Thursday, January 29, 2015


When I touched it - the presidency of the family reunion organization - I made sounds like "I plan to get a lot of documents out on the web."  Understand that the "organization" consists of me.  Myself and I.

So it's Winter and that's a good time to work on computery sorts of things.  Understand that not only am I the totality of the reunion organization, but I'm also a Luddite.

First attempt - Facebook.  I have a personal Facebook site but I basically don't do anything fancy/pretty with it.  I just know how to comment. The family site needs to be more/different than a personal site.  My first few attempts at fumbling around without knowing what anything meant resulted in me curling up in a fetal position and whimpering for several days.  But now I have A Book that Explains Things.  I'm feeling better.  I also realized I hadn't really thought out what content I wanted to get up there and that's going to be controlled right now by what I actually have at hand.

In addition to a box of old photos, I have the Reunion ledger in which things like who attended, deaths, meeting minutes, etc. have been recorded since 1949.  I've been wanting to scan it for a couple years so that the record will be preserved for the future if something happens to the ledger itself.  The hitch being that my scanner can only scan up to 8 1/2 x 11 pages and the ledger pages are longer than 11 in.  And I'm not popping for a large format scanner.  Nor did I want to pay someone else to scan 212 pages.  Don't know what it would cost but I bet I wouldn't like the bill.

So a bit of research on the web and I find Microsoft Image Composite Editor.  It has the magic price tag - it's free.  Originally developed for use in editing and merging panoramic photos, it really doesn't care whether it's a panoramic photo or not.  It just runs some amazing algorithm and seamlessly merges 2 images at a time.  Yay!

Its a slow process.  I have  And I have to do 2 scans per page.  Then I have to run the 2 images through Composite Editor.  I also have to stop occasionally and do research on obituaries attached to pages.   Minutes and notes were not originally entered into the ledger and so I don't have lists of those who have died between reunions.  Just old newspaper clips.  Unfortunately, those clips aren't necessarily clipped between the correct years and none of them were dated.  Thank goodness for WV vital records and Find a Grave online.  And just enough info to be gleaned from sites like that I can figure some things out.

Sandra Ann Whetsell, 1942 - 1950

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Oh, Jeez, Brain Bleach!

Over at Creative Minority Report there's a reflection by the blogger, a participant in this year's March for Life, on the fact that the media doesn't find a gathering of 200,000 people of all races, ages, and creeds marching peacefully to protest abortion worthy of reporting.  Well, he's been at it less time than me - it's normal.  And it won't get any better because one thing that is developing and showing up at the March that probably scares the pants off them is the steady swing of the young people of America to opposition to abortion.  They get it - they could be dead for any reason, and they have a peculiar concept that they themselves should have a say in that but would not if they were sucked into a bucket and disposed of.

But I digress.

One of the things he lists as something that the media would cover if 200,000 participants showed up would be "200,000 topless women protesters who nobody actually wants to see topless ranting about the pope or some patriarchal symbol. (Mass coverage and probably a reality show on Bravo.)"

Obviously he remembers the recent demonstration by four (count 'em, FOUR) topless women who somehow thought that their boobs hanging out as they screamed nonsense would be Significant to Catholic theology.  Kinda like the hashtag thing. And my thought was "Ew!  Most people who insist on being naked in public are the very people who shouldn't be!"  Remember David Niven at the Oscars the year a streaker ran across the stage? 

Yeah. Nudists and guys who wear those skimpy, tight European swim trunks.  Some people are entirely too comfortable with their bodies.

But he put me in mind of my first trip to San Diego years ago.  I hadn't been traveling regularly for the gummit so I didn't take the time to research the area.  Also, it may have been before TripAdvisor and such.   But, anyway, I wanted to find a park, a green space, to walk in.  I particularly wanted to walk near the Pacific.  I took my San Diego map to the nice little old lady at the information kiosk and pointed to a green blob in the La Jolla area and asked if it was a good place for a walk.  She said it was.  So off I went, braving S. California evening traffic.  I have to say, the traffic there never bothered me.  I've spent my life driving in the D.C. metro area.  As Will Rogers once said, "How can you call it traffic when it ceases to move?"  Traffic not moving on the west coast is the same as traffic not moving here.

