Monday, July 5, 2010

Earl's trip to Utah

Here is Levi, all tricked out with his borrowed bicycle.
For a movie clip showing the uninvited guest - wind! - see the end of this post.

Dad and Jim converse while the dance starts out slowly.

Charlie accompanied the dance music on his keyboard.

Joe's dog. It is black, white, and tan - making him a calico dog.

Dad recently received a medal for his WWII combat efforts. It was awarded by the governments of the islands of the Pacific.

My camera ran out of battery juice just in time for the parade, but a good time was had by one and all.

Afterward, we had lunch in the Capital park.

I managed to catch Angela and Mark being a couple in the dungeons of the Fillmore Statehouse.

Elizabeth and family live out at the farm and they used farmer's assets to make the World's best water slide! There was a carpeted walkway to the top, where an irrigation pump provided huge amounts of water to assist sliders going down the plastic slide.

We sure have a bunch of cousins! I couldn't get them all into one photo.

Mark wanted to see the lava tubes, which Logan had seen with me and Sam Allred a couple of years ago. This photo shows the kids about to climb down into the biggest tube, which is about 30' high.

In one of the smaller tubes, Logan is looking out at the camera. He was on his hands and knees at the time.

Jesse is crawling into the small tube.

And believe it or not, that is Logan's finger sticking out of solid lava rock from that small tube.

This is the kids going inside the tube.

I tried to take photos of us in a large intact-ceiling lava tube, but the dust kicked up by our footfalls reflected the flash so badly that it was hard to see what was going on. This one was about 15' high. As is often the case, the floor slowly rises as you go deeper into the tube. They rarely drain out completely, so some lava cools and solidifies at the end of the tube, making the floor 'rise'.

Mark helping Jesse over jumbled, broken lava rock on the way into the tube.

Logan wanted to sit in the cubby he is reaching for. In the end, he gave up on the idea. We did see two great-horned owls fly out of a hole very near there when we first approached the sink hole.

Here I am clawing my way out of the hole.

The kids wanted a photo of them standing on unsupported rock. A few minutes later, we drove the van over it.

We got to the fairgrounds just in time for the fireworks, which are spectacular for a little town like Fillmore.

And here is the promised video of the wind during the kid's parade.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Battlefield promotion

About the term: In time of war, people in command positions from corporal up to and including generals are lost via WIA, MIA and KIA. You can't tolerate vacancies in a command structure so the best available person gets promoted to fill vacancies on the spot. Sometimes in intense battles, positions like platoon leader may change hands several times in a single day (albeit a very bad day).

But what about at the census?
It turns out that the census has adopted the same procedure in case people go missing for any reason. Last Thursday morning I reported for work at 7:30 am for a nice relaxing day at the office. At about 8:00 am our new AMA (Asst. Manager for Admin.), Vasantha, called me aside where nobody else could hear us and asked me if I'd like to become an OOS (Office Operations Supervisor). I told her no. She stepped back a quarter step then told me that they needed a night-time OOS, probably as soon as the next week and they really need me. I hemmed and hawed and finally caved in. Then I went back to work.
Let me step aside for a moment and tell you a wee bit about our night-time OOS extant. She was a very nice oriental woman of 30 something who is super quick on the keyboard, very knowledgeable about the census systems, and who has worked as an admin at the census for at least a year. She is also a single Mom who doesn't really like working nights, but couldn't work days because she has a home and child to operate. She had some issues with Vasantha, but I don't know what they were.
So back to last Thursday. I got the news at about 8:00 but it was a week away. No worries. Vasantha pulled me aside again at 8:20. She said they really needed an OOS right away and how late could I stay that night? We dickered a bit and I agreed to work until 10:00 pm. YaHOO! Overtime. And I got a battlefield promotion that very morning. My promotion was processed and official by 11:00. I got new computer permissions by noon. I got building access codes by 3:00, and I got congratulations from all kinds of people, high and low, in all the various departments. Many people were very kind in the things they said.
But what about the previous OOS, you ask. Her status changed even quicker than mine. She was going to stay in Admin as a regular worker - then she was going to work in Field Ops (in the room next to ours) - then she was going to transfer to QC at the other end of the building. She came by and picked up her few personal items after a while and then she was gone. I don't know if she'll be back or not. I spoke to her briefly - we are friends - but she was too emotional to say anything. It all happened so fast I felt kind of disoriented.
FYI, I did not take over the old OOS's desk. It feels kind of haunted or something, so I took over another one.

