Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Battle of Trenton

Today they are reenacting the Battle of Trenton.

Here's a good summary from my buddy, Chris.
Ten years ago I participated in the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, and it was only few months after the terrorist attacks on September 11th.  There was something like 900 hundred participants. They did a pre-dawn crossing of the river (and another later in the day for the benefit of the public) and then marched 9 miles into Trenton. A handful of women wanted to make the march, and so we followed the army  in. We’d missed breakfast, be unlike Washington’s army I wasn’t starving. My feet were cold in my straight-lasted shoes, but at least I had shoes. I had fresh water in my canteen. I was reasonably well rested, having slept on a cot with adequate blankets.
We stepped off in the pre-dawn walking as close as we could to the original route. The hush was broken only by the sound of hobnails on the road, and I didn’t see a single car at that hour. I watched the sky brighten, and as we started passing through more residential areas, I noticed the occasional family standing on their front porch – some waving, some just watching. And some came out and started marching with us. But the part that I’ll never forget was the WWII Veteran standing out in front of his modest home in the biting cold, back-lit by his porch light. He had a 3’ x 5’ American flag on a short pole in one hand, the bottom of it braced against his thigh as he saluted, not us, but what we represented.
And I burst into very quiet tears.

Here's a longer description, including footage from that day 10 years ago.  (No, it's not embedding.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An old job

The Adaptive Curmudgeon has a post up about, um, some interesting past home repairs.

Which reminds me of a previous life when I used to manage some properties. There were about a dozen, and some were historic and residential, some were historic and commercial, and some were just old farmhouses. I’m convinced that when The AC’s hicks moved on, they must have worked on some of these properties. I mean, who installs a heating oil tank directly over the sewer line leading to the drain field?
Or the plasterer that had a rather fluid understanding of schedules and deadlines. We found that a cold 12-pack of his favorite brew depositing on the scaffolding (I don’t remember if they were 12 or 14 foot ceilings) early in the afternoon offered an excellent incentive to show up and yielded outstanding results. (I can feel the OSHA reps out there cringing.)

Then there was the water heater that had split open, top to bottom, with water pouring into the cellar under the house. It was a tiny little farmhouse, and the cellar was dug out enough so I could stand upright under about 2/3 of the foundation. The other 1/3 wasn’t dug down as far, and the top of the water heater was sitting on that ledge, and the top of the water heater was about level with the top of my head. I don’t remember who turned the water off, but I do remember standing down in the cellar wearing rubber boots with the water well over halfway up my shins and thinking “You can’t have a water heater turned on with no water in it – that’s dangerous!” So I went over to flip the switch to the water heater and saw that it didn’t have a switch. Instead, it was simply hooked up to the Romex with a couple of wire nuts.
Okay. So I realize that the wiring in this house was put in B.C. (Before Code. Or “In Spite of Code”. Or, “What’s the hell is ‘Code’?”). And I realize that heaven only knows what interesting shortcuts have been taken. And that there is a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling and that I’ve got water halfway to my knees. So I beat it out of the cellar into the house and find the main electrical panel and ... nothing’s labeled. I throw the main and shut down power to the whole house, and pray that the water heater was included.

I then went back down into the pitch black cellar with a flashlight. This was 20 years ago, and it was your basic big old dim flashlight. I waded over to the water heater and realized that if I stood on my tip toes, I could reach the wire nuts. And since I wasn’t 100% sure that the wiring wasn’t still hot, I needed two hands to make sure nothing touched anything it shouldn’t. So I held the flashlight between my teeth and I carefully reached over my head and unscrewed one of the wire nuts, pulled the wires apart and put the wire nut back on the end of the Romex. Repeat on the other side.  And sloshed back to the door, went upstairs and turned the power back on.
And then I believe I went home and had a drink.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music Meme

Tam started it, and now all the cool kids are doing it, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

Top 25 songs on your playlist. (I will say that about a third of these are of Sweet Daughter's choosing, and no, she doesn't listen to Nine Inch Nails. )

Rolling in the Deep; Adele
Hey Soul Sister; Train
Say Hey (I Love You); Michael Franti & Spearhead
Twilight Zone; Golden Earring
Perfect; Pink
Rhythm of Love; Plain White T's
Fall at Your Feet, Crowded House
Firework; Katy Perry
Take Me Home Tonight; Eddie Money
Pain Lies on the Riverside; Live
Amazing Grace; Dropkick Murphys
Fields of Gold, Sting
I Still Believe; The Call
Everlong; Foo Fighters
Let there be Love; Ice House & Iva Davies
The Impression that I get; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Favourite Shirts; Haircut 100
Cuts You Up; Peter Murphy
Good Enough; Evanescence
Walk the Last Mile; Love and Money
Our Day Will Come; Seven Nations
Take Me on the Floor; The Veronicas
No One Like You; Scorpions
Private Idaho; B-52's
Head Like a Hole; Nine Inch Nails

Deleted my blog roll

So, I was attempting to do a little blog maintenance yesterday and all I managed to do was delete my "I haven't met you yet" blog roll. So if you link to me, or you're one of my favorite blogs, please let me know in the comments. I managed to reconstruct/update some of it, but that was a bit of a cluster in and of itself and I know I'm still missing a bunch.

Let's hope this is the last of 2011messing with me, and not a harbinger of 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest blog from Gramps

He would have been 77 when he wrote the following. (Updated to show the Dutch Roll links ...)

