Monday, July 30, 2007

The Changing Face of Art

I've never been one to stand around staring at portrait art. But this is really well done. Besides it shows one thing, styles may change but beauty is timeless.

Prairie Village Memories

My home town of Madison SD has a frontier village right outside of town. Prairie Village is designed to simulate a pioneer village of the late 1800s. Every August they hold a Steam Threshing Jamboree at the village. This year is the 45th edition of the threshing Jamboree. It is also the 35th anniversary of the first Jamboree that I ever worked at. A couple weeks ago a second cousin of mine called me to point out that they local newspaper, The Madison Daily Leader, was running a request online for people to write their fondest memories of their times at Prairie Village. These memories will be collected in a booklet to share with visitors to the Jamboree this year.

Here is my submission:

I was a Prairie Village Printers Devil.

I was born in Madison, SD but moved west river to Rapid City when I was two. I got to spend part of almost every summer in Madison with my Grandmother, Myrt Huettl.

A large portion of my summer of 1972 was spent helping my Grandmother fill the new summer kitchen at Prairie Village with stuff we had dug out of my Great Grandfather’s garage. By the time the Steam Threshing Jamboree was ready to start we had spent so much time out at Prairie Village that I was starting to think that my Grandmother planned on moving into the new summer kitchen and living there. After all, much of the kitchen furnishings of her childhood were already out there.

Spending this much time at Prairie Village gave me a chance to wander into and through all the buildings in the park. So every time Grandma would turn her back on me for a moment or two I went exploring.

One of my favorite buildings in the park was the Print Shop. My grandfather, Chet Huettl, worked in the print room of the Madison Daily Leader for most of his adult life. I used to love visiting him there. But the machines at the Print Shop did not look at all like the machines down at the Leader Shop. Since Grandpa had passed away a few years earlier I started asking my Grandmother about the machinery in the Print Shop. My sudden curiosity in the Print Shop led Grandma to decide that the Print Shop is where I should spend my days during the Steam Threshing Jamboree.

The day before the Jamboree opened Grandma took me to meet Bob Nellis. Bob was a printer from my Grandfather’s days and he was going to be manning the Print Shop at Prairie Village that year. Bob absolutely terrified me. He was a large man with a bad leg that required him to walk with a cane.

My Grandmother introduced me to Bob as his new printer’s assistant. Bob immediately informed both of us that I was too green and inexperienced to be a printer’s assistant. Instead I would have to be the printer’s devil, which was one step below a printer's assistant.

Bob then explained what the printer’s devil’s job entailed. My job would be to clean and sort the type. Clean the presses, clean the benches, sweep the floors and empty the trash. It sounded a lot like a janitor’s job to me.

Since Bob and I didn’t have any period clothes to wear my grandmother promised to round up some printers aprons for us to wear. Then we left Bob with a promise to see him out at Prairie Village bright and early the next morning. Grandma stopped down at the Daily Leader to see if they would loan us a couple aprons. They were happy to oblige and she got an apron for Bob to wear. Then she spent the rest of the afternoon digging through boxes of stuff at home looking for some of my grandfather’s old aprons so I could wear one of them. I spent the afternoon trying to think a good reason, or illness, to get me out of this nightmare she had concocted for me. I did not relish the idea of spending my weekend cleaning the Print Shop.

The next morning I met Bob at the Print Shop about an hour before the park opened. The excitement level as everyone tried to get ready for the jamboree was killing me. I could not believe that I was going to have to spend my entire weekend stuck inside the Print Shop cleaning up after Bob Nellis.

For the next hour Bob crammed as much knowledge about hand setting type into my teen-aged brain as he could manage. Bob taught me how the proof press worked. He taught me about ink and rollers, sticks and galleys, quoins and forms, the California Job case, moveable type and type lice. Bob showed me the racks of movable type in the back of the shop and threatened to toss me into a threshing machine if I dropped any of the cases.

Then Bob showed me what we would be printing. It was a wanted poster that we could customize with individual names. He talked me through the whole process of setting the type with the person’s name – backwards, then, locking the quoins, inking the galley, placing the paper, and running it through the proof press.

By the time the Jamboree started Bob announced that I was ready to solo for a while. So with a final admonition to keep my fingers clear of the roller on the proof press, he moved around to the front of the counter where he could prop himself on a stool and talk to any visitors who wandered in, leaving me alone running the back of the shop.