In retrospect, I should have gotten more detail about the area.  I'm pretty sure she thought I was pointing at Torrey Pines State Park. I was not clear on where I was pointing.  But I finally found a parking lot at what appeared to be a glider plane airport.  And I could see that people were coming up from the beach there.  There was a trail down the cliffs.  Ah!  Exactly what I was looking for!  So I started working my way down.

This was before I went into total slob mode in my dress code.  I refused to wear a dress, had refused for years, both because I'm not comfortable in them and because society says I should wear them and I'm contrary.  But I had nice khakis and a nice blouse on.  And I'm a birder.  So I had my trusty Peterson guide and my little pair of binoculars with me.

The cliffs there are steep and eroded and I worked my way carefully down, not paying attention to anything but my feet.  The trail finally let out on the beach, and I, in complete oblivion, walked to the water's edge and started scanning the horizon with my binoculars, looking for new entries for my birding life list.  I worked slowly along the beach.  Volleyball players, sunbathers, and beachcombers lined it.  And something started niggling at me.  Something was...different.  I was very engrossed in looking for new birds, but finally I looked up.  It took a moment for it to click but then it came to me - "These people are all naked..."

Ah, crud.  And most of them needed to be not naked.  Really.  There can be too much jiggle.  And an extremely hairy back is no more appealing when the extremely hairy rest of the person is displayed.  I mean, Sasquach, dude, put your pants on!  Swift collapse of little binoculars and they disappeared into a pants pocket.  And off I marched down the beach, looking for an area where there was nothing more startling than a species of bird I hadn't seen before. 

Apparently, I was at Black's Beach.  Apparently, everybody knew about Black's Beach except me.  There was much laughter at my expense when I told the tale later.  I added a lot of birds to my life list those first couple trips out there, but I made sure of the way to Torrey Pines State Park after that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I'm Beginning To Think...

... that maybe the solution to my dislike of Winter is simply to be out in it during the day doing fun stuff.  Like shooting.  Or walking.  Used to be that I'd have to be working during the daylight hours.

Had shelter duty last night and didn't get much sleep.  I'm not generally a napper, but I had to lay down for a bit after I got home this morning.  Woke up to a nice snow fall.  Went off for a walk in it.  It was lovely.  I was sorry when I saw the clouds breaking.

Some of the residents of this house appreciate Winter, because that's when I fire up the space heaters.  First we toast one side, then we toast another...

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Few Of My Favorite Things

At first, I was too busy to have a sense of being retired.  But now I’ve had a couple weeks without traveling or being sick, and this morning I was thinking that I definitely had a favorite thing about being retired:  I can cook a proper breakfast.  I’m not really a huge fan of cereal - pretty much everything but plain shredded wheat is too sweet to me.  I have a strong sweet tooth but there are some things that I don't like sweet.  Like iced tea and cereal.  Donuts and pastries are supposed to be sweet and are quite tasty, but are even worse than cereal for letting me be hungry an hour down the line.  Not to mention that I know what all of it them, even the stuff labeled "all natural" (a marketing flim-flam) does to the blood sugar/insulin levels.  These days my breakfast is usually the main meal of my day and it's full of vegetables and lovely things like polenta or beans, almost always an egg or two, and is finished with a piece of fruit. I love being able to give that first meal of the day it the attention it deserves.  

Then the phone rang, and Murphy’s Law asked if I’d like to go shooting today.  Heh.  And even if it hadn’t been a holiday, I could say “Sure!”

And, oh yeah, I went to the range yesterday, too.  Because my weekends are no longer sucked up with scrambling to get a ton of stuff done before work starts again on Monday. Heh.  ML had plumbing problems yesterday and couldn’t join us.  I suggested Metamucil or Imodium but apparently a new faucet was the solution.

Just before Thanksgiving, ML had a couple guns follow him home from a pawn shop.   One of them came home to live with me.  It's a nice little Savage Mark II, my first .22 rifle.  

 It's a very nice little gun to shoot, and I really like the bolt action.  Because my arms are short, I have to drop the butt of the gun a bit and reach to work the bolt.  This slows me up, which right now is a good thing.  It helps me to think about every shot, and not just ping away.   I managed to get it out just once in December, when I figured out that the sights were set way wrong for the distance I was shooting, but it went yesterday and today.  

Yesterday was a good rifle day for me, but I had it at 50 yards.   Can't see the blamed target to see how I'm shooting after that and I had forgotten my binoculars.  Today, not so good, probably because we were on the 100 yard range and it wasn't until the very end that I realized that I still had it set at 50.  The grouping... not so hot, even taking into account that I was hitting low.

