there, so the flowers may not be plentiful.

Friday, August 11, 2006

And they have a sense of humor, too

This one is called "Half and Half." Even the platform on which it stands has been halved. Click on the photo for a better view.

Half and Half, you made me laugh.
I thought that I might have a calf.
Folks walked by and heard me cry,
"See how this sight doth please the eye!"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Esspess-chally for Mindy

How could I see this cow and not think of the Princess of Everything (and then some)? (For those of you who do not know Mindy, this is not a slam.) There was a piece of electrical conduit going up one leg and I suspect that the cow's crown lights up at night. This fine creature is on the plaza outside the Wisconsin state capitol building. Now, friends, you just don't see anything like that here in West Texas's Fake Cow City.

Have I mentioned the trip to Australia yet? As you may remember, our younger son plays in a band located in the Sydney area. Cat and I are going for a visit this month. And we are very excited. We have started stacking stuff in one bedroom so we can estimate the luggage requirements. Did you know that flying from West Texas to Sydney takes nearly an entire day and night? I'm going to start paying attention to those sleeping pill ads on TV.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another cow

What interested me about the cows in Madison was the willingness to really spend time on them, transforming them from predictable to, well, art. The shadow this one casts is nice, too. Click on the photo to see it bigger.

The conference that I attended focused on distance education. About a year ago I got an email from a guy who wanted to teach online for my university. His email said he had gotten his Bachelor's degree from us decades earlier and now that he had his doctorate, he felt he wanted to give something back. I clicked on the link to his website and was startled to see the cover of his latest book--startled because it is in my bookcase at work. This guy is a nationally known expert in online education. Well, it did not take me long to sign him up to teach for us.

At the conference, several people, including one of the keynote speakers, commented on how important this guy's books are to the study of distance learning. And when I went to one of his sessions (yes, he was there), I got to shake hands with him for the first time. He introduced me to other folks as his boss. It was way cool.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I'm baaaaaaack!

The next several days, I may or may not report on the Wisconsin trip--depends on spare moments. Over all, the trip was beneficial. The hotel was not horrid, though it was loud. One of the coolest things about the conference was the variety of people there. In the first workshop, I sat next to a woman who lives in Switzerland and works for the UN. In the same session was a guy who is setting up online training for a major manufacturing company, several people from the UK, and a number of administrators from seminaries and Baptist schools.

The building in which we met was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is three blocks from the state capitol building, which is absolutely gorgeous. And, Mindy, they have plastic cows there too! Here's one now.

I will be replacing the (evidently) menacing eyeball with a flower picture every so often. These were all taken in Madison WI. And below you will find a shot of the capitol building taken from the steps of the convention center. Click on it to see it bigger.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Just a quickie

Whew! The last week has been busy. And it is not going to get any better. I leave for Madison WI tomorrow. I just checked the online comments on the hotel in which I am booked and the reviews were terrible. Now, I'm really looking forward to the trip.

Well, at least last week a friend from Hawaii was in town and Cat and I were able to spend some time with her. She brought plumeria blossoms (q.v.) as well as pikake blooms (they smell soooooo good!) Did I mention the pineapple and the tropical fruit preserves and the coconut syrup? So that was nice.

Anyway, I won't be around until next week, I imagine. Maybe I will get to read some of your blogs in a spare moment.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Report on blogging

Would it surprise you that three-fourths of all (US) bloggers include in their blogs materials that they have created themselves? This is way more than the average internet user. The Pew Internet Project just released a survey on blogging habits which you can read by clicking right here. Most of them do it for the same reason you do: to talk about their life experiences.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Greg's day

Today is my younger son's birthday, but he is in Australia, so by the time I write this it will be tomorrow there. I sent him an electronic greeting card this morning, belatedly. He's a quarter of a century old, married, and living in a country he never even visited before moving to it.