It was a busy day. I spent the entire morning setting type, printing wanted posters, cleaning the galleys, putting type away and then starting all over again on the next poster. At lunchtime my grandmother brought us some sandwiches from the Prairie Village Kitchen. We sat together on the front porch of the Print Shop and watched the visitors walk past while Bob shared a bit more about printing with me. It was sometime during lunch that I stopped being afraid of Bob Nellis.

That afternoon and all the next day I had a blast working as Bob’s Printer’s Devil. I worked the back of the shop and Bob worked the customers. Occasionally Bob would allow a customer behind the counter so I could help them set their own name in type, and then supervise them through the process of printing their own wanted poster.

It was the middle of the second day when a family from Missouri stopped in to check out the shop. He was a printer and wanted to take a close look at our old printing presses. While Bob and our visitor talked shop it fell to me to entertain his teenage daughter who was standing around looking bored. After an hour in the print shop Bob’s guest was being dragged away by his wife. Meanwhile his daughter had been running the proof press for me for a while and she was also getting pretty good at setting type. Before she left, we exchanged addresses and the two of us stayed in touch as pen pals for the next 7 years.

I worked the Print Shop with Bob for three consecutive Steam Threshing Jamborees. The fourth year I was a junior in High School and had other plans for the summer that kept me away from Madison. I didn't manage to get back to Madison for the Jamboree for several years. When I did, my Grandmother told me that Bob had passed away. She asked if I wanted her to get permission for me to work the Print Shop again that year. I turned down her offer. Without Bob Nellis perched on the stool out front it just would not have been the same.

I don’t work in the printing industry. But for three summers I got a small taste of what my Grandfather did for a living for many years. I met a lot of really interesting people, and one great old printer who took a young kid under his wing and turned him into a printer’s devil.

Once I finished this submission for the memory book I got a little pretentious and decided to speak out for my Grandmother. Grandma never would have tolerated me trying to put words in her mouth. But she has been gone for a while now, and I figured what the heck. So I submitted this memory for her.

Creating a Summer Kitchen

My Grandmother, Myrt Huettl, passed away in March of 2001. She worked at and supported Prairie Village for many years. Taking her grandchildren out to Prairie Village and telling tales of her childhood using the displays as examples was one of her favorite past times. I do not presume to know what my Grandmother’s favorite memories of Prairie Village were. But I do know that she treasured the time she spent working there. For many summers the Steam Threshing Jamboree marked our last weekend at Grandma’s house in Madison before my sisters and I had to return home to Rapid City to start the next school year.

Sometime prior to the summer of 1972 Prairie Village acquired a small building that they wanted to set up as a summer kitchen. I don’t know if she volunteered, was drafted, or just decided to take on the task on her own. But when I arrived in Madison for the summer my Grandmother was already making plans to decorate the new summer kitchen with belongings out of her basement, her garage and her father’s garage.

My grandmother directed several weeks of digging, restoring, repairing and cleaning kitchen items for inclusion in the summer kitchen. Often her directions were as imprecise as “there was a large black thing-a-ma-jig for the oven in one of those boxes in that corner of the garage, about 30 years ago, dig it out, clean it off and put it on the porch.”

I spent a lot of time looking for thing-a-ma-jigs, whatchamacallits and various other similarly named items.

It took a couple weeks but slowly the summer kitchen started looking like a kitchen. Eventually the night before the Steam Threshing Jamboree was to start Grandma finally declared the summer kitchen ready to go.

The next day my grandmother practically floated into Prairie Village. She proudly checked us all in as exhibitors. My Grandmother, Mother and both sisters were wearing period looking dresses that Mom had sewn for them all the previous week. Grandma and my sisters even had bonnets to cover their heads.

As Grandma dropped me off at the Print Shop she shooed her brood of pioneer daughter and granddaughters across the road to the summer kitchen. Grandma’s plan was to sit in the summer kitchen all day and tell people all about the things in that kitchen. Mom and my sisters were scheduled to be working in the Auxiliary Kitchen all day. Unfortunately for Grandma, her granddaughters had other plans. They worked the kitchen for a while and then they sat in the summer kitchen with Grandma for a while. Eventually some of their friends from town showed up and that was the last grandma saw of them until they all got hungry. Grandma spent the rest of the day splitting her time between the food kitchen and the summer kitchen.