The reason I forgot the binoculars was that everything from my gun bag had been dumped into several plastic grocery bags and I lost track of them.  The reason my gun bag is gone is that my SIL's cat pooped in it while I was in MI in December.  Said cat, who is so old that we call him Methuselah, is psychotic, but our relationship, which has been based on my having a strong sense of unease ever since he tore my arm up just for grins and giggles, had been improving.

Blasted cat has cost me both scars AND a gun bag now.

The M-1 carbine went out today, too.  For some reason, maybe just lack of practice, my shooting with it has gone down the toilet.  And, again, I couldn't see if I was hitting anything at 100 yards.  We went down to check our targets.  Grumble, grumble, not a single one on the target.  Then John pointed out something.

Oops!  I guess the grouping wasn't bad but I was shooting just a bit high with it.  Bet they love it there when we tear up stuff like that...  Then I wandered right with it, despite aiming left.  Fa.  But then, I'm retired.  I can go practice.  Heh.

John was good enough to let me try his DPMS G2 Recon .308.  Nice gun!  I was giving him a hard time because it was pinging pretty much every ejected shell off my head or shoulder, with a few simply arching over just right to drop between my arms as I held my own rifle.  But I learned a lesson from the Recon.  I don't have any guns with optics on them and have only used one a couple times.  Note to self:  do NOT put your eye too close to the scope when firing. Punched me right in the eye.  Darned lucky I didn't knock the lens out of my glasses.  My nose smarted.  But at least one tends to remember lessons like that and not repeat the mistake.

Pistol was better.  The Glock was, anyway.  I've been shooting like crap for a while and it worried me.  Trouble is, you get frustrated and that screws up your shooting.  Yesterday, I tossed some clays out on the berm in order to give a bit of variety.  Distance-wise the clays were further away than the targets, but I did much better with the clays than with the targets.  Except, of course, that one clay that refuses to break and just flips and flips and flips as you chase it around.  Today,  after I got the initial wandering looseness settled, I felt much better about it.

But I was, at one point, contemplating the fact that you can work so hard on it:  you make sure your stance is good, your grip on the pistol correct, your breathing right.  You feel like you've got everything perfect.  As you squeeze the trigger that sight is dead on the center of the target.  And the instant before the bang, after your body is already committed to firing, some muscle twitches and you send a flyer over in the white somewhere.  Dad-gummit!

It's a bit brisk here now, although not nearly the cold we suffered through last year.  Being out in it for several hours both days has been really nice.  I might even come to accept Winter at this rate.  I had homework I needed to finish for church tonight, and I do have things I'm obligated to here and there because church meetings and shelter schedules can't be quite as random as other things.  But I'm really liking this being able to drop what I'm doing and go do something else just because I can.

And now I'm going to go read for a bit and go to bed, with the knowledge that I can get up tomorrow morning any darned time I want.  Heh.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


I shouldn't laugh, but turn that last Charlie Hebdo magazine pic upside down and look at it...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Twilight Zone

France sent us Rochambeau.  We sent them James Taylor.  Somehow I feel like we got the better end of the deal.

"Just call out my name, and you know that that I'll be there..."

They did.  The US watched football instead.

To tell the truth, I'm so flabbergasted by this that I'm reeling.  I shouldn't be surprised, but I feel like I've fallen into an Alice in Wonderland or Twilight Zone episode.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I haven't been very active out here in the blogosphere for several reasons.  One is that the lead up to my retirement was very busy, and then life got even busier after.  The whole traveling thing - I was home a total of 7 days during December.  Then I came home with the flu and ended up back in bed for a while.  That was followed by a major cleaning effort - I'm not sure how it happened, since I was either gone or on the sofa, but my house was filthy.  I've only managed to get through the upstairs because I wanted to deal with the laundry room downstairs and that required that I drag everything out of the laundry room into the downstairs in order to work. I figured the project would take about a half a day.  That was before I actually dragged stuff away from one wall and found three major mouse areas.  Bleh.  Two full days, two trips to Home Depot, concrete sheet rock, steel wool, and a can of a type of pest-deterrent Great Stuff insulating spray later, I'm finally done.  I need to more fully deal with the other side of that wall, which is the garage side, but I'll give that a day or two before I get serious with it.  I've got stuff to do for church today and my sore-ish muscles need a rest.