What does this mean for me? MORE MONEY!! Oh yeah, and more responsibility. It's not really that hard, but I have to keep an eye on things and people constantly ask me what they should do next. I'm not very good at telling other people what to do, but I'm trying. I'm still mostly doing what I was doing before: hiring, firing, and processing time cards. In the end, the job will only last another month or two, so why worry? I will work 2:30 - 11:00pm weekdays, Wed. off, and half days Sat. and Sun.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day update

Well, the bishop took the chocolate bar shrinkage in hand this year. I bought 88 bars and there are only about 65 women normally in attendance. In the past, the bishop has sent the young men to retrive and distribute the bars. This year the bishop posted his councilors over the box of bars, which was right up there on the stand all during Sacrament meeting, and had them hand them to the young men for distribution right up there in sight of everyone. Amazingly, we had about 20 chocolate bars left over. Imagine that.

Now home teachers are being commissioned to pass the remainder out to women who can't or don't attend Sacrament meeting. The young men will do fine, and the mothers will do better.
I like this.

I hate to really take any credit, but I've noticed over the past 10 years or so that other wards in our stake are no longer passing out carnations and are passing out chocolate, instead. Yes, ladies, you are very welcome.
Even better, last year, for the first time, the Relief Society decided to get big chocolate bars for the men on Father's Day. Well, that's more like it! I used to indulge in a little good-natured, friendly, whining when the father's Day treat was one, single, no bigger than it needs to be chocolate chip cookie. I mean, where could the women find the time to go all out like that? Heck, Hershey's has plenty of chocolate bars all ready to go and it's no trouble at all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Recently, my brother, Charles, pointed out that Mother's Day was started by a peace activist named Julia Ward Howe. She wanted it to be Mother's standing up to stop war (the Civil War in this case), but she failed to get it going because she kept getting distracted by her other social reform activities and lost focus on Mother's Day. The idea hung around, though, and years later Anna Jarvis, who also had anti-war feelings, pushed it as a day when Mother's would perform service as a way of honoring their mothers. After she pushed the day through Congress and really got it going she fell into fits of depression over its commercialization. I don't know how she felt about it when Woodrow Wilson, as he made it official, encouraged mothers whose sons had died in WWI to put a flag in their windows in their honor. He saw it as a day when Mothers would honor their war dead, hardly an anti-war event. But now we get it as a day to buy, Buy, BUY something for momma. Cards, flowers, diamonds, pottery, cars, Ipods and everything else. "If you LOVE your momma, you just HAVE to buy her my [insert name of cheap, overpriced merchandise] to show her your undying love!"

Our ward used to present a single carnation to the women in our ward on Mother's Day. That was nice - carnations have come to symbolize Mothers. I have to admit that it was me that changed it for our ward. I was assigned to buy the flowers one year and it just seemed a little small to get one single flower. So I asked if I could get something a little better and I was given a budget. I bought 4-5 oz. (quarter-pound) chocolate bars for all the mothers, and I noticed that they were well received. Very well received! Every year since I've purchased more chocolate bars and all our women are fat, happy, and well honored. This year, though, I was working overtime on the census and I just didn't see how I could go around buying chocolate bars (it usually takes several stops to get enough of the big bars). So I stopped by Sam's Club and bought boxes of "Jumbo" size Hershey bars, which are only about 2.5 ounces. When I got them home, I was informed by a woman in our ward that those little bars just wouldn't do. I'd raised the bar and it would not be well received to lower it again. New, bigger, bars were purchased and Saturday morning I stopped at Sam's to return the little Jumbo Hershey bars. Yes, the tradition continues. Today, all our women will feel the warmth of our love melting like chocolate on their tongues.

BTW, we usually have the young men pass the bars to the women at the conclusion of sacrament meeting. For some reason we have to get quite a few more choc. bars than there are women in our ward. I suspect the boys feel our love melting on their tongues, too.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there! And may this day be like chocolate for you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Old photos - Families can be together

This was Mom and Dad's place in Brawley. Dad's folks came over and we got them to pose with us and the boys. My Grandmother had alzheimer's and I think it was setting in pretty hard at this time.

I think this is in Washington. Or Oregon?

Liz with Mica and Grandpa Benac.
Liz is holding a bowl of peaches. Grandpa usually made me trim his hedges to earn my keep, but Mica showered us with food. She'd cook two chickens to go with all the other stuff, not eat any herself, and insist we take it all with us when we left.

Cutting a christmas tree on the Olympic Penninsula. I loved going over there.

Look at all the hair on that girl. I loved Liz in long hair, but I understand why she wants it shorter and less work.

Ruth adoring her mother and her kitty.

This one of my very favorite photos of Liz. She looked so dapper in her cub scout uniform, and the flowers and growth were one of the reasons we loved being in Washington. This location is Bainbridge Island.