Thursday, December 26th. 1974. This evening, when I went out for my walk, I passed Hawthorne School, where I attended the grades sixty-five years ago. Part of the playground has been flooded by the city to make a skating rink. The field of ice is 90 ft. by 200 ft., perfectly smooth and level. The temperature is 28 degrees, a three-quarter moon, light south breeze, a perfect night for out­door skating. But not one person was using the ice. I wondered where the children and young adults were and what they were doing.

When I was a boy, there would have been at least fifty people using this ideal facility. Perhaps they are inside watching tele­vision, or attending a movie. Our ice skating was done on Bear Creek, or on Kirkham’s pond, just west of third Avenue and Sixth Streets southeast. Or on the pond, just above Uncle Joe Alexander’s dam. Sometimes we would skate all the way down Bear Creek to the Zumbro River and on down to the Hill Pond in Northeast Rochester, a little southeast of where the Kruse Lumber Company is located.

Quite often there would be at least thirty of our own cousins and relatives in the group. We would form a long line, hands on shoul­ders, as we did the “Dutch Roll”* down the ice. As we got close to the Mill Pond, we would hear someone shout, “Here come the Alex­anders”. Then the leader, usually Big Walt, would “Crack the whip” and the last one in line, usually Evelyn, and two or three others would go sprawling on the ice.

As I take my daily walks, I notice that there are no people on the streets, walking. I travel a mile or a mile and half without meet­ing a single person. Occasionally I will meet another older per­son walking home from Erdmans Super Market with a sack of groceries. But it is a rare occasion when I meet someone. They are all in their cars. If they are out at all, and certainly they have for­gotten how to walk.

* More interesting information here at the Virtual Ice Skates Museum, including the history of ice skates.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An apology to my doppelganger*.

Christmas with Shorter Half’s family took place today. The adult siblings draw names for a gift exchange, SH’s mother buys for everyone, the cousins get to squirrel around, we graze on food that is generally verboten the rest of the year, and those of legal age drink Mimosas. Everyone is encouraged to keep their Amazon gift list up-to- date to simply things, and the sequence of events is fairly predictable.

This year the first round of gifts was handed out, and I had from my mother-in-law what clearly looked like a CD. I was intrigued as there were no CDs on my list, but it turned out to be the new one from Coldplay. She asked what I thought. I said I’d probably really enjoy it. We both looked puzzled.

The second round of gifts was making the circuit, and SH’s little sister was bouncing up and down on the sofa telling me how much she loved the gift I was about to open. It was a set of measuring cups shaped like a set of nested matryoshka dolls. My mother-in-law said something about them being from my Amazon list. I said I’d never seen either the CD or the measuring cups before in my life.

Yes. My Christmas presents came off the list of another Nancy R., which we all found hilarious. And then it occurred to me that this other Nancy R. might actually be monitoring her list and wondering why nobody ever gave her the CD or the measuring cups or the Harry Potter movie that had been purchased.  And so I offer my humble apologies to the other Nancy R. I’m sorry if you’re feeling shortchanged. But I’m also really, really glad that my MIL didn’t find the Nancy R. that wanted the 3 lbs. of diatomaceous earth and the bedbug-proof pillowcases.

* It was pointed out to me that it was much more likely that I was the doppelganger.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Skating today was a success. Sweet Daughter and I made the first circuit of the rink at a snail's pace, both frantically clutching the boards. The second pass got easier. She fell a lot, but she was prepared for that. By the end of 90 minutes she was skating without help in the middle of the rink. I improved to the point that I made several loops without SD, at a reasonable speed, and didn't care that I was yelling "WhoaAAAH!" with my arms wind-milling  in front of the high school kids. I even remembered how to go backwards, which was helpful in keeping ahead of, and an eye on SD at the same time. When one of the moms (17 years my junior) jokingly accused me of being a slacker while standing around, I challenged her to a race around the rink. Ha. She backed down.

One very cute couple asked me to take their picture. "Say 'Brian Boitano'!" I chirped. They looked confused. "Say 'Dorothy Hammill!" No better luck. I'm hoping I at least got eccentricity points.

I only made one "controlled descent" (NOT on my bum, thank-you-very-much!), and overextended into a near split once while trying not to run over SD when she fell down in front of me. (Remember how I don't remember how to stop?) Which reminded me of the last time I went skating -- it was my senior year of college and it was outside. No boards. I seem to recall more than once that night when I ran out of ice before I ran out of speed and ended up launching myself into a snowdrift. I quit when I hit the one that was like concrete. No, I don't believe there was any beer involved, at least not until I was done skating.

All-in-all it was a success. I held my own on the ice, I didn't wipe out in a spectacular manner (although that would have made a better story), and SD had a good time. Now I'm ready for some more Vitamin I, and a good stiff drink. We'll see how well I'm moving tomorrow ...

Update: I'm moving better this morning than I was earlier in the week. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that I'm still experiencing some sort of post-exercise endorphin rush and when it wears off, I’ll be unable to so much as blink my eyes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I literally only have a half page left to re-type of the family history out of 267 pages. The OCR program worked pretty well. I'd be cruising right along, just dealing with the fact that it couldn't tell the difference between commas and periods, and the letter "i" and "l" , or "K" and "X", or "a" and "e" and "c", then it would go all Ron Paul on me, and I'd get a page of this.
I scanned the original document in case anyone needs to reference possible transcription errors (unpossible!), or formatting. The updated version is in Word so it's searchable. And much easier to read. And up-dateable. (Don't get me started on the biography of John Hart that's currently in there. A little hyperbole is good for history, right??) It's by no means perfect, but at now it's readable. And the next update will include an index just to help with the clarity. I swear, each generation had at least one John, Joseph, George and William and it gets difficult to figure out who's who when three generations are alive and living in the same town at any given time.