But the main reason is that there's nothing new to write, news-wise.  People are still being profoundly stupid about Islam, thinking that if they make nice then the murder and destruction will stop.  No - this is just a continuation of the 7th century, the 8th century, the 9th century, and on and on and on through more than a millennium.  This is an invasion, just as it was throughout all the centuries that have gone.  Our "leaders" speak about "understanding" them, and show that they DON'T actually understand them.  Charles the Hammer understood them.  No matter what you think of his methods of dealing with the problem, Vlad the Impaler understood them.  Popes of the past understood them and the danger they pose perfectly - hence the Crusades. They don't hate us because they are poorer, or because of our music or movies, or because of the way we dress.  They hate us because we are not them, PERIOD.

And people are still being profoundly hypocritical about Islam.  Forget Duke University and its idiotic broadcasting of the daily Muslim call to prayer - it's a college and colleges are cesspits of liberal fairy dust.  But it came out yesterday courtesy of a Baltimore radio station that a MD high school has been allowing Muslim students to observe their regular daily prayer times in the auditorium, chaperoned by a teacher.  Yet a child can't read the Bible during their free time on school property, and I would bet the paycheck I once had that if a Catholic student requested to be excused in order to pray the Divine Office at its appointed times that same school would deny the request based on separation of church and state.

And a lot of the same media that thought this was fine...

Are running away from showing this...

But people think "radical Christianity" is a problem.  No, actually, the problem is that a vacuum has to be filled, and there isn't ENOUGH radical Christianity anymore to block evil from filling that vacuum.

And we still need more gun control.  Liam Neeson, who makes his living by on-screen gun mayhem, says so.  Because bad-guys obey gun laws.   From the January 13th edition of our local newspaper (name and address changed to protect the innocent):

A Convicted Felon, 35, of A Street Near PH's House, was arrested Saturday on one felony count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance after police found several firearms and Suboxone in his residence.
Get that?  A convicted felon, who by law is not allowed to have guns, had a gun anyway.  Because criminals obey laws.

But being killed by a bad guy is OK.  Or at least better than defending yourself with a firearm. Mississippi Rebel has a blogpost about a delivery-woman who defended herself with a firearm when attacked and may lose her job for doing so. The police say she was quite correct in her actions, but it's against company policy for her to carry, so, too bad.  Just lay down and die, girly.

Maybe the environment really has been so contaminated that brain damage is now wide-spread.  Because it's the same stupid over and over and over again.    Wash, rinse, repeat.

Friday, January 9, 2015


One of my own pics, then several stolen from the web.  Just to give an idea of the variety of wildlife seen in Costa Rica.

Mine - Black witch moth.  It was as big as my hand and wandered in and out of the house the whole week.

Also seen, blue morpho and postman butterflies:

 Plenty of monkeys.  We saw 3 of the 4 species, but I didn't get a photo of a howler myself.  They were too far up in the canopy and often heard rather than seen.  The males are, um, rather distinct.

Greater white-lined and common tent-making bats seen on trees and under fronds in the park:

Hermit and ghost crabs at the shore.  And the halloween crab, a land crab, on the forest floor:

 We had a nest (den?) of agoutis in the yard:

And varigated squirrels:

And, of course, birds.  Some folks saw a flock of some sort of green parrot a couple times and hummingbirds.  I missed both.  But still added several to my life list in addition to the chestnut-mandibled toucan spotted both on the way to the villa and at the villa itself.

The yard was constantly full of kiskadees and groove-billed anis:

 A blue-crowned mot-mot visited a couple days, and chasing him was how I got into the fire ants.

A Cherrie's  tanager was also spotted a couple times:

 A couple raptors were regulars, too:

Common black hawk


Laughing falcon

Sea birds of course, like the magnificent frigate bird:

Some folks got to see some other things, too.  The zip-liners spotted a poison-dart frog, and one of the guests who were staying in another nearby villa startled one of the ubiquitous iguanas off their porch right into the coils of a happy boa constrictor.

Which means, of course, that I need to go back so I can see more wildlife.  I'm torn, though.  We were on the middle Pacific coast this time, and I so loved the combination of jungle-covered hills and ocean. 

But there are volcanoes and cloud forests and I want to see quetzals and there are places with hot springs and butterfly gardens like the Blue Mountain Resort.