Grandma loved that summer kitchen. She also loved to work the Auxiliary Kitchen serving food to visitors at the park. But most of all she loved taking her family to Prairie Village. Her proudest year was 1988 when she was named the Auxiliary Kitchen Queen.

Kitchen Queen

A War We Just Might Win

The New York Times published an op-ed piece this morning by Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

The Brookings Institution sells itself as
"an extraordinary group of independent scholars who are thinking, researching, writing, and speaking about the major challenges and opportunities facing the United States and the world."

In a surprising move the op-ed in the Times has several revelations about the status of things in Iraq. At least they will be surprising if you only get your information about what is happening in Iraq from the antique media.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wyoming Traffic Jam

The day before our family split up in Cheyenne for our separate vacations they held the annual cattle drive for Frontier Days. Since the cattle drive passes just a couple blocks from Dad's house we rousted the kids out of bed earlier than they liked and took them over to act like tourists for a while. Besides this was the kid's only chance to see a real Wyoming traffic jam.

Wyoming Traffic Jam

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vacation 2007

As I mentioned earlier I was on vacation last week. Friday morning my son went to his last day of the UK Soccer Camp. When they finished up around 11 AM we hustled him home, into the shower, then cleaned and dressed we loaded the entire family into the van and headed for the airport in Las Vegas.

Normally the drive to Las Vegas takes around 4 hours if you drive the speed limit, and your vehicle doesn’t overheat on the Baker grade. I usually allow 5 hours for unforeseen circumstances. However, things didn’t work out that well on Saturday and we used up our unforeseen circumstances time before we left home.

After a lunch at the In-n-Out in Barstow we were cruising right along on Interstate 15 north. The van was running well. But I still had to click the air conditioner off about half way up the Baker grade when the engine started heating up a bit. Since it was about 114 degrees outside the 10 minute drive up the top half of the hill got a little warm inside the car.

Then as we were climbing the last hill before the long downhill run to Primm at the Nevada state line when suddenly all the traffic in both lanes slowed down to 10 miles per hour. We crept along at 10 mph for almost 40 minutes. This slow speed coupled with the hot weather required us to click off the air conditioner – again. As we are creeping along the interstate highway after several minutes I noticed that there was no traffic at all on the other side of the highway.

Eventually we came around a corner and over a hill and we could see flashing lights at the top of the hill on the other side of the highway. As we neared the spot we discovered that a large vehicle, my dear wife thinks it was a truck, had flipped and burned blocking the other side of the highway. Almost immediately after passing this tragedy the traffic on our side of the highway sped back up to around 70 mph. That’s right folks, 4 miles at 10 mph just so every single idiot on the road in front of us could rubber neck the accident. God I hate it when they let Los Angeles drivers leave the city and get out on the road with the rest of us.

So we arrived at the Airport about 40 minutes late. So we only had 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to our plane instead of 2 hours. Fortunately for us, our plane was delayed 30 minutes. So we took our safari trek through the Las Vegas airport. If you have never been in the Las Vegas airport you should try it some day. The check in counters are not in any way located anywhere near the parking or passenger drop off area. It almost seems that they deliberately want you to have to carry your suitcases past a large number of shops and gambling areas to be able to check in. Eventually we got to the counter and after checking our bags, counting our kids, we headed for security.

Working our way through the airport security system was a novel experience. After getting in line we were eventually split off from the rest of the travelers and after weaving our way around several turns of velvet ropes we found ourselves in what could best be described as a sci-fi experience. The wide open area with the velvet ropes winding through them suddenly turned into a glass walled tunnel that continued to wind around until we approached an inspection station. There we had to put our shoes and metal possessions in a box that disappeared around a blind corner on a conveyor belt. Then we had to step into a phone booth sized box that had several nozzles sticking out in it. I had a really hard time not blurting out things like:

Is this teleporter? I would like to go to Denver now please.
Wow, a sonic shower. Do I have to disrobe first?
Is this where you tell me that Soylent Green is people?
Wait! I wasn’t scheduled for disintegration today!

Instead I kept my big mouth shut and just stood there while the little puffs of air shot out of the nozzles. As I stepped out of the booth I picked up my stuff and was putting my shoes back on when my son stepped into the booth. Suddenly I was really glad we made him shower before we left home. I would hate to see what his odor after 3 hours of soccer in 110 degrees then the four hour car ride would do to their sniffer machine.

