Thursday, September 30, 2010

"The mushrooms that bloom in the fall"

..."Tra La". With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan (and Nanki-Poo and Ko-Ko who sing this song in The Mikado), for taking the title of their song and modifying it to use as the title for this post. I'm not talking about flowers today. It's mushrooms that are "blooming" around here. The mushrooms in the top picture at the right looked like they were covered in velvet. The second picture is hardly even recognizable as mushrooms.

I am seeing an amazing number and variety of mushrooms lately on my walks in the woods. I've shown pictures of mushrooms before but I've never seen like what I've seen over the last few days. The interesting thing to me is that it hasn't been that damp. In fact, it has been pretty dry. We've gotten a good rain once in a while (and we're due for a big one today).

Because I'm having trouble with Blogger uploading my pictures, that's going to be it for today. I'll try to put the rest on tomorrow. Is anyone else having trouble with "server errors" when they try to upload pictures to their Blogger account? I started this blog early in the day and it took me until 9 PM to be able to get just these two pictures loaded.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Those dangerous Irish Tenors

I was shocked to see a headline yesterday on my Google page that pointed to a story on the BBC news site proclaiming that the British were increasing the level of the threat from Irish tenors! Wow. Being a bass myself, I was always a little envious of the publicity tenors always got. You never heard about the Three Basses traveling the world doing concerts. All the lead singers or soloists seemed to be tenors or baritones. What about Freddie Mercury (lead singer for Queen for all those years) and Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin fame)? Bing Crosby had a pretty deep voice but he was a baritone. Michael Jackson sure wasn't a bass!

Johnny Cash and that guy who sings with the Oak Ridge Boys were the only famous basses I could think of and I couldn't even remember the name of the "that guy" in the Oak Ridge Boys! Oh yeah, the folk singer Gordon Bok (from Maine) is a bass, too. But that's it. Well ... George Beverly Shea (of Billy Graham Crusade fame) is listed as a bass-baritone. So even if he was a bass, he was trying to get some of that higher voice recognition by bringing the baritone label in.

So, being a little mistrustful of those tenors with all the girls chasing after them (my wife is a big fan of Mario Lanza and Tom Jones - you guessed it - TENORS), I was ready to believe that the British were worried about the threat from tenors. Then I looked more closely at the text (in the image above to the right) and realized that the font Google used made "rr" look a lot like "n". So, it isn't the Irish "tenor" threat that has been raised in Britain. It's the Irish "terror" threat. I guess that makes more sense. But I'm still not sure about those guys who can sing so high. Something's going on there I can't quite get. And why do the girls like them so much?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Better news about bad news

As I've mentioned before in this post and this post, my wife and my mother-in-law both have breast cancer. They are both in the very early stages and both have had operations (two operations in my wife's case) and have come through them well. My mother-in-law got the relatively good news last Friday that no traces of cancer were found in the lymph nodes they removed nor was any found in the outer areas of the lump they removed. Now, yesterday, we got word that no more cancer was found in the tissue removed in my wife's second operation. So, we thank God for this answered prayer and look forward with hope to the future.

They still need to meet with a radiologist and an oncologist to decide what their treatment will be like and how long it will go. But we are happy that no further operations will be needed. We couldn't ask for better news at this point in the journey.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The other side of the mug

I'm not sure if anyone is interested in this but after my post about breaking my tea/coffee mug, I thought maybe people would be interested in seeing the other side of the mug. So, here, at the right, is a picture of the cracked mug. As you can see, we like cats in our house. We like dogs, too. The other mug that I broke recently had a dog on it. I don't have a picture of that because it had much more damage and I just threw it away. It had a picture of a Basset Hound on it because our dog Charlie is half Basset and half Black Labrador Retriever. A really nice mix.

I also mentioned how nice it was that our blue speckled Corian® countertops blended in with the white Corian of the sink. The picture on the left shows that. It's not easy to see from a picture and you certainly can't feel how nice the material is. It almost has the warm feel of polished wood. It's very nice to work on. No, I don't work for them and I don't sell their product. I'm just a happy customer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In praise of Corian®

I have a bad habit. It's not bad because I do it. It's bad because of the way I do it. After I finish whatever I'm drinking in my cup, I clean it. That's the good part. I rinse it under the faucet and then (here comes the bad part) I shake the water out of it before I wipe it off with a towel. I shake the cup over the sink and if I don't pay attention, the cup can hit the sink. The picture to the right shows the second of the cups I've cracked this way. The sink is fine!