Here's the kind of guy he is: he tries to take seriously what is eternal and just has fun with the rest. For example, his wedding was a mixture of heart-wrenching intensity and pure silliness. He and Sara wanted to show how much they are dedicated to serving each other, so they decided to include a foot-washing ceremony. It was very touching, a much more poignant symbol of commitment than repeating whatever phrase the minister just said. But in order to include this activity, the wedding couple decided to go through the wedding barefoot. Never mind that the wedding was in December in New Mexico. The attendants wondered if they could go barefoot, too, so wearing shoes became optional for the wedding party. Just in case observers thought this was going to be a stuffy service anyway, the seating of the mothers was accompanied by a Muppets songs ("We're going to a wedding! A wedding? A wedding! ...")

I don't think that it was food poisoning from the rehearsal dinner, but the morning of the wedding I was very sick--couldn't get out of bed. Fortunately, it was an afternoon affair, so I had gathered enough strength to get my clothes on by the last moment. The bride and groom had asked that their parents some up and bless them as they knelt. Well, the other three parents had already informed me that I was to be the designated blesser. When we rose to join them on the platform, I honestly thought I was going to pass out. As I thought (and spoke) about the two of them, it was useless to fight back the tears. When we went back to our seats, I flopped down in the chair exhausted. The rest of the service is kind of hazy.

The reception had the usual activities: food, toasts, dancing. At least that's what they tell me. By the time I joined, fresh from a post-nuptial nap, it was almost time to form the rice-throwing lines. There was a mist coming down outside, so everyone stood under the portico. But we didn't throw rice. The father of the bride, a firefighter, handed out sparklers. As people started lighting them, a dense cloud of smoke formed under the portico and wedding guests, gasping for breath, started pouring out into the parking lot leaving the newlyweds to navigate the nearly impenetrable fog unaided. Quite a dramatic departure!

Did I mention that the groomsmen wore purple (not lavendar, not deep violet, but purple) tuxes? It was a memorable wedding. At least Greg's hair was not spiked at the time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why this blog name

Since I have been tagged by Ayekah to explain where this blog name came from, I will rehearse its history. When I started blogging almost two years ago (Good grief! Has it been that long?!?), I thought that I would be preserving thoughts about life that I would pass on to my sons. I gave the site a name like "Words of Wisdom" or some such. I tried to post only weighty thoughts (go back and look at the archives if you dare).

Then SpookyRach and Princess Mindy and I were all at the same Relay for Life walk and as we strolled around the track, we told stories. After I told about both my sons' weddings (each unique), Mindy said, "You ought to put that stuff in your blog. Then you would pick up readers."

Hmmm. Whether to sell out or remain true to the original mission. Well, the original mission wasn't taking me very far, was it? Both sons considered the blog extremely nerdy. So I decided it was time for a change, time to lighten up. The new site would be a mixture of serious and laughable, grave and trivial. It would be a ... a... not an ana exactly since they would all be my thoughts. What sort of miscellany? Where's my Roget's?

Friends, do you have a Roget's Thesaurus in your home? I am not talking about those dictionary-styled imitation Roget's where everything is in alphabetical order (What good does THAT do?). No, I mean a real Roget's. The edition on my bookshelf dates from 1941, has my father's bookplate in it, and has the spine taped up. I wonder if I stole it from Dad or he loaned it to me? Anyway, find "miscellany" in your Roget's and you will find gallimaufry. For an etymology, see my Friday, October 14, 2005 post. I like it because it comes from Old French, like nennil [neh-NEEL] which means "absolutely, positively not." It's a good answer when your loved one asks, "Does this make me look fat?"

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Resolving chaos

Yesterday I noticed, after gassing up my car (remember the PWT Saturn?), that the odometer had reached 121,312 miles. Anticipating the two-mile drive to church this morning, I put my camera in the car. Sure enough, the odometer reading was 121314 when we got to church, so I took out the camera and snapped a shot. Cat asked what in the world I was doing. When I explained about the one-two, one-three, one-four phenomenon, she said, "So?"

Well, she has a point, of course. The odds of the odometer stopping at 121314 are the same as for stopping at 130086. There is no magic to the consecutive numbers 12, 13, and 14. It's just that I want to assign significance. There is nothing important about the 121,314th mile this car has driven, but I want to see order in the chaos.

Where does that desire originate? Is it a question of security? Do I feel safer in a world where I can sometimes perceive order and regualarity, a world in which I can occasionally count on something happening? Is there something within me that searches for the order which God has employed in constructing my reality?