I hope this is a decision I have to struggle with some time in the relatively near future.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I'm a sunshine person.  Costa Rica is the first place I've been where I didn't care.  Sunny - beautiful.  Cloudy - beautiful.  Raining - beautiful.  And it could change fast and give you wonderful surprises.  Like rainbows.

But the sunsets, oh my, the sunsets.  Each evening someone would call "It's time!" and we would all stop and watch.  I came back with a lot of pics of sunsets.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Costa Rica 2

So it's the internet in the area, not specifically my place.  We'll see how this goes.  It's been better over the last hour or so.

Wednesday some of the folks went zip-lining but I went off exploring.  And I'm a beach person - I wanted to grab some more time there.  We were up in the hills a couple miles from the beach, so I walked.  The area isn't a packed area like our resorts, but a lot of interesting-looking restaurants and bars line the road.

Note to travelers:  the national beer of Costa Rica, Imperial, SUCKS.  Tasteless with a nasty metallic back taste.  Bleh!  Bleh!

There is some hope, though, and micro-brews are beginning to get a foothold there.  At the end of the week, my sister and I found a nearby bar run by an American ex-pat that had a few on tap.  

Can't remember what they were, though.  Except one was a coffee IPA that wasn't particularly hoppy and had the mouth feel of a stout.

Our daily monkey visits were from capuchins, and we could hear howlers in the jungle below us, but squirrel monkeys only visited once.  They had a favorite spot on the road down, though, where they could always be seen.  Cables have been strung above the roadway so they can have a safe crossing.

Despite lack of sidewalks and occasionally scary drivers, a nice walk down.  I took the bus back.  It costs about 70 cents (315 colones, I think - I just handed him a $1 bill and he handed me Costa Rican change) and it was hot and humid and a bloody steep walk in some places.

A note about the public beach (as opposed to the ones in Manuel Antonio Park itself) - people are hustling to make a living and you will be offered, repeatedly, all sorts of things, most of them made in Nicaragua.  You have to get hardened to just shaking your head and not engaging them.  And things there are very expensive - more so than if we had gone to, say, the Outer Banks, as far as food and drinks.  Which is how we saved money by having a chef and by buying all our hard alcohol from the duty-free shop at the airport in Miami.  Sometimes it seemed like there were more sales-people on the beach than swimmers.  But I feel sorry for the locals - American and European tourists have driven their costs up, but there are only so many jobs in the area and they pay poorly.  So they try to sell tourists cheap stuff for not cheap prices. 

Thursday was Manuel Antonio Park itself.  We scrounged up a tour guide cheap and he spotted some things for us: both kinds of sloths, howler monkeys, two kinds of tropical bats, Halloween crabs, helmeted iguanas.  I didn't get many good pics there.  I only had my cell phone rather than a camera.  The guide did take a pic of one of the sloths through his telescope for me, and I got one of the iguana.

The beaches in the park itself are also spectacular.  And full of monkeys and racoons determined to take your stuff and completely unafraid of you.

The others headed back but I hung around the beaches for a while, swimming, admiring the green and flowers, and poking around in tide pools.

Then I went off to explore and almost got myself in trouble.  I'm overweight and out of shape and it was hot and humid under the tropical canopy and I decided to take a trail that involved a whole bunch of up.  Very up.  By the time I got to the overlook I was having chills, meaning heat exhaustion.

I never did spot the birds I was trying to find in the canopy, but I took it easy coming back and just admired the fact that in Costa Rica if it isn't green it's blooming.

That night I stayed vertical just long enough to eat dinner and then headed for bed.  The one complaint I had about the villa is that the mattresses are old inner spring and you can tell it - they need replaced.   But that affected me all of about 10 seconds every night and this was no exception.

Friday was a putter day and arrival day for more guests, including one who flew in from China: 36 hours one-way to act as usher. My sister and I walked up to do some souvenir shopping, then lazed around the pool until time for the rehearsal dinner.

Saturday was the same for those without specific wedding jobs, and then, finally, they were Mr. and Mrs.

Then Sunday it was back on the road home, leaving the bride and groom and a few of the new guests to continue sunning, dirt biking, rappelling through waterfalls, zip-lining, and all the other stuff that most excellent vacation spot offers.  I rolled back into WV Monday afternoon, having had the most fabulous vacation of my life.