November 19, 2013 · 4:14 pm
Hello, friends of Biscuit City!
With my novel (On the Wings of Morning) out, I’m finding I have less time to devote to my blogs (Biscuit City, Beyond the Blue Horizon and Preaching to the Choir), so I’m going to take this week and next off from the blogs except for a post or two on Beyond the Blue Horizon and Preaching to the Choir. I’ll continue the regular schedule with all three blogs through December and then cut back to about one post a week on each blog.
I thank each of you for following my efforts over the years, and I look forward to continuing with the blogs and also with the novels. I’ve written a sequel to Wings, On the Wings of the Wind, and a follow-on to that, On the Wings of Angels, now in revision. The books will eventually be parts of a six-book series called Beyond the Blue Horizon. I expect the second book to come out late next year, and the third book a year after that, with each book appearing at yearly intervals. So, keep reading, stay well, do good work, call when you get there, and stay tuned! All my best to each of you!
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Tagged as Beyond the Blue Horizon blog, Beyond the Blue Horizon series, Biscuit City blog, changes in blog publication intervals, follow-on, On the Wings of Angels, On the Wings of the Wind, On Wings of the Morning, Preaching to the Choir blog, sequel, yearly intervals
November 17, 2013 · 12:12 am
Generally, as most of us get older, we have a very good idea of what our likes and dislikes are. Recently, though, I have been thinking about doing some things that I know I do not enjoy or usually want to do. It’s an odd feeling.
As I wrote before, I don’t like to be outdoors. Maybe I spent too much time outside when I was growing up, but the great outdoors has far too many hazards and discomforts for me to want to spend hours there. I know there are people who love the outdoors and spend a lot of time there, and that’s all right. They can have my share.
The odd thing is, I’ve been thinking about aboriginal Americans who lived very close to nature. Whether their shelter was a lodge or teepee or pueblo, they had to have been aware of the elements. With a fire for heating and breezes for cooling they were right in the midst of nature.
I have been camping exactly once in my life. I was ten years old, and I remember not sleeping much and just about starving since each of us was responsible for his own food. Lately, though, I been wondering what it would be like to stay outside in a tent. I could pitch one in my back yard and not be that far away from the comforts of the indoors. Of course, I’d have to buy almost everything I need, including a tent. I do have a sleeping bag from my daughters’ Girl Scout days. It’s a thought, but a strange one for me. Still, I find myself thinking that being outside with nothing but a thin nylon wall between me and the outdoors would be intriguing, although I’d probably wait until spring to try it.
Then there’s traveling. I’ve decided I don’t like to travel. Oh, I like to see different places, particularly places with history and good restaurants and good bookstores, but actually getting there is pain. I don’t care for driving, which is mostly monotonous and occasionally terrifying. My wife is a great driver (and a wizard parallel parker, even left-handed), so she does most of the driving when we go somewhere. I do the navigating, and I’m good at that, except when I’m not. That’s a subject for an entire column, but not just now. Anyhow, if there were a Star Trek-style transporter available, I’d use one, even at the risk of scrambling my molecules. To be able to be some place instantly has a huge appeal for me. And don’t even think about flying. That used to be fun and an adventure, but I don’t have to tell you what a pain it has become. No, I’m comfortable where I am, with everything I need right here. That’s why my travel impulse is a strange one. I’d like to fly around the world. I’m not talking about flying around the world non-stop on one tank of gas. What I’m thinking would be fun would be to fly around the world using scheduled flights. I’ve checked and it’s possible. It would take about three days. I think I would like to go business class since I would plan to be on an airplane most of the time. I wouldn’t even leave the airports or clear customs—I would just go right on to the next flight. This is even crazier when I consider that I am mildly claustrophobic. That’s why business class. I could leave on a Friday and be back Monday if my calculations are correct. It would be cool to say I had done it.
Then, I’ve been having an impulse lately to have another career. That’s not that unusual for an early retiree like me, but I’m talking about an entirely different career. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a rocket scientist. (I was too tall to be an astronaut then.) What dissuaded me from this career path was the sad reality that I was not very good at math, and math is important to being rocket scientists. My impulse is to take science and math classes and earn a degree in astronautical engineering. I figure with the coursework I’ve done already I can skip the core classes and things like phys ed. and go right on to advanced science classes. It would be a whole lot easier for me to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing, but becoming a rocket scientist in my 60’s sounds much more appealing, even if I am probably worse at math than I was in high school. Grandma Moses started painting when she was in her 80’s, so maybe I do have a future with NASA.
So I have these random impulses, but I’ve found if I lie down for a while, they soon pass. Thank goodness for small favors.
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Tagged as aerospace engineering, airplanes, being outdoors, Biscuit City, blogs, camping, courage, Grandma Moses, NASAS, native Americans, nature, outdoors, poetry, Prince William County, random impulses, reading, school, spring, transportation, words, work, writing
November 15, 2013 · 1:53 am
I don’t know if you pump your own gas these days or not. I suspect you do, like most of us these days, unless we visit to New Jersey where it’s against the law to do so. This fact of modern life was satirized in a scene from one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future, where Marty McFly is astonished to see four attendants at a filling station launch themselves at a car to check the air in the tires, clean the windshield, pop the hood to look at the oil and coolant levels, and take the driver’s order for gas. Now, those were the days!
Of course, if we’re paying cash, we have trudge over to the attendant—the horror of it all!—and schelp back to the car where we can then fill the tank ourselves. If we’re using a credit or debit card, our lives are somewhat easier. Indeed, if we used plastic to pay for gas, we rolled up to the pumps, got out, swiped our card through the reader, waited for the screen to respond, chose a grade of gas to our liking, and started pumping. Those days are gone, apparently, because the little magic screen now asks us to enter our zip code, a security measure in case we have stolen our own credit card and are trying to use it a half mile from where we live. I understand the need for this little addition, since having a credit number used and abused by someone else does not make for a good day in the life of the card holder, but I also have to confess it took me back a bit when I first had to enter the number with my little index finger. The screen also told me that if my postal code included letters, I had to see the attendant. Huh? I thought. There ain’t no letters in a zip code. What’s with that?