Fortunately we all made it through security without needing a cavity search. And thanks to the 30 minute flight delay we only had to wait at the gate for about half an hour for our plane to leave.

The flight was uneventful. My dear wife who is a nervous flyer managed to get through it without a breakdown. My father met us at the airport and drove us to Cheyenne. This part of the trip was kind of long. The drive from Denver International to Cheyenne takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours on the interstate. However Dad doesn’t like driving the interstate. He prefers driving the state highway through all the little towns. This route takes between two and a half and three hours. Sometimes up to three and a half hours if he stops at the A&W restaurant to eat.

We all slept in on Saturday. That afternoon we mostly just hung out with Dad and visited most of the day. My dear wife and I did slip out with the oldest daughter to do a little shopping for a while. Chaos was looking for school clothes and wanted to check out the mall. She didn’t find much. While we were gone my Dad took the twins to the lake swimming. So the twins started their vacation with a sunburn. Opps.

On Sunday, my Dad, dear wife and the twins loaded into Dad’s Buick and headed up to our cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chaos and I borrowed Dad’s van and headed over the hill to Laramie for her volleyball camp which started on Monday. On the way to Laramie we stopped at a camp ground along the way to meet with some friends from the area. After finding them, we spent a while hiking in the area to give Chaos a chance to acclimate to the significantly higher altitude in Laramie.

Most of the rest of our week was spent with Chaos attending the volleyball camp while I hung around watching and learning from the coaches at the camp. My dear wife and twins spent the week at our cabin in Silver City SD. According to my dear wife the twins pretty much lived in the creek (which is pronounced “crik”) most the week. They did get out and toured the hills for a while. They saw the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, and several other sights in the Black Hills.

Both halves of our family vacation had some transportation difficulties. Since we had flown in we were counting on using Dad’s two cars for transportation. My third day in Laramie I strolled out to the van, got in, put the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing! I mean absolutely nothing. No clicking, no churning starter, zip, zero, nothing. I sat there for a moment trying not to curse in front of my daughter. Then I checked the lights, radio, etc. Nope, none of it was turned on. So I did the logical thing. I turned the key back and forth about a dozen times. When the logical thing to do didn’t work I tried the illogical. I turned the key back and forth a couple more times.

Finally I got out of the van, opened the hood and checked the battery. Yep, the cables were tight, there was fluid in the battery. I crawled underneath and made sure the starter was still there. I had a starter stolen out of a vehicle while in college I figured that it couldn’t hurt to check. When all this didn’t change the non-starting status of the van I called the friends we were staying with and asked them to run over and give Chaos a lift to her camp so she wouldn’t be late.

My friends bailed us out. They ran home and lent us their van for the day. After I dropped Chaos off at the camp I went back to the house and rummaged around the garage until I found my friend’s battery charger. I hooked the charger up to Dad’s van then went back to the volleyball camp.

Later that day I got my first phone call from my dear wife since we had parted company four days earlier. I hadn’t worried too much about not hearing from her. I knew that there was no cell service and no land line phone at the cabin. My dear wife told me that they had been having their own car trouble that week. The car they were driving had stopped running 6 miles outside of Custer SD. Dad was sure it was the fuel pump, since it had been giving him problems lately. I ignored my immediate reaction to be angry at my Dad for taking my wife and twins off into the hills with a car that he knew was breaking down.

My dear wife related how my Dad hadn’t wanted to let her use her AAA card and insisted on using his Amoco Motor Club card. So instead of a AAA tow truck coming from Custer to tow them into town they had to wait until a truck drove over from Newcastle WY to tow them the last 6 miles into Custer. (Newcastle is 38 miles from Custer)

Ultimately the other half of my family had to rent a car for the week while Dad’s was sitting in Custer being ignored by the mechanic. When it came time to go back to Cheyenne they finally got a little testy with the mechanic and he gave them a loaner from his used car lot to take back to Cheyenne for a week or so until he got Dad’s car fixed. Then Dad will have to drive back up to Custer to pick up his car.

The whole thing sounded pretty fishy to me. But Dad is convinced that the mechanic, who is the son of a guy Dad used to work with, is reliable and will not screw him over. So I just butted out and let Dad deal with this in his own way.

