Tuesday, April 24, 2018

An Old Welsh Tradition

Heidlebeere's kids were here recently and I was talking to her oldest at one point.  I'm not sure how we got there, but at one point the conversation turned to fairies.  That reminded me of something my parents used to do when I was a preschooler. 
So we got to talking and I explained how when I was a little kid we lived in a big, old house that had a basement with a dirt floor and rough cut stairs down to the basement.  The top step was a little taller than all the rest and was a bit of a challenge for us little kids.  But it was a great place to leave a bowl of milk at night for the fairies.  And so we did now and then.
And, sure enough, every night we left milk it was gone in the morning.  Leaving milk out is an old Welsh tradition that apparently made its way down through the generations on my Mom's side of the family, where there are a number of ancestors who come from Wales.  A way to seek favor from the fairies, who can bless farms or bring mischief, depending on their mood.  Never, hurts, right?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Reluctant Spring

Back at the end of March the weather got nice enough that I made it out on the first bike ride of the season. It was a glorious day, a wonderful spring ride.  The roads had dried out pretty well, most of the snow had melted away, the temperature got above 50 and the wind was down. It looked like spring was here for sure.
Then, just three days later it snowed and the lovely spring we were getting so excited about was gone.
Snow all over everything.  It was a fickle spring, to all appearances. That's not all that uncommon, however, that we get spring started and then have a storm go through that dumps a few inches of snow.  But spring usually comes right back and melts it off pretty quick.  It was okay.  I actually wanted to get back out on my bike again but there was too much rain and wind.
But then, like a small set back to your plans, it snowed again a few days later.  This storm left a few inches of snow again, a little more than the last one.
No worries, it melted pretty quickly again.  A pretty reminder of winter and then gone.  But it stayed cold and rainy again.
Then, as we were thinking it really ought to get serious about spring, it snowed some more.  Nine inches this time.
This time we had to dig out.  Up to two or three inches this time of year you can be lazy and let it melt off, not having to shovel.
But nine inches is too much.  Had to dig out.  Schwartzbeere started in the back yard, digging out the deck and into the yard so the animals could get out away from the house to do their business.
I got the snow blower out and got started in the front yard.  That much snow begins to be a problem with being able to get the cars out.
Especially at the end of the driveway where the snow plow goes by and turns so much snow into the driveway.  Heavy, packed snow.  I had to go over it a couple of times with the blower to get it all gone. And the mailman won't deliver the mail if he can't get to the mailbox. Funny man.
Schwartzbeere did the finish work, getting up close to the cars where I couldn't get with the big snow blower.
Looked mighty fine when we were all done. I really like the look of fresh snow and a clear driveway.
Then we had to scrape all that snow off the car so we could run some errands.
Nine inches of snow on a car takes a few minutes to dig out.  But it seemed like a good idea.  Partly because this was a Saturday and we needed to get to the store to make sure we could get through the Sabbath without needing to go to a store.  But also because the weatherman was predicting another big storm coming right behind this one.  Oy vey, you mean its not over yet?
But as it turned out, it was not over by a long shot.  It was just a lull in the storm.  When it started p again it really went to town.  All Sunday it snowed, at times pretty heavily.
We had to get out again to dig out, trying to keep up with it so it wouldn't be insurmountable when it finally stopped.  It was predicted to go all day and into the night.
Himbere's truck, which has been parked on the front lawn all winter, was really buried.  Nevertheless, Himbeere insists he could drive it out any time he wants. Forward, even. Well, maybe, maybe not.
When it was all done snowing we had over 20 inches of snow, all from this one big storm system.  Took it two and a half days to dump it all on us. But we did get it all dug out so that we could get the cars out and go about our activities.  Once again, a nice looking, cleared and shoveled driveway and walk way.
Back out on the road, this is the street I had ridden my bike down just a week or two before, now all snowy and white, snow banks up to the windows of the car.
The contrast was quite amazing.  This was a record breaking snow storm.
Now, you would think that we could set about being done with winter and finally getting on to spring.  Unfortunately, there is more snow in the forecast.  Bummer.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Little Helper

There is a young man at our house right now that has decided he likes to help his grandma in the kitchen.  The other day she started making pancakes for dinner and he hustled right in there to help out.  Had to have his turn stirring.
Never mind that it soon devolved into playing in the water.  The point is, he was "helping".
Another favorite activity is doing dishes.  He's still learning the fine art of loading the dishwasher.  But once again, he's right there pitching in.
Of course, since he is still learning, you have to keep an eye on him to make sure the dishwasher is actually getting loaded and not just rearranged or even unloaded.  Nevertheless, he has a willing heart.
Even when our dishwasher was on the blink for a little while and we had to wash dishes the old fashion way (that brought back memories, for sure) he was still right there, ready and willing to help where he could.
But, despite his willingness to help, he does require supervision.  Otherwise, the dish washing could again devolve into playing in the water.  Ah, such a sweet little boy.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Season of Celebration of Deliverance