That's what the first creation account in Genesis suggests: we are trying to find order in God's creation. Look how the days and creatures are arranged in that account. Draw out a table with three rows and two columns. Write down the created items of the first three days in one column. Then write down the created items of the last three days in the neighboring column. Compare the rows (i.e., day one to day four, day two to day five, etc.) What do the items have in common with the others in their column? With the others in their row?

Even if it may be entirely arbitrary, I like finding some order in the chaos. Encourages my hope.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Is it Friday yet?

OK, I'm drawing a blank here. I started to comment on the phenomenon of having holidays in the middle of the week, but that was a non-starter. The last time that I posted a weekend word was months ago and it started with a "U" (remember "uxorial"?) I guess that would suggest a word starting with "V," n'est-ce pas? So, the word that came to mind was vehement [VEE-eh-ment]. It is not an unusual word at all, but I used it in conversation recently and was surprised by the response. Talking with a man who is well educated and for whom public speaking is a significant aspect of his work, I described some of his comments as vehement. Not only did he object that his comments were not spoken in anger (while "vehement" can imply anger, it basically means "intense, emotional, fervent"), but he pronounced the word "ve-hem-e-nent." I didn't know whether to make my case or stop to correct his English.

Hmmm, that does bring up something else. Certainly you have heard people describe an activity as "not my for-tay." They are undoubtedly using the word "forte" which comes directly from French (it means "strength"). Maybe that's why they pronounce the "e" as "ay"--to sound more French. But the word has no accented "e" either in French or English. It should simply be pronounced as if the "e" were silent, which it is. "Ft. Worth is not my fort and creating wealth is not my forte."

Oh did you like the flowers? Yellow hibiscus reminds me of Hawaii, although the hibiscus that grew outside our door on Oahu was a bush over ten feet tall. Had to be trimmed every month or so. I don't know the name of the little purple flower, but the photo turned out nice.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Been there, played that

Well, this morning in church, the adult handbell choir finally played the song that I wrote. The performance was not flawless, but it was better than several of our practice runs. The congregation seemed to appreciate it and bell-ringers from other choirs made positive comments. I think that it set a good tone for the communion service which followed and I was glad to offer it up to the Lord.

A historian friend of mine informs me that today, July 2, is actually American Independence Day as this is the anniversary of the decision made to declare independence from England. The document was signed on July 4, 1776, ratifying what had already been declared. The church will celebrate by having "preacher burgers" this evening (i.e., the preacher will be cooking the burgers).

Cat's sister is in town for the long weekend. We watched Syriana last night. It was a good thing that we watched this at home on a DVD because we had to stop every so often just to be sure we all understood the plot. This is NOT a linear movie. We may watch it again now that we know who is who. But I think I will fast-forward through the torture scene--gives me the willies. Anyway, it is a sad reminder that this is a fallen world and those with lots of money are going to do their best to control the way things go. If you rent this movie, take home a comedy also so that you don't get too depressed.

Gladiolas are starting to bloom now. I don't care for the color so much, but they were already in the garden when we bought the house. As hot and dry as it has been here in Fake Cow Town, we are glad to see anything blooming. The hibiscus is getting ready to bloom so I will try to get a good shot when the yellow flowers unfold. So how is your weekend going? I'm going to take a nap now.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Yes, Clarence the pig

Kudos to Patti. The pig is not ceramic, but your guess was close enough. The pig, a child's bank, is made of compressed fiber, sort of like masonite molded into a shape. It came from my grandmother's house and must have been hers as a child since the name "Lora" is pencilled onto the bottom, right above MADE IN USA. As an adult she went by Lora Pearl (her middle name) until she married, and then adopted the sobriquet "Molly." She married a man whose middle name was Clarence (although he did not go by that name, but by "A.C." or "Fibber").

So since the word Clarence is written on the pig's posterior, the question is, when did she put the name there? The only "coin" it contains is "consumer tax check" from Oklahoma (curently worth about $3-5 on eBay). My grandparents lived in Oklahoma briefly before moving back to Texas, so maybe that's when it was acquired.