So while I had my dear wife on the phone I talked to Dad and told him about the battery in the van. He insisted that the battery was less than a year old and should charge back up just fine. He was also very insistent that I should not try and replace the battery until I got the van back to Cheyenne. So after I had tried charging the battery for several hours and it wouldn’t take a charge I left the charger on for 24 hours. It still wouldn’t take a charge. So the day before we were supposed to leave for Cheyenne my Dad finally fessed up to me that the receipt for the battery was in the van. So I took the receipt and battery down to the local NAPA dealer and got a brand new battery – free. After all the battery had a 6 year warranty and was only 10 months old.

The whole battery situation was rather irritating. If Dad had told me right away that they receipt was in the van I could have saved my friends several days of having to get by without one of their vehicles.

Eventually we all met back together in Cheyenne. My oldest daughter and I were both tired and looking for a day to just relax. My dear wife was ready to go home. She had spent the week at our cabin trying to insulate our youngest children from the influence of my sister’s children. Three of my nieces and nephews along with their boyfriends and just friends were at the cabin also. Apparently my nieces and nephews have all decided to become underage alcoholics. According to my dear wife they would start drinking beer around 11 AM and move onto the harder stuff as it got dark. Their evenings were spent playing drinking games and reading Playboy magazines to each other. (note: these kids range from 19 to 21 years old) My wife tried several times to point out that they were setting a horrible example for their 10 year old cousins. They were unfazed by her objections and just continued on as though my family wasnt there. Unfortunately my one sister who was there at the cabin also didn’t care and in several instances aided them with their drinking by passed the beer to them while they were up on the roof.

So we learned a lot of lessons from this trip. My oldest daughter learned that she needs to be careful how she tries to pancake dig a volleyball so that she doesn’t re-injure her left shoulder. I learned where my Dad hides the receipts in his van. My twins learned that their older cousins are not to be trusted or looked up to or admired in any way. My dear wife and I learned that in the future we will not be taking any vacations where my sisters or their children will be involved in any way shape or form. Also in the future we will be planning our vacations so that we do not have to depend on Dad’s cars for transportation.

All in all it was an ok vacation, except for the part of having to deal with my drunken relatives. I am pretty much in shock at this behavior. I thought most of my generation had learned that we are related on both sides of the family to several generations of alcoholics. Unfortunately my sisters seemed to have forgotten to teach that to their children and they seem bent or resurrecting the family curse.

Finally our trip home was uneventful. Dad dropped us off at the Denver Airport. We got into the enormously long security line which spilled out of the normal security area and wrapped about half way around the baggage claim area. But the line moved right along and we were in it only about 25 minutes. We had one minor event when a large, really large, enormous lady with a cart full of suitcase cut the line in front of us. I would have complained, but watching her trying to steer her cart full suitcases through the winding velvet ropes was very entertaining. Especially the part where she got all the way up to the front of the line and was pulled out of line by security because her bags were to numerous and way to large to be carry-ons.

We landed in Vegas about on time, recovered out bags without incident, got our car out of hock in the parking lot and headed for home at about 11:45 PM. I stopped in Jean NV to top off the gas tank and get something caffeinated to drink. This is when we noticed that the Nevada Landing Casino appeared to be closed. When I asked the clerk at the gas station why the lights were on next door but the parking lots empty she told me that MGM who owns the property is going to tear down the casino and build houses there. I guess selling houses is more profitable than having people walk into your place of business and just handing you money.

We arrived home at 3:30 AM to find the house still standing. Thank you to my in-laws who had stopped by during the day and turned the cooler on high, put some cereal in the cupboard and some milk in the frig. We also found the new Harry Potter book waiting for us. We hadn’t decided who was going to get to read it first up until this point. But since everyone else was tired and going to bed and I needed a couple hours to decaffeinate before I could go to sleep I got to read it first. So I did.

Tour de France Stage 16 - 17

I don't have much to say about yesterday's bicycle race. However what happened after the race is big news. Yesterday after winning his second stage in this year's tour Danish Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen who was leading the Tour by just over 3 minutes was pulled from the race by his team.

At this time it is hard to know what Michael Rasmussen's status really is. Is he still a member of the Rabobank team? The media keeps using words like "sacked" and "kicked out." But it is not clear whether he has been fired from the team, or just pulled from the race. But the important thing is that the race started today without a yellow jersey holder.