Both cups I've ruined were gifts - this one was from my son. That makes it even worse. I really like this cup and I continue to use it but it's just a matter of time until I can no longer use it anymore. As I wrote that, I realized that every cup is like that. Eventually, I'll break or lose every cup I like (you can keep cups forever if you don't use them). It may take a long time like the mug I dropped at work. That mug just shattered and I couldn't use it anymore but this one is hanging on. Seeing the crack will remind me to take better care of it whenever I clean it.

This reminds me of the time I was talking with a guy who, as we talked, mentioned that he was dying. I said I was sorry and he said not to make too much out of it. "You're dying, too," he said. "We're all dying. We've all got a limited time to live." It turned out he didn't have a disease or anything wrong with him. He was just trying to live his life with the realization that his time was precious and he should not waste it. He didn't want to be morose about it. He turned it into a positive motivator. I try to do that but it's too easy to get bogged down in the everyday things of life.

Anyway, this post wasn't supposed to be about that. I wanted to mention how tough our countertops and sink are. They are made of Corian. It's a synthetic material that is solid (not just a veneer over wood) and really looks nice. We had the option of getting Corian, granite or Formica. Granite is tough, too, but you have to seal it and we knew we'd not keep up with that. Corian not only looks nice but it feels good, too. It doesn't have the hard, cold feel of other countertop materials. Another nice feature is how pieces of it blend together. Our countertops blend right into our sink with no gaps or cracks where water can leak. It's all one smooth surface.

I was going to say that Corian's one bad feature is that it is a cup killer but that's wrong. I'm the cup killer. And now my cup has a crack that will remind me to take better care of it. Maybe I'll learn to do that for everything I own and everyone I know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Electronics catalogs

You'd expect electronics parts suppliers would be a little better at using modern technology than other companies. Also, I'd expect them to be more environmentally concerned since there are so many restrictions on the type of materials that can be used in electronics. Yet I still get catalogs like these in the mail. I haven't been involved in designing hardware (the actual electronic parts) for years now but companies keep sending me these catalogs. In a sense, they are obsolete as soon as they are sent. Things change so quickly in electronics that there are always changes that can't be reflected in a catalog. I end up recycling these when I get them. They are fun to page through once in a while but if I was really looking for parts, I'd go to the website of either the parts suppliers or the original manufacturer of the part.

It's not as if these two companies don't have websites. You can go to the websites of  Newark Electronics or Digi-Key Corporation and browse their catalogs just as you would the paper editions. Or you can search for specific components or types of components. You can't do that with the paper catalog. The problem isn't just that they send the catalogs when there are better alternatives. Look at the picture on the left. These catalogs are huge! They are both almost three inches thick!

Everyone doesn't have access to the Internet (although it would be a pretty poor electronics manufacturer that didn't). So, why don't they just make these catalogs available upon request? That would limit the waste of paper, time and money.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The joy of taking back roads to work

One of the joys of riding my scooter to work has been that I take back roads to work. My scooter will only go up to 50 miles per hour and that isn't fast enough to take four-lane highways for too long. So, the back roads are a compromise but also fun. And going the back way only adds about 5 minutes to my commute each way. Being "forced" to use the back roads has increased the enjoyment of my ride - until now.

School started this week. As I made the turn onto one of the longer parts of my ride, I found myself behind a school bus. Not only did it stop often, it seemed to take forever for the bus to start up again and then slowly accelerated until it was time to stop again. And it didn't turn off until we reached the town line. A section of road that normally took me about 5 minutes to ride took about 15 minutes! It seems like the school district could have either split the route between two buses (I'll admit that's inefficient) or the driver could have pulled over once or twice to let cars go around. It's hard to complain because I'm new to this section of road (at least at this time of day). This has probably been going on for years and, apparently, no one else is making a fuss about it. And the argument against me would be, "So what if you're 10 minutes late to work! Just leave earlier." They'll say this is an important task and any changes would just cost the school district money or safety.

Another argument would be that my children probably cause the same problem to other drivers when they take the bus. Well, that argument doesn't work because my wife home schools our children. When they wake up in the morning, they're at school. Maybe I should take the kids out near the road every morning and stop traffic for 10 minutes while we walk back a forth a few times. How long would that be allowed to go on?