The left rear leg has been damaged, evidently when someone tried to drive a nail into it (see photo below). Why was that done? Clarence is too stoic to give a reply. He simply stares off into space, perhaps contemplating those dust bowl days in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Planning ahead

I'm going to be busy this weekend, so I thought posting a watzat now would be appropriate. You see, my niece is getting married in Big Flat City fifty miles south of here and my sister and her family are coming up here for it. Since they will be driving from the Austin area, using up at least a hundred dollars worth of gas, we have invited them to stay at our house after the rehearsal and after the wedding the next day. So I had better study my Sunday school lesson NOW because we will be busy.

So what do you suppose this object might be? The name "Clarence" is meaningful, but what does it mean?

Monday, June 19, 2006

The weird world of nature

Last weekend, my wife's cousins had a reunion in Austin TX. About fifty people gathered to look at old photos, eat barbecue, swap stories, and just generally enjoy being together. We did an impromptu skit and one granddaughter sang "Crazy" which seemed to fit the audience. It was fun, even for me and the other in-laws. There was a lot of rain on the morning of the reunion, but the skies cleared before it actually began. It has been so dry here in West Texas that I was loving the smell and sensation of the humidity.

On the way home, we stopped at a park for lunch. My sister-in-law noticed something strange going on in a tree near the car. It seems that a wasp had attacked a beetle and some butterflies wanted in on the action. They kept coming up to the beetle until the wasp would chase them away. It was most peculiar. So intent were they on their business that I could hold the camera a few inches away without disturbing them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

And now from the other son

Our other son, the one who lives in Australia and plays in a band, is not only an artist, but a talented manipulator of computer programs. One of his band members is behind the wave watching the kookaburra surfing by. Hang ten, little feathery friend!

Cat and I plan to go to Australia in August for a visit. We have never been, but some of our friends at church just returned from spending some time there with a Christian college choir. Our friends got to meet up with our son for a little while. They were really impressed by the ministry the guys are doing. The band, Zuigia, has seen scores of students come to know Christ through their ministry. I am at once proud and humbled.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Doting grandpa

OK, if you don't think this is the cutest baby named Orion, well, you just don't know cute. He is laughing now. A couple of months ago, taking a bath got him all cranky. But now he loves getting nekkid and wet. This shot was taken after a bath when he was still tickled by it all.

When Orion's father Adam was this size, I worked in the Civil Service as an English teacher for foreign military personnel. Most of my students were Saudis, but there were some Iranians and Kuwaitis also. One day I came home from work, bringing one of my students along, only to find my worn-out wife and a crying baby looking desperate for relief. Ahmed was charmed by the baby boy. He took the squalling infant in his arms and began to sing an Arabic song to him. Adam calmed down and Ahmed quickly became our favorite baby-sitter.

The students began to call me Abu Adam--"father of Adam." We had a meal with their families and Cat got to eat with the men, a rare honor. Adam had his first bite of chicken that day, and we all learned to eat with our fingers.

I wonder what happened to those young men: Ahmed with his tender heart, the Iranians who must have suffered with the overthrow of the Shah, the big Kuwaiti boy who stuttered in Arabic and only wanted to be a fisherman, not a pilot. What happened to the Yemeni colonels who declared I was a better Moslem than they because I refused their offers of liquor? That time was so long ago when we could laugh together, learn from each other, and just enjoy family life. What a terrible, terrible shame.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

You making me laff

Wow, what a pile of wrong guesses you all submitted! Annie was on the right track--my dad was a banker, a loan officer in West Texas, where the world's largest harvests of cotton occur. So he might have had a customer who raised cotton. And, in fact, he did have a customer who gave him this miniature bale of cotton.

It's about the size of a medium fist and about as hard. The cotton is packed in very tightly. Of course, nowadays the cotton is transported to the gins in huge modules and the finished bales are wrapped in plastic before being shipped off to China where they can make tee shirts to sell to the US.