So why did Rabobank take this drastic step? Rabobank claims that Rasmussen told them he was with his wife in Mexico in June while he has been reported as being seen in Italy.

"Rabobank is shocked and enormously disappointed that Rasmussen has lied about his whereabouts,"
the team said.

Rasmussen denied being in Italy.

"I am shattered," Rasmussen told Danish tabloid BT. "I am on the verge of tears. I was not in Italy. Not at all. That's the story of one man who believes he recognized me. There is no hint of evidence."

I really have to respect the Rabobank team for taking this step. But what I really don't understand is the reactions of the race commentators. Al Trautwig, Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget when this mornings broadcast started were crucifying Rasmussen for being caught up in the doping scandals. All they talked about for several minutes was Rasmussen and doping. Yet, no one has officially accused Rasmussen of doping. He has not failed any of the 17 drug tests that he was subjected to so far in this year's race. Rabobank claims that Rasmussen was removed from the Tour for violating internal team policies.

Each cyclist is required to report where they are training before the tour and Rasmussen apparently didn't do this. But to automatically assume that he was doping is ridiculous, at least this early in the whole situation.

So I am pleased to see Rabobank take this drastic step to send a message to all their riders that they must follow all the rules. But I am very disappointed in the four race commentators that they were so quick to jump on the doping bandwagon and start convicting Rasmussen of doing something that so far, no one has accused him of doing. I am also disappointed in the race officials. The race continues today without a yellow jersey on the road. The did not make Alberto Contador put on the jersey when the race started. Contador, to his credit has been reported as saying that he didn't want to wear yellow today. Most cyclists will not want to inherit the leaders jersey because of a rider crashing, abandoning, or being pulled from the race. But several years ago, when David Zabriski crashed while wearing the yellow jersey he was left laying beside the road by his team and as a result lost his yellow jersey to Lance Armstrong. The next day Armstrong reported for the race without the yellow jersey claiming that he didn't win it the day before, but had inherited it when Zabriski crashed. At this point the race officials told Armstrong that if he didn't wear the yellow that day he would be disqualified from the tour. Funny how things change if you aren't an American rider. Armstrong tries to be a good sport and he is threatened with disqualification. But when a Spanish rider does the same thing, he is allowed to be a good sport.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Home from Vacation

We have arrived safely home from our vacation. It is about 3:30 in the morning and I am heavily caffeinated from the drive home. So it will be a couple hours before I will be able to go to sleep. Fortunately the new Harry Potter book is waiting for us here. Since my dear wife and oldest daughter and I all want to read it first I guess I get first dibs since the rest of them are all going to bed.

I'll write a bit about our vacation that did not go without incident when I get this book done. I'm afraid that if my dear wife and daughter catch me doing anything but finishing this book so they can have their turn they will string me up. At least that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


There will not be any blogging going on here for about 12 days.

I am driving five high school girls down to a volleyball camp in Lancaster. This is the fourth day of this camp. Other parents drove the first three days.

I don't expect to get home until around 9 PM this evening.

Tomorrow morning the family is heading for Wyoming. My dear wife and the twins will be going with my Dad to our cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My oldest daughter and I will be headed for Laramie where she will be working in a volleyball camp for 6 days.

I'm not taking my laptop with me this year. I decided to have a computer free vacation.

I'll get back to you when we get home again.

Monday, July 09, 2007

2007 Tour de France Stage 1 and 2

The 2007 Tour de France started on Saturday with a short time trial prologue. The prologue usually is just an introduction to the tour and a chance to start the Tour with a rider in the yellow jersey.

Day one was a day for the sprinters, a 125 mile run from London to Canterbury. Oh, did I forget to mention that this year's Tour de France started in England?

The first stage was won by Australian Robbie McEwen. I have never been a fan of sprinter Robbie McEwen. No particular reason why, I just find myself rooting for whoever he is racing against. However my dislike for him has not stopped him from becoming one of the top sprinters in professional cycling.

But Sunday's performance had me sitting in my chair cheering for Robbie McEwen. About 5 miles from the end of the race Robbie was in a crash in the peloton. He suffered a minor injury to his wrist, which can be critical to a sprinter. Power sprints at the end of a race require a lot of pulling on the handlebars. Robbie's team dropped three other riders back to help him catch up with the peloton. Since the peloton was running fast with all the other sprinter's teams positioning their guys for a win Robbies "mini-train" had their hands full trying to get back into the pack.