Old photos - Who's that with Mom?

This is our 1 year anniversary. We were still in deep smitt.

Since these are all love shots, I thought I'd put in one of some nice trout I caught in Salem Lake, just down the hill from where we lived.

More smitt

This is when we were engaged. Liz's parents kept telling us how young we were. They were right, but we didn't care.

Seriously deep smitt!

At our wedding reception in Naperville, although I think this was actually taken at the house on West Road.

Old photos - Group shots

Who knows the dates on these?
Clearly the white one is older than the other.

These look like when we lived in Poulsbo.

This one is at Glen Rose, TX, at the state park where you can see dinosaur tracks in the creek bottom. Angela and Roscoe were visiting, and I think Joe was on his mission

This is my siblings and spouses and Dad beside Oleve's house in Fillmore.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring? What spring?

I will tell my story mostly with photos:

We have an evergreen, broadleaf bush growing outside Mom's kitchen window. It is big and it is behind the grey bush, behind the leafless bush. This is after the big snow a month or two ago. Snow slid down the roof and landed on the bush. It has been SO VERY wet this year that the ground is pretty much mush. My plan is to cut this bush to the ground and let it regrow in an upright position.

This is a before and after: Saturday morning - the first day of spring, and almost exactly 24 hours later on the 2nd day of spring..

10:00 pm Saturday:

There were a few flakes during the day, but it really started late.

Sunday morning

I paused to take photos - and was late for my first meeting at church. More amazing - I was the only one late for the meeting.

Liz took this one early in the morning, of the car across the street from us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Popcorn popping on the Bradford Pear Tree.

Here in TX we don't have so many apricot trees, but we have TONS of decorative pear trees. The builders like to put them in our yards because they grow quickly, are a beautiful shape and who cares if they break during every wind storm as long as it happens After the sale.

- segway -

Last week I got home early enough to take little Ginger with me on an errand to help out a friend. As we drove down the streets lined with pear trees in full bloom, I started singing "popcorn popping on the apricot tree". She doesn't like me to sing to her (which wounds my pride, but she usually gets what she wants) and told me to stop. But the trees were in full bloom. So I asked, "Do you see the popcorn trees?" as I pointed at one. It suddenly struck me that she had no idea what I was talking about and wasn't even looking at the right tree. So I stopped under one and pointed out the blossoms and explained how the blossoms look like popcorn, and when the song says, "a popcorn ball that smells so sweet" it's because the song is about the flowers. What a treat to see her eyes suddenly get large as she made the connection. We made the rest of the drive happily singing the song together and pointing out particularly outstanding examples to each other.

"Spring had brought me such a nice surprise,
Popcorn popping right before my eyes."

Sadly, a late winter storm is moving in today and snow is forecast. It means the popcorn season is over for this year.

It may also mean that the woodworker in the family will have an opportunity to harvest some freshly broken wood. Fruitwood is hard to come by commercially, but it's easy to get it in these parts. Milling it is difficult, but do-able with persistance, and the results are quite stunning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What to do when the honey gets hard

Last year I had a bumper crop of honey and many of my fam have some of the abundance. Trouble is, it is the first batch of Texas wildflower honey I've ever harvested that has a tendency to crystallize. When the sugar granulates like you can see in Angela's BLOG, the danger is that the water in the honey doesn't participate, so the honey on top is loosing sugar to crystals until it is watery enough to ferment. Yuck! So, what are you gonna do? (Asked in rising tones like Mark likes to do.)
I use my canner for this. I put as many jars as I can in the canner while the hot water is running in the sink. The point is to get water as hot as the water heater (usually 120 degrees or lower). I make sure each bottle has a ring, screwed down tight so water can't get into the jar. Then I fill the canner to about the top of the jars and cover it. I try not to inundate the jars. Then I go about my business for a half hour or so before returning to remove the jars, dump the now-cold water, replace the jars, refill with hot water, and re-cover. I repeat this cycle at least 4 times, or until the sugar crystals are melted.
Why take this complicated path? Simple. Honey looses flavor and micro-nutrients when heated above 110-120 degrees F. Commercial honey is routinely heated at or above this point, which is why it tastes flat, though still sweet. My honey tastes like blossoms and I like it that way! You can use a double boiler, but the risk of exceeding 110 degrees is too great. Soaking in hot tap water makes it nearly impossible to raise the honey temp above 110.
Of course, you can also stir the crystallized honey to distribute the thinner stuff throughout, which is an attractive alternative in some cases. Just remember that a little bit of fermentation will ruin the entire batch of honey, so get that thin stuff out of there! How do you know if there is fermentation? Bubbles and foam and pressure.