A test for you. According to my family history, am I descended from (it's multiple choice - it's easy!):
A. Anne Boleyn.
B. A man (Richard Stought) who saved the life of the Duke of York.
C. An illegitimate son of one of the the Kings of Norway.
D. A signer of the Magna Carta.
E. A signer of the Declaration of Independence.
F. All of the above.

Tomorrow I am going ice skating with Sweet Daughter's Daisy Scout troop. I haven't been skating in well over 20 years. Once upon a time, I could do very basic cross-over turns and I could skate backwards. But I never learned how to stop unless it involved running into the boards or the violent application of gravity. This could get interesting.

(And the answer to the test was "F" of course! I cringed through several parts of this whole thing yelling "Primary resources! I want to see primary resources!!")

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hitch-hiking to college, Part 2.

Here Gramps talks about heading back west, and a few memories (including another chicken story) from the following year.

Aug. 25th. Started back west. Took subway-surface car out to U. of P. Electric train to Bryn Mawr. To East Downington; walked 3 miles thru the town. To Coatsville, Gap, and then walked to Paradize. Took trolley to Lancaster. For the day, 66 miles, 3 walking.

Aug. 26th. From Lancaster, across Susquehanna River, thru York, Abbotstown, Gettysburg, Chambersburg and St Thomas. Tourists were scarce so we decided to stay in Sts Thomas for the night. The town had no street lights and very few stores. We found a park and set­tled down for the night. At five the next morning Ernie was up at five, saying he hadn’t been able to sleep, I asked him why and he said there were some squirrels in the trees overhead, they kept talking to each other all night and kept him awake. For the day we had covered 94 miles, 6 1/2 by hiking.

Aug. 27th. Walked 2 miles out of St. Thomas. Got 2 mile ride. Walked two more miles. Then got a ride with a man and his wife in a Willys-Knight. At Bedford they stopped at the famous Hoffman Inn and invited us to have dinner with them. A beautiful place serving southern fried chicken and waffles, served by colored mammys in authentic southern outfits. Neither Ernie or I had ever been in such an eating place, or had such a meal and were duly impressed with the charge of $2.25 each. In those days most restaurants made a charge of about 50¢ for a full meal. Next we went to Jamestown, Youngstown and Homestead. During the day Ernie investigated the contents of a barrel along the highway and got both hands covered with tar. Saw a Marmon car in trouble holding up traffic of 28 cars. A negro looking at the damage remarked, “That’s what these cheap guys get for not hiring a chauffeur.” Stayed at Homestead for the night. Made 139 miles for the day, 8 by hiking.

Aug. 29th. We had remained in Homestead for a day. Caught a ride to Pittsburgh. Then on to Darlington, and Canton, Ohio. Detoured thru Gallilee. At Alliance invited to dinner at the Gil­bert House with a young man and his mother. Visited McKinleys home. Spent night at Canton, Ohio at “Y”. On this day we covered a total of 107 miles, 3 by walking.

Aug. 30th. Because it would be difficult to catch a ride from Canton to Massilon, we paid a 15¢ fare and rode the trolley. From Massilon we walked one mile, then got a ride to Wooster. Caught another ride to Lima, Ohio, and stayed the night at the “Y” for which we were charged 75¢. Had made 160 miles, 2 walking.

Aug. 31st. From Lima to Monroeville, Cherubusco and Ligonier. While riding in an ancient Ford, the car lost a rear wheel and we had a walk of 3 miles into town. Stayed at Ligonier that night having covered a total of 115 miles, only three of them hiking.

Sept. 1st. From Ligonier to Goshen and Elkhart, Indiana. We rode for a while in the rear seat of an old Ford, with a gallon jug of corn whiskey between us. We ran into a severe windstorm which blew down some big trees. At Valparaiso, Indiana, we stopped, having covered 105 miles, 2 by hiking.

We had arrived there early in the day and decided to visit the University campus. Valparaiso University was one of the old­est colleges in the state and had a beautiful campus, but all the buildings were old and run down. At the time it was called the Poor Man’s College. We stopped at the business office and be­fore we knew what had happened, a lady named Corboy had relieved us of tuition and Ernie was enrolled in the Business College and I was in Engineering.

The year before I had written for a catalog, in which was outlined a course in Architecture. I found that the course had been discontinued. In talking with the Dean of the School of Engineering and explaining my training and years of experience in architects offices and with the Army Engineers he told me that if I would stay there two years, marking time, they could offer me something in the junior and senior years that I hadn’t already learned. The two of us got jobs in the Altruria Hall dining room to pay for our board and found a rooming house.

Two things I remember about the dining room. One when Ernie came hurrying out of the kitchen with a tray full of food to serve at one of the tables. He slipped on something, sat down flat on the floor with the tray of food balanced neatly on one hand over his head. The other remembered occasion, was meeting Jeannette, from Clinton, Iowa who was also working in the dining room. Ernie and I, Jeannette and another girl double dated and on Dec. 29th, 1922, Jeannette and I returned to Valparaiso where we were married.

Another event was the “Feast of the Fifteen,” put on by the K.I.P. Fraternity. Three of us were appointed to go out at night and borrow 15 chickens from a farmer. We made a successful raid on a chicken house. After our meal the next day we decided that there really wasn’t much sense in returning the remains of the “borrowed chickens” to the farmer.

As neither Ernie or I had the funds to continue our educa­tion at Valparaiso, the end of the school year found us both back home in Rochester, Minn.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hitch-hiking to college. Part 1.