With 2 miles to the finish Robbie and his escorts finally caught up with the rear end of the peloton. Now all Robbie had to do was work his way through 180 other riders to get near the front and position himself for a sprint to the finish. With the peloton traveling at about 30 mph McEwen had about 4 minutes to accomplish this almost impossible feat.

With about 200 yards to the finish the lead-out men started peeling off and the race was turned over to the sprinters. Suddenly out of the pack came Robbie McEwen. Robbie shot past the leaders and cruised to an almost easy looking victory. Not even Lance Armstrong ever crashed in the last five miles of a race then blew past the entire peloton to blow his competition away for a stage win. Robbie Mcewen's final 5 miles of this race was truly one for the record books.

Today, day 2. The Tour rode from Dunkerque to Gand Belgium. This was another day for the sprinters. Belgium rider Tom Boonen had his eye on this stage as a chance to win a stage in his home country. Unfortunately for Boonen, Australian native Robbie McEwen lives in the part of Belgium also.

The day played out like most standard sprint stages. A long breakaway of three riders that is caught by the peloton with less than 10 KM to ride. As the pack was readying for the final sprint there was a pile up in the front of the peloton that blocked the road and separated the front 20 riders from the rest of the peloton.

This situation played right into Tom Boonen's hands. Suddenly he found himself with 4 of his Quickstep riders as leadout men and most of his major competition piled up or trapped on the road behind him.

So the Quickstep boys accelerated to the finish line each man peeled off as he ran out of steam until there was just Tom Boonen being led by his number one leadout man - fellow Belgium Gert Steegmans. Steegmans main job is to accelerate the pace of the race right up to the end and then let Tom Boonen shoot around him to win the race. Today it worked like clock work, except for one thing. Gert Steegmans didn't run out of steam, Tom Boonen didn't shoot around him to win the stage. Instead, Steegmans then Boonen shot across the finish line for a 1-2 Belgium/Quickstep finish in their home country.

Boonen didn't seem too bothered by this turn of events as he celebrated with his fellow countryman.

Tomorrow is day three, I can hardly wait.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

R.I.P. Fred Saberhagen

I'm still trying to catch up with what has gone on in the world this last week. I just saw that Fred Saberhagen passed away last week.

Mr. Saberhagen was one of my favorite Sci-fi authors. His Beserker Series was some of the earliest hard Sci-Fi that I read. In later years I discovered his Dracula Series. I first noticed The Dracula Tape in the college book store when during a period where I couldn't buy new books. I could not afford them. If it didn't come from a used book store or the library I couldn't afford it. Then my Godmother, bless her soul, sent me a birthday card with three dollars in it. I spent that three dollars on that brand new paperback book. The story was a retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula but told from the point of view of Count Dracula. I was immediately hooked on the series.

In 1998 Fred started publishing his Books of the Gods. I truly regret that I will never know how Fred intended to end the story he started in his last book in this series, Gods of Fire and Thunder.

I never met Fred Saberhagen, but I have spent hundreds of hours with his books. He was a favorite part of my life that I will truly miss. I guess I will have to start re-reading all his books now.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July

American Flag

Happy Fourth of July

The flags are up outside, the pork roast is in the smoker and I got smoked sausages, hotdogs and hamburgers ready to grill. The potato salad and fruit salad are in the frig.

We usually spend our 4th of July hanging out with family and friends. We visit, watch movies, eat and generally enjoy ourselves. Once it gets dark we slice up the watermelon and move out to the driveway to set off all our wimpy California legal fireworks in the cul-de-sac.

This year the attendance was down a bit. We just had a few friends over. In past years we have had as many as 25 folks over. This year we had to settle for only 7.

My oldest daughter had a friend over. It was kind of nice. I remember hanging out with my friends during all the holidays when I was her age. We always had fun together, so I like seeing her get the chance to share her holiday traditions with her friends.


Update we just finished our fireworks and had a pretty good turnout. The first few years we would have 5 to 7 families out sitting in their driveways shooting off fireworks in the cul-de-sac. But that only lasted a couple years. Slowly the other families all moved, stopped doing fireworks or just didn't bother. For the last five years it has been just us out there. This year we had three families out there. Hopefully we can get this neighborhood tradition started back up again.