Did I ever tell you about the time we were at my grandparents' house and decided to go play in the cotton fields across the street? I guess I was around eight or nine. My brother, younger by three years, and I ran off after Sunday lunch to look for bugs and loose cotton in the harvested field. It didn't take very long before we discovered a long heap of gravel at the end of the field. The highway department had left a deposit and, being as we lived in Big Flat City at the time, this gravel heap represented a veritable mountain. We could climb up to the top and spy on cars whizzing by. We rolled down the sides, until landing in stickers. That ended the rolling party. Then we played chase; I tagged my brother and took off running along the ridge of our hill. My brother started shouting and as I looked back to say "What?" the surface disappeared under my feet. I had run right off the abrupt end of the hill.

Mercifully, I landed in loose gravel (better than sun-baked West Texas sod). Got a considerable gash on my knee. The worst part, though, was lying to my parents about how it happened. My brother and I agreed on a story that, while playing tag in the cotton field, I had tripped over an irrigation pipe. Seemed like that was a better tale since it did not involve having to explain what we were doing so close to the highway. I think it was the end of the week before I finally confessed my crime. Makes me wonder how many times my sons have lied to me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New "watzat"

I ought to be painting the kitchen cabinets right now. I sanded and primed them yesterday (two coats) and the posts and pans and Tupperware containers are stacked all over the counters. But first, let's have a watzat. This was a gift to my dad, who was a banker. Neither of my siblings wanted it as we were sifting through my parents' junk, so I brought it home with me. Guess what it is.

OK, now I am going into the kitchen to get busy. Then there is bell choir practice. Oh, and we did NOT play my piece in church this morning. The program was too crowded. So we will play it on July 2 to transition between the rah-rah patriotic music and a more reflective communion. The title of the piece is "Who Will Rescue?" and one of the choir members suggested that it will "rescue" the service from a surfeit of patriotic hoopla.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Waiting and waiting and waiting

For the last hour I have been on the phone waiting for a customer "service" representative to finally activate two cell phones. I bought these phones online almost six weeks ago. The deal was that I would get the phones, a year's availability of service, and 270 minutes all for $99 each. I could add minutes at any time over the internet. Long-distance and local minutes are counted the same. Sounds good, huh?

Well, the problem is that the prefix assigned to the phones was for an area outside my town. That meant that anyone wishing to call me would have to dial long-distance. I spent hours on the phone trying to remedy the problem. Packages containing SIM cards were sent. Phones were re-activated then de-activated. Finally, they sent me new phones. And that's what I spent over an hour getting activated tonight. Completely missed the Dixie Chicks on Larry King Live.

And then I think about people who live in Russia, who stand in lines as a matter of course. People in Ethiopia who would be glad to stand in a line if it led to an extra meal. People who wait and wait and wait in Indonesia for disaster relief. Maybe I need to learn patience.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


As some of you may recall, I play handbells in a church handbell choir. We really love what we do and we took a trip to Hong Kong last summer to play in churches and outdoors. It was swelteringly hot, but the beneficial effects of the trip still remain. The Kowloon International Baptist Church has had several handchime concerts with the set of chimes we left for them.

There are a few songs that I have written over time. Trust me, I am a complete amateur, so it is a lot of work with meager results. Anyway, I did write an arrangement of one of the songs specifically for handbells. The choir has been practicing it (and I have amended and reworked some sections) for performance. Yesterday, a student in the music department of our university entered the music into a composing program which prints it out looking like "official" sheet music. I am pretty excited. When I told the head of the music department, she wrote down the performance date and time. Maybe she will be there. It is slated for June 4 as an offertory. Y'all come.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I can't take it anymore

What?! Have I stumped the panel of experts? Well, the little stone dragon sits atop a tchop or seal stone. That is a block with a carving on the bottom that is the reverse image of a Chinese character or word. In the photo, the dragon seal stone is sitting on the box in which he is normally stored (along with a jar of ink and a small wooden stand) This particular seal has the symbol for long life, as you can see in the second photo. Made of Shou Shan soap stone, the tchop is less than 3.5 inches tall. The hole which is so prominent in the first watzat photo below is about the diameter of a number 5 mechanical pencil lead. Neat, huh?

If I had thought about it early enough, I could have had one custom carved with my name or favorite phrase on it. We were in Hong Kong for about ten days; that would have been enough time. But I didn't think of it until we were at the airport getting ready to leave. If you are interested, let me know and I will send you a postcard stamped with my "long life" tchop.