Another guest blog by my deceased Grandfather (what bluesun has dubbed "zombie blogging"). My grandfather was born on October 29, 1897. He graduated from high school in 1917, and enlisted U.S. Army Engineers July 5, 1918 and was discharged September 2, 1919. So, with that little bit of context, we'll let Gramps take over, okay?

During the summer of 1921 Ernest Schlitgus and I had the idea that we would like to hitchhike east and enter some college in the fall. We didn’t have any set place in mind but Ernie had heard of the Wharton School of Finance in Philadelphia and we set that as an objective. We started out on August 8th., each carrying a knapsack and signs reading, “Hiking to College.”We had both been members of the Episcopal Church choir; Rev. Wurtelle started us on our journey by driving us to Owatonna. Going straight west from Rochester, Minn., on the way to Philadelphia seems strange, but in those days there were no numbered highways, only marked trails, and from Owatonna south we wanted to get on the Red Ball Trail to Marshalltown, Iowa, where we could get on the Lincoln Highway. From Owatonna we went thru Albert Lea and Mason City to Iowa Falls, Iowa, where we spent the night sleeping under the protecting roof of a rifle range shed. We had covered a total of 163 miles, only two by hiking.
On the second day we covered 60 miles. One of our rides was in a two wheeled horse breaking cart for a few miles. We hiked a distance of 16 miles during the day, which turned out to be the most hiking we would do in one day on the entire trip. Stayed at “Y”.
Aug. 10th. We walked 1½ miles south of Marshalltown and were on the Lincoln Highway, a dirt road in those days. At Le Grand we found 11 cars piled up at the bottom of a hill due to the slip­pery roads. Helped to get one Ford out of a ditch. At Tama saw the Indian Reservation. It had been a rainy day and when we arrived at Cedar Rapids we decided to stay there for the night. We had covered 78 miles, 8 by hiking, mostly in the mud.
Aug. 11th. From Cedar Rapids to Mt. Vernon. At Wheatland, Iowa, we talked with a man and woman who were rollerskating from coast to coast. Sounded impossible to us in that Iowa mud. At DeWitt we had to detour 20 miles to Clinton. Lincoln Highway being improved. On the detour we passed thru Low Moor and Camanche. At Camanche we stopped for a rest and talked to some men sitting outside a garage. They gave us some apple cider to drink, but later we realized it must have been hard cider or apple jack. Little did I think at the time, that, a few years later I would be married and living in Camanche, and doing business at that same garage. We crossed the Miss­issippi River, over the high bridge at Clinton, to Fulton, Illinois. At Dekalb, Ill. we stopped for the night having covered 173 miles, 6 by hiking.
Aug, 12th. From DeKalb, Ill. to Crown Point, Ind. One ride was in a coal truck which ran out of gas. At Crown Point, Ind. we found out we were off the Lincoln Highway to the south. Total for the day 109 miles, 8 of which were hiking.
Aug. 13th. Back to Lincoln Highway at Valparaiso, Ind. At South Bend picked up first mail from home. On to Fort Wayne, Ind., where we stopped for the night. Total mileage today, 159, 4 by walking.
Aug. l4th. Being Sunday we decided to take it easy. Near Convoy were many vineyards with ripe Concord grapes hanging over the fence. We decided the highway was too hard for walking so hiked along near the fence where the grapes were easier to reach. At VanWert, Ohio we stopped for the night, having covered only 35 miles, 12 by hiking.
Aug. 15th. To Delphos, Cairo, Beaver Dam. Six rides, 3 turns at hiking. To Upper Sandusky where Ernie stopped and refused to walk any farther. Finally got a ride to Bucyrus. Stayed at the “Y”. The Y.M.C.A. at Bucyrus refused to charge us anything for our room. During the day we had detoured off the Lincoln Highway, thru Nevada, Ohio. For the day we covered 87 miles, 8 by walking.
It was in Ohio where we picked up a ride with an insurance adjustor who was driving a Ford coupe. The driver asked if either of us could drive as he wanted to take a nap. I had driven a Ford so told him I would drive for a while. After a half hour, Ernie decided he would like to drive. Evidently he had very little ex­perience, as he failed to slow up when coming to a corner and the car tipped over on its side. The three of us were able to get it back on its wheels and we continued on east with the owner doing the driving.
Aug, l6th. A bad day for hitchhiking. Walked out of Bucyrus 1 mile, Rode in car ½ mile, rode in another car 1 mile. Stopped in a cemetery, or “rest camp” as Ernie called it. Walked 3 miles, stopped at another cemetery, walked another 1½ miles. Got a ride in an oil truck to Crestline. Changed to eastern time. Walked 1 mile out of Crestline and rested near a schoolhouse. Very hot weather. Walked by a farm and waved at two girls sitting on lawn. They came and walked a ways with us. Said they were driving to Akron the next morning and would give us a ride there. However we wanted to stay on the Lincoln Highway. Got a ride to Mansfield, and then walked 1½ miles farther. Decided to camp for the night. Rides had been few and short. 24 miles, 8 hiking.
Aug. 17th. To Ashland. Walked 2 miles out of city and got caught in rainstorm. Got ride to Ashland and then on east to Wooster in same car. Walked 1 mile out of Wooster and the weather looked so bad we decided to wait for ride to Massilon or remain in Wooster for the night. We climbed up on top of a high steel bridge. Ernie saw a car coming, waved it to a stop and we got a ride to Massilon. Total mileage for day, 57, 3 1/2 by walking.
Aug. 18th. Couldn’t pick up a ride out of Massilon so we rode the interurban trolley 8 miles to Canton. Caught ride to Minerva, Near Lynchburg got ride with 3 girls. After 4 miles car ran out of gas. Walked back to Lynchburg and returned with two gallons of gas. Then on to Hanoverton. Rested in farmyard. Visited with two girls and a boy, named Pelly. Spent the evening at their house. They had a ukulele which I could play and as Ernie and I had had a lot of experience singing in the church choir, we entertained them with all the familiar songs of the day. They wouldn’t let us leave until their folks came home from an Eastern Star meeting, and then we had to perform all over again. Slept out in the open by a creek. We had had a miserable day covering only 42 miles, 6 by walking. Next morning Ernie got us up and going at 5:30; he said he was freezing to death.
Aug. 19th. It had been a cold night so we walked a half mile to an old bridge, built a fire and waited till eight o’clock with out seeing a car. Decided to walk back to Hanoverton and take a train to East Liverpool which was not too far ahead. It had been almost impossible to pick up rides in Ohio. Walked out of East Liverpool and sat down on a corner where cars would have to slow up. Ernie was reading a copy of DeMaupasant and I was reading out of the khaki covered little bible I had carried thru France and Germany. A car stopped, asking for directions, and Ernie talked the driver into giving us a ride to Pittsburgh, in a car which was already overloaded. Total for today, 65 miles, 1 walking.
Aug. 20 and 21. On the previous day we had taken a streetcar to Bellevue, Pa. a suburb of Pittsburgh. I visited my old wartime buddy, William Raisbeck. Saw Schenley Park Botanical gardens. Also Carnegie Tech buildings, Highwood Park Zoo and Carnegie Museum.
Aug. 22nd. Took streetcar from Bellevue to Williamsburg. On to Greensburg, Stoyestown, Got ride over the Allegheny Mountains to Bedford. Spent night there. Days total 99 miles, 5 walking.
Aug. 23rd. From Bedford to Gettysburg. Saw all the battlefield sights. Crossed the mountain ridge at Tuscarora Summit, Elev. 2,240’.On to Wrightsville. Toll bridge over Susquehanna River to Columbia. Walked 2 miles; then caught ride to Lancaster. 132 miles, 3 hiking.