Easter and Passover are not single, individual days.  Rather they are each seasons of celebration. Easter Sunday is the culmination of what's known among Christians as Holy Week, but the whole Easter season could be said to begin with Ash Wednesday and Lent, six weeks earlier, and end with the Feast of the Ascension, forty days after Easter Sunday.  The Passover celebration also runs for a week, this year beginning at dusk on Friday, March 30th and running until dusk on Saturday, April 7th.  Both are occasions of prayer, worship, and celebration, often filled with family and favorite traditions.

Because of the way these celebrations are calculated each year, based on astronomical calculations, they seldom align to the same days, even though they often overlap.  But they have much in common.  Christ, in the last week of his earthly ministry, had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  But he also knew it was the last week of his life.  The Passover was observed as the celebration of the delivery of the Children of Israel from captivity in Egypt.  However, King Benjamin explained that the Lord showed the Children of Israel "many signs and wonders, and types, and shadows" to point them toward Christ (Mosiah 3:15).  As Elder Boyd K Packer explained, "When the plague of death was decreed upon Egypt, each Israelite family was commanded to take a lamb—firstborn, male, without blemish. This paschal lamb was slain without breaking any bones, its blood to mark the doorway of the home. The Lord promised that the angel of death would pass over the homes so marked and not slay those inside. They were saved by the blood of the lamb." (Who is Jesus Christ?, March 2008 Ensign). Centuries later, the Blood of the Lamb of God was shed to save the Children of Israel.  The type of the Messiah, to which Israel was pointed, was accomplished by Christ.

When I consider what the atonement and resurrection mean for me there is a wide range of emotions that come.  To think that Christ willingly subjected Himself to everything He went through is amazing to me.  He did that out of His love for His Father and for us. He had everything and yet He willingly did this great thing.  Well did the angel call it "condescension."  What an incomprehensible opportunity and blessing He gave to us in this unselfish act.

This year the Sunday sessions of General Conference fall on Easter, something I always think is kind of special when it happens.  This year, one of the hymns sung in conference was one of my favorites, a hymn titled "Praise to the Lord, the All Mighty", written by a man named Joachim Neander.  Neander lived out his life in Germany during the 17th century.  I first learned this hymn while I was on my mission in Germany, I first learned the hymn in the language Neander wrote it.  I love it.  The translation in our hymn book today was done by Catherine Winkworth some two hundred years after Neander wrote it.  While its obviously a good translation, I think it misses ever so subtly some of the praise and gratitude of the original.  But it is still very good, I still love it. I love the sentiment, as well as the music.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
Join the great throng,
Psaltery, organ and song,
Sounding in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord! Over all things he gloriously reigneth.
Borne as on eagle wings, safely his Saints he sustaineth.
Hast thou not seen
How all thou needest hath been
Granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy way and defend thee.
Surely his goodness and mercy shall ever attend thee.
Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do,
Who with his love doth befriend thee. 

Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath breath, join with Abraham's seed to adore him!
Let the "amen"
Sum all our praises again,
Now as we worship before him.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fickle Spring

Despite the forecast, we were still a little surprised to wake up this morning and see that it had been snowing during the night, and was still snowing.  I always like the way fresh fallen snow makes the yard look.
This was wet, heavy snow, too.  That made it stick to all the trees.
The nice thing was that, even though it coated everything, it wasn't frozen on real hard. Cleaning the windshield wasn't that much work when I went out.
Spring is a fickle time of year.  It was just a couple of days ago that the weather was warm and calm enough that I was out on my first bike ride of the season. It wasn't perfect bike weather, that won't happen for a few more weeks or even a month.  But it was still pretty nice. You can get used to that pretty quick after a long, cold winter.
Before, when the weather was nice
The street I rode out on looked pretty nice other day.
This morning, cold and wet
Today it was wet and slushy, cold and wintry.
First ride of the season
A clear, paved portion of the trail.
The same trail today, buried under inches of snow.  Luckily, this will melt off fairly fast and I hope to be able to be back outside, enjoying the spring!

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Humanity Star

Back in February I learned that in January a satellite called "The Humanity Star" had been put in orbit.  That caught my interest.  It had been launched on January 21st from New Zealand by a company that did commercial space flight, they put satellites in orbit