As it turns out, there are letters in postal codes of many countries around the world. Say you want to send a nice letter to Oxford Press in Oxford, England. You write your nice letter, put it in an envelope, and after putting on proper postage, address it to:
Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon Street
My little experience pumping gas showed me, once again, there is always more to learn. And I’m glad. Think how insufferably dull life would be if we knew all there was to know by the ago of, say, 30. As it is, the older I get, the less I think I know. And that’s not a bad way to be.Please note that the “postal code” includes letters and numbers, so they got it about 1/3 right. Not bad for a former mother country. They’re not alone, however, in using letters: about 250 other countries do as well, including, in some cases, the U.S. So, we’re in a minority by using only numbers. Who knew this? Not me!
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Tagged as buying gas, cash, credit cards, debit cards, gas station attendants, letters, numbers, postal codes, security, transportation, ZIP codes
November 12, 2013 · 10:05 pm
I have to confess to a dirty little secret. Here it is: when I’m driving something with an automatic shift, I use my left foot to brake. Right foot goes on the gas pedal, of course. I think my dad taught me this way. My brother does the same thing. I don’t remember how my mom drove.
Of course, with a manual shift, I use my left foot for the clutch. So, with an automatic, it’s free for braking duties. The Car Talk guys allowed one time that left-foot braking allows the driver to brake more quickly, as long as said driver does not ride the brake. I don’t and never have.
Recently, though, I’ve wondered how hard it would be to switch the foot I brake with. So, I’ve been trying and it really feels strange. Of course, I’m working with a fifty-year-old habit here, so I’ll just have to see. I’ll let you know how it goes. Stay tuned!
November 10, 2013 · 10:02 pm
I was looking around and found some interesting facts about our friend, dirt. Think it isn’t our friend? Try growing crops without it! (I know, there are hydroponic gardens, but really?)
70,000 different types of soil in the U.S.
1 tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth
500 minimum years it takes to form one inch of topsoil
5,000 different types of bacteria in one gram of soil
.01 percent of the earth’s water held in soil
15 tons of dry soil per acre that pass through one earthworm each year
1,400,000 earthworms that can be found in an acre of cropland
20,000 pounds of total living matter in the top six inches of an acre of soil
10 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions stored in soil
4,000 gallons of water soil needs to produce one bushel of corn
11,000 Gallons of water soil needs to produce one bushel of wheat
From magazine, June/July 2010
November 3, 2013 · 9:41 pm
As I’ve written here before, we have a number of large oaks and maples in the the neigborhood and on our lot. The upside of so many mature trees is their beauty and shade, and watching them change through the seasons: the fresh green leaves in the spring, the coolness of their shadows in the summer, the spectacular display of color in autumn, and the stark beauty of black limbs against a wintry sky.
There are some downsides to having big trees around, of course. If they become diseased or die, they have to be removed, and that’s not a job for Harry Homeowner with his hand saw. A tree company charged over $1000 last time we had one taken out, but it was worth it to me to be able to live another day. It’s money well spent.
The other main downside comes when the leaves have fallen. I used to rake ours to the curb, where the City of Manassas picks them up with a great leaf vac that is very cool. After a few years, my back hurt badly even after using an ergonomic rake (which I fondly referred to as my “snake rake). Fortunately, our nephew Jonathan Pankey, who has cut our grass for years, also takes care of fallen leaves. It’s not his favorite activity, but he and his crew come four or five times until all the leaves are gone. Jonathan and his helpers use leaf blowers, which is necessary because time is money in the business. I have to admit that the whine of a blower is far down the list of my favorite sounds. I recall the quiet and contemplative pleasure of raking leaves, back breaking as it was.
The New Yorker ran one of their incisive articles about the noise pollution of leaf blowers about three years ago, showing that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the noise. Here’s a link to the story: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/25/101025fa_fact_friend .
I don’t begrudge my neighbors the use of these machines. Jonathan uses them, after all. I just wish there were a quieter way to get the job done. Ah, well, it’s not a perfect world we live in, and a little noise now and then is a small price to pay for all the gifts of trees.
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Tagged as "snake rake", a small price to pay, autumn, beauty, black limbs, cool shadows, curb pickup, display of color, downside, ergonomic, expense, fresh leaves, maples, nephew Jonathan, New Yorker article on this subject, oaks, rake, raking, removal, seasons, shade, spring, summer, the gifts of trees, tree company, trees, upside, yard care company
November 1, 2013 · 3:05 pm
The World Series is over (how ’bout them Red Sox?!?), and the long drought sets in. Sure, there is what’s called the Hot Stove League where aficionados can sit around and talk about games past and speculate on the future of their teams (the Nats have a new manager! Yay! Hope for the future!), and we can watch replays of Nats games all winter, but it’s not the same as live baseball. This dearth of action on the diamond will last until about the middle of February, when pitchers and catchers report. Still, that’s three and a half months away. It’s going to be a long, cold winter.
So, friends, stock up on some good reads, build a fire in the fireplace, and settle in. Baseball is about hope and expectation. True, it will break your heart, but there’s always next year. And, in the words of the poet Shelley, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
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Tagged as baseball, broken heart, courage, end of season, good reads, hope and expectation, hot stove league, long winter, Nationals, Ode to the West Wind, pitchers and catchers report, reading, Red Sox, replays, Shelley, spring training, there's always next year, Washington Nationals, words, World Series