Aug. 24th. Walk 1½ miles out of, Lancaster. Wait for ride. No luck. Took trolley to Coatsville, 42¢. Got ride to Downington. Walked 2 miles to East Downington, then got ride to Bryn Mawr and then another to Philadelphia. Stay at Minerva. Go to hear Phila­delphia band. Had reached destination. Mileage today 66, 5 hiking. Total mileage, Rochester to Philadelphia, 1,349, 95 miles by walking. We had been seventeen days on the trip. At the Wharton School we were told that all classes for the year had been filled.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In lieu of content ...

Becaue I'm spending every spare minute on the family history, trying to get it done in time for Christmas, I present this for your entertainment.

H/T to Loyal Lurker.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A horizonal water wheel

My mother and her father (yes, the family that had odd ideas on raising chickens) put together a family genealogy 41 years ago. My Xerox copy is getting harder and harder to read, and so I've scanned it. I've done the OCR thing, and now I'm in the process of going through and translating the resulting hieroglyphics into English.

My grandfather’s grandfather seems to be the main focus of this history, and was one of the first settlers in Rochester, MN. According to the family history, my grandfather writes*:

The Alexanders were the proprietors of two mills on Bear Creek with­in the city limits of Rochester. The "upper mill" situated at 624 - 626 South Beaver St., (now 9th Ave. S.E.) and the “lower mill” situated at 524 East College St. (now 4th St. S.E.). The upper mill was started as a woolen mill, a grist mill was added later to the south of the woolen mill. Originally, the woolen mill was powered by a water turbine, and was later converted to steam power. The dam for the upper mill was 2 ½ to 3 ft. high. I don’t remember splash boards, but they were probably used. These were two inch planks, set between iron pins placed in the top of the dam. The water above the dam could be raised 8, 10, or 12 inches, depending on the width of the planks used. Only a low head of water was required for turbine power, compared to a water wheel.

The iron turbine or enclosed reaction wheel was brought into common use about 1850 and became quite common because of their effica­cy. They required little attention and were not affected by ice.

The turbine was made up of an outer case about 4 ft. in diameter and 11/2 f. high. Top and bottom plates were of cast iron, joined by a side band of iron. The vertical shaft of the runner ran thru a hole between two cast iron plates bolted to the top. The runner, shaped like a paddle wheel, could be taken out thru the opening at the top. The paddle wheel, including the vanes was made of inch thick cast iron.

The larger open end of the outer casing was connected to the pen­stock. Back of the opening was the gate, operated by a slide valve which was worked by a rack and pinion gear, for turning the water on or off. When open, water from the penstock rushed into the twist of the casing, and against the vanes of the runner. A wooden thrust pin below held the runner in position. In order for the water to escape thru a hole in the bottom plate of the casing the runner or paddle wheel would have to turn. Thrust pins wore usually made of oak and because they were under water, needed no lubrication.

The above drawing was copied from a drawing made by Walter Alex­ander (Big Walt). His drawing was probably made from a photograph as he was an excellent amateur photographer, starting back in the days when coated glass plates were used in place of film.

 * Or, "Guest blogging from beyond the grave". I'm thinking how he would have loved the internet for research and correspondence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I really do wish I could sing.

This is the only way I'd be able to participate in singing the "Hallelujah Chorus".

(Sorry ... I can't get it to embed.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Uncle Joe, eggs, and wet chickens

Reading Adaptive Curmudgeon’s stories about his chickens reminded me of the story my mom told me when I was growing up.