Well, today I found a better way to solve the problem. I found a side road that allows me to bypass a large part of the road that the bus uses. I did get stuck behind the bus for one stop but then we reached the turn-off and I rode a parallel road and came out on the original road well ahead of the school bus. So, as long as the timing stays about the same, I think I've got this problem solved even if it adds a few more minutes to my commute.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Bad news about bad news

We found out on Friday, after the lab examined the lump that was removed in the operation on August 30, that the surgeon needs to operate again and take more out. This is very sad news and has us all down in the dumps. But we are renewed in our determination to pray about this and to hope for the best. The prognosis is still excellent but we had hoped the operation last week was going to be the end of it. Now, Cindy is faced with another operation and radiation treatments that could last into December.

We would appreciate your prayers. Thank you.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Good bye to Tropical Storm Earl

We were fortunate. The storm that was Hurricane Earl lost a lot of its punch by the time it got close to us. When it finally started affecting us it was downgraded to a tropical storm with sustained winds less than 74 miles per hour. And that was at the center of the storm. Where we are, about 140 miles from the center, it wasn't as bad as a lot of unnamed storms that we get from time to time. I don't want to come across as an "I've seen it all" New Englander. It could have been a lot worse.

I am very glad that the people in charge took this storm seriously and put restrictions on where we could go and what we could do. Also, I'm glad they put emergency procedures into action. There are a lot of people who complain that it was all for nothing. "Why did they tell us we couldn't go to the shore? Why did they waste money by calling up the National Guard and opening emergency shelters?" And from the tourist businesses here, "Why did they scare away all the tourists?"

My answer is, "Because of what could have happened." Tropical storms and hurricanes always lose a lot of their strength when they get into the colder waters here. The National Weather Service and the Coast Guard know this. The idiots who spout off about the "waste of time and money" aren't the only ones who know this. What the National Weather Service and Coast Guard know that the idiots don't is that up until the last 10 - 12 hours, conditions could have changed and Earl could have been a disaster.

Another way to think about it was that this was good practice. Getting the emergency shelters going and calling out the Guard and getting local emergency workers ready is something you have to do from time to time anyway so you can test your procedures. You don't wait until the time of emergency to come up with plans and try them. And, of course, people act differently when it is a drill from how they act when it is a real emergency. And the dedicated people who help out in emergencies are nice enough to help even the idiots when they need help.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Waiting for Hurricane Earl

It looked at first like this might be a major storm and we might be hit directly but now Earl is seeming less threatening. We're still not letting out our breath but it looks like we're going to just get a lot of rain. The image to the right (from this site at NOAA's National Hurricane Center) shows Earl moving more to the East and beginning to lose its punch as it gets into cooler, northern water.

It was announced at lunch that our office will be closing early today. Even with the weakening storm, I think this is a smart thing to do. Hurricanes, by their nature, are unpredictable. I'll be glad to get home before the hard rain hits. Wouldn't it be interesting if we found out later that God had originally planned for this to be a devastating storm but that a large number of people prayed about it causing Him to lessen the storm because of their prayers? It would make a good story anyway.

I just hope we don't lose power tonight.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Good news about bad news

The bad news is that my wife, Cindy, has been told she has breast cancer. The good news is that it is in a very early stage, is confined to the milk duct and is tiny. More good news is that she had a lumpectomy on Monday (August 31) and there were no surprises. We still need to wait for the report from the lab on what they found.

She has recovered quickly from the operation (no overnight stay) and the worst thing seems to be the headache she has. We have no word yet on any treatments that may need to be done. That's all to be found out.

We got more bad news last week, though. In a strange coincidence, my mother-in-law (Cindy's mom, that is) has also just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her cancer is also very small and was detected early but it is further along than Cindy's cancer. Mom's operation will be later this month.

I'll be writing more about this as we find out more information. This is such a hard thing to hear but it is so encouraging to see the reactions of our doctors, their staff, our friends and family. Everyone jumped in to handle this quickly and we've been showered with love and prayers. Cindy's successful operation was an answer to prayer and we are certain to see more. The bottom line is - in spite of some medical professionals' saying women younger than 50 don't need mammograms as often - make sure your wife, mother, daughters and female friends have a mammogram every year when they reach 40 years old. It can save their life.