My mom and her brother, Joe, grew up during the depression. They did not live on a farm, but the family had chickens, and it was my Uncle Joe’s job to collect eggs in the morning. Uncle Joe really wanted to grow up to be a juggler. (Do you see where this is going?) He practiced with the eggs he gathered every morning.

He buried the mistakes.

My mother swore the chickens would line up as he juggled the eggs and walked towards the house, clutching the chicken wire fence and pleading “Don’t drop any! Don’t drop any!”

You see, my Grandpa figured each hen should lay one egg each day. He would count the eggs, and if he came up short, he would decide which hens weren’t laying. He’d then put the underperformer(s) in a crate, tie a rope to it, throw the end of the rope over a tree branch, pull the rope to run the crate up the tree, and squirt the chicken(s) with a hose.

I have no idea if this ever produced more eggs, but it probably does explain why Grandpa was an architect (and a cartographer during WWI) instead of a farmer.

My Uncle Joe did become a fantastic juggler, not that he made a living at it. I remember him juggling a basketball, a softball and a football, all at the same time. I also remember him juggling bowling pins. The kind you hit with bowling balls, not the balanced theatrical kind.  Speaking of theatrical, he appeared in a play at the Rochester Civic Center as a juggler for a run of 20 performances. My Aunt also mentioned in passing that he got in trouble for juggling eggs at a New Year’s party at a friend’s house. Somehow I’m imagining there was alcohol involved. And that someone must of egged him on.
Uncle Joe in 1949. A bit before my time.

Why I get in trouble

H/T to (shamelessly stolen from) Loyal Lurker and her brother.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Plug Bayonet

My buddy, Michael W., recently presented me with a belated birthday present. It was well worth the wait.

Doesn’t every girl want her very own plug bayonet? What? You say you can count the number of women you know who own matchlocks on one hand? Pity.

You may remember this knife that he made forJayG. Isn't that beautiful? He also made my bandolier (and the bottles, and the horn).
21" of pointy goodness!
Pictures do not do this scabbard and bayonet justice. The scabbard was dyed is what is becoming my "trademark" dark chocolate brown. The blade has been browned as well. If I had included pictures of the matchlock as well (must remedy that), you'd see that the gun is nothing fancy. It's a pipe on at stick. It's ugly. It's beat up. This bayonet, while not flashy, shows an elegance of form and function.

It is truly like casting pearls before swine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's a noun, not a verb

I’m sure this is considered blasphemy by many BBQ purists, but I had some boneless, skinless chicken I needed to use up, so I threw it in a crockpot and covered it with chicken broth and let it do its thing. When it was done, I removed the chicken and pulled it into shreds. I added a Memphis-style barbeque sauce, put it on a bun, and topped it with a slaw made with cabbage, shredded apple, raisins and some mayo.
Yeah. I think I’ll be making that again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Second shot

This is Sweet Daughter's second shot with her new rifle. She cranked off the first one with nary a flinch before I could press the "go" button on the camera.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shooting with Sweet Daughter

Sweet Daughter finally got a chance to fire her birthday present today. She hasn't done any shooting in months, but it was time to try out her new .22.

Her first target selection was the Big Bad Wolf. Shorter Half instructed her on the basics and she was good to go.

[Video to come if it will EVER load ... UPDATED - Video on following post.]

The bi-pod made all the difference for this new shooter. SD was able to hit what she was aiming at. The wolf target took a beating.

Then we set her loose on some reactive targets. See the orange spinning target? She hit the diamond on her first try. Here is an action shot of the the target in mid spin. Really.

By this point, she's loading and cocking the rifle herself.

She's ready for something different.
She loves the targets that change color. So while Shorter Half did some pistol work, she selected anew target and we girls did some bonding with the help of an EPR*. I didn't worry about her technique, I just made sure she stayed safe, followed the four rules, and had fun.

I think we were successful. This reaction was a result of this target.
Seven shots from the prone position. Six on paper. Rifle not yet zeroed. I'd take that any day of the week.

*Evil Pink Rifle

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Knitting update

After years of being able to knit a swatch, and then proceed with a successful project, the ability to knit something to scale continues to elude me this year. So I decided to make some mittens for Sweet Daughter for our Rev War events figuring that if there were too big she’d grow into them. Eventually. Since her gown sleeves only come down to just below her elbows, she needed something to keep her lower arms warm. We can document elbow length knitted mitts (sans fingers) and so I combined the two. I am usually loathe to “make stuff up” based on conjecture, but I’ll make an exception for some things. If elbow length mittens keep SD comfortable so she enjoys living history events, so be it. I figure it sort of makes up for the early morning hike through the dew-soaked grass to get to the porta-potties.

Half done
I won't tell you how many times I restarted the second one. Maybe it's just the color green I'm having problems with ...
Oh … does anybody want to guess what this is going to be?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"My Faivit Cat" - Sappy Cat Blogging*

Sweet Daughter asked if she could guest blog tonight and so she wrote a story about one of her toy cats, Maggie. She asked that I please correct her spelling since she didn't want to take the time to ask how to spell all the words she didn't know. So without further ado, I present "My Favit Cat".

My Favorite Cat

My favorite cat is Maggie. She can write , color, and paint. She is black and white**. She likes to be with me. She is a sweet cat. Her favorite is vanilla. She loves ice cream. She is a Webkinz. Meow!

* In memory of William whom I had the pleasure of meeting last spring in Pittsburgh.

** Amended after the fact to read "She is black and white with green eyes."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy All Hallows Eve

I survived the parade and party at school with Sweet Daughter today. Swim class was attended, and then trick or treating ensued with her BFF. While watching her go down a driveway and up the steps of a house, an older gentleman urged me to keep a close eye on her. I assured him that I was. Well, "someone" was stealing kids the next county over. Without ever taking my eyes off of her, I stated quite emphatically that "I'd like to see somebody try."

He quit trying to talk to me after that. Maybe it's because I thought to myself, "Self? What better way to 'steal' a kid than to act like you're the good, helpful guy?" and I kept aware of his whereabouts the whole time. Maybe he didn't smell "victim" and went elsewhere, or most likely, he was just trying to be nice and strike up a random conversation and I wasn't cooperating. He was there with two grandchildren, and chances are he was just fine, though a little odd in choice of ice-breaking conversation. Either way, it didn't matter. My job was to make sure SD stayed safe and had a good time. Mission accomplished.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweet Daughter Blogs about Goldie

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the goldfish got moved to a bigger tank this past weekend. Last week, Sweet Daughter had the opportunity to do some creative writing in school. She wrote about her fish needing a new home and asked if she could guest blog tonight, so here is her contribution -- fresh from first grade complete with creative spelling.
"I have a pet goldfish. Her name is Goldie. It will be four days intell we give her a bigger tank. She use to live in a pond. Now she lives with us. She is very crazy. She bumps into the tank alot. I hope we get her a bigger tank. She is bigger then you wood expect. She is way big. Bigger then a regouler goldfish."

At first, I was horrified by the spelling, but then I realized it was a creative writing exercise she did for fun, and it was all about the story. What better way to stifle creativity than by criticising something they haven't learned to do yet? Better that she enjoy the process, and the spelling will come in time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I’m not the village you’re looking for.

Last week, I was outside readying a larger fish tank for our resident goldfish, “Goldie”. I’d been given a hand-me-down 20 gallon tank that needed to have some hard water deposits scraped, and a rustic dark pine stand made out of 2x4’s that needed to be painted. I went outside where I soaked the tank with vinegar and then scraped it best I could with a razor. I was priming the stand when I heard Sweet Daughter talking to someone. There was a little girl in our yard, about 2 or 3 years old. Out by the bench we use while waiting for the school bus, were a teenage female and a woman (probably around 40) talking to each other, nineteen  to the dozen. I told the visiting girl to be careful, and to stay away from the razor blade (yes, I was keeping an eye on it) and the wet paint. SD continued to carry on a very on-sided conversation while the other two were absolutely oblivious as to the whereabouts of the youngest. After awhile, Shorter Half came outside and I said “Tag. You’re it. I’ve got to get dinner started.”

About 15 minutes later, SD ran in to say that the little girl needed to use the bathroom. SH was right behind her, and I said “Oh, no. She lives two houses away. She can go home and use the bathroom. That camel and its nose aren’t getting anywhere near this tent!” Shortly thereafter, I saw SH at the end of the driveway talking to the other two, who were now firmly ensconced on the bench.  He’d gone out to ask if they were okay, seeing as how they were sitting in someone else’s yard on their bench (for over an hour), without so much as a greeting, or introduction.  Oh, they were just fine! And he mentioned that the little one had to use the bathroom. Oh, she could go on into the house, no problem!

Not. When he told all this to me, I said it was a good thing I wasn’t out there, or they would have gotten an earful.

Fast forward to yesterday. SD was outside playing, and I was inside putting some stuff away when she ran in the house to tell me the little girl was back, and her mom had gone walking down the hill without her. I went outside, saw the girl, but the mom was out of sight. Michael W. was visiting and offered to keep an eye on things while I went in search of the mom, who was apparently out walking the dogs.

I caught up with her and asked, “Is that your little girl in our yard?”

She nodded.

I said, “You can’t just walk away leaving your child in some stranger’s yard. Do you understand?”


“We’re trying to teach our daughter that it isn’t safe to talk to strangers, or go in a strange yard without a grown-up she knows, and it’s certainly not okay to go in a stranger’s house. You walking away, leaving your child in our yard is not helping. And a six-year-old should not be responsible for a younger child. Do you understand why this is a bad idea?”


At this point the mom (who is the teenager, BTW) is continuing to give me the blank “if I just agree with her maybe she’ll shut up and leave me alone” stare, when I decided to make it short and sweet. With great conviction, I said, “You MAY NOT leave your child in our yard. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”


Buy then, we were almost back to the house. I walked up and told SD that she had done exactly the right thing in coming to get me to tell me what was going on, and that I was proud of her. During this exchange, the little girl left with her mom.  I felt a little bad – the little girl can’t help that her mom is clueless. In her culture, maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m not it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Car

Because all the other cool kids are doing it ...
UPDATED to add photo: Mr. Valiant was a 4-door sedan, not this uber-sporty version.
My first car was a 1968 Plymouth Valiant. My parents bought in the fall of 1967 when I was 4 years old. It was white with a dark blue interior, seated six fairly comfortably, and had seatbelts but no A/C.  It did have a fantastic vent system, though, including one under the steering column that literally made your skirt fly up. It had a slant six under the hood, “posi-traction” in the back, and was considered a compact car. Compared to the 1971 Plymouth Fury III wagon we had, it was.
Before I was allowed to get my driver’s license, I had to prove to my dad that I could change a tire unaided. It was then that I learned the lug nuts were threaded differently, depending on which side of the car you were on -- the whole “lefty loosey, righty-tighty” thing varied. I believe the logic being that they were threaded so that the rotating wheels would be tightening the nuts instead of loosening then as you rolled down the highway.  I also had to do some body work on it, which meant the white paint also had patches of Bondo, and both bare and rusty metal primer. It was an appaloosa of sorts.
At some point in the (very) late ‘70’s, my dad installed an FM converter (I now had 2 AM and 2 FM stations to pick from!), and later on a cassette tape deck under the front seat. It was sometime during 1981 I figured out that if you recorded Journey’s “Escape” on one side of a 45 minute tape, and Foreigner’s “4” on the other, you could listen to “Don’t Stop Believin’”, flip the tape over and listen to “Juke Box Hero”, and back again ad infinitum.  (It was a 3 hour trip from college to my parent’s house, and parts were a radio waste-land. Don’t judge.)

Good times in it? Eh. Can’t remember any of particular note. But I can tell you how it ended.
It was the summer of 1983, and The Police were playing (Synchronicity Tour) about 70 miles away. Tickets were not cheap for someone making $1.35/hour plus tips (which, on a good night, was about $2.00). This was a Big Deal. My roommate, a coworker, and I bought tickets (back when you had to stand in line) and planned for our big night out. We bought vintage dresses. We did our hair and makeup. We climbed into “Mr. Valiant” and headed south. We got out of town, and we were heading down the ramp onto the highway and … nothing. I coasted to a stop on the shoulder, popped the hood and had no idea what had gone wrong.

It didn’t take long for a nice gentleman in an 18-wheeler to stop and come to our aid. At least that’s what I thought at first, but since he had even less of a clue than I did as to what was wrong, it was clear that he just wanted to get three 20-year-old women in black dresses and big hair into his rig.  Not so much.

Okay. We were in what was considered a fairly rural part of Minnesota. As we sat there on the side of the road, we considered our choices, of which there weren’t many. Finding a phone, and calling a tow truck seemed to be the only option.  Luckily, the nearest farm (with actual buildings not just crops) seemed to be on our side of the highway, so I set off down the road to where I could see a corn crib. I climbed down across a ditch, and up through a barb-wire fence. The wire was loose enough I could go through the strands.  I plowed through another ditch and came to a second barb-wire fence. This one was too tight to go through, but too loose to go over, so I followed it down to the corn crib. I climbed up one side, over the fence, across the end, and down the other side. At which point I saw the cows. And the cows saw me.

Did I mention the dress? And the pantyhose? And the heels? So far they were all unbesmirched. Not even so much as a snag in the hose.

Okay. Back to the cows. We came to an understanding that we were not going to bother each other and I headed off down the cow path hoping to find something. And I did – I found a small farmhouse. In the middle of nowhere. I seriously don’t even remember a driveway , but I knocked on the door anyway, and I heard “Ja??” and the door opened. There was a fairly old gentleman looking at me like I had two heads. From the back of the house I heard another, younger, male voice say “WHO IS IT??” This was the bachelor son who came charging out to see who dared disturb their solitude.

I mentioned the dress and the big hair, right? Did I mention that my big hair was four different colors? Now granted, they were all natural colors* (black, my natural brown, red and the ends bleached white) but this was rural Minnesota in 1983, and I’m sure a space alien would have been etter received.
Anyhow, I managed to explain that I was having car problems, and I just needed the use of a phone book and their phone to call a tow truck, and I would be on my way. And that I would gladly pay for the long-distance call.  The son translated for his father, and they eventually let me use the phone just so I’d get the hell out, I think.

So, I headed back down the cow path, waved at the cows, climbed up, over and down the corn crib, through ditch one, through the second fence, and across ditch two, and back to the car to wait for the tow truck. I have to say that the three of us garnered a lot of attention while we waited. The tow arrived and the next problem was that even though I specified I needed to pay with a credit card when I called, the driver didn’t have the imprint machine with him.  Then there was the problem of fitting 3 females into the front of the tow truck. It was, uh, snug. So we headed back to our college town, the other two girls were dropped off at my house while the tow truck took me to a cash machine. I paid the guy, we dropped the car off at a service station (closed, or course) within walking distance to my house and I hiked back. My coworker was prevailed upon to drive us to the concert in her ’68 Camaro, even though the linkage was iffy. We walked into the venue and dropped into our seats just as the concert started. It was awesome.
Then things got interesting again. We got lost in the wrong part of Minneapolis on the way home. We stopped at a Burger King to ask the nice policeman for directions, and he thought we were hookers. Luckily we convinced him otherwise, and he pointed us in the right direction.

When we finally got home, roomie made popcorn, we sat in the kitchen, and I made the mistake of asking what else could go wrong. She screamed as we got dive-bombed by a bat. Did you know that when you are cowering behind your bedroom door trying to talk to your roomie about how remove said bat, that the sneaky bat bastard will crawl under your door and over your foot? Yeah. The boys in the frat house next door thought that the two of us, still dressed for the concert, had come up with the best come-on line ever. No, thank-you-very-much, we really did just need you to come over and provide bat eradication services. That was it.  Sorry to disappoint you.

I ended up sleeping in extra bed in roomie’s room with a tennis racquet next to my bed. My pantyhose made it through the evening intact. The bat made another appearance the next night while I was at work and the landlord came and took care of it. And the autopsy showed that Mr. Valiant died of complications from a failed oil pump. May he rest in peace.

*Regarding the hair … what was supposed to be some subtle red highlights and black lowlights turned out quite a bit more dramatic than anticipated. I was going through a rebellious phase while I was watching my mom die of cancer and so I thought “What the hell?” and bleached the ends white while I was at it. Mom was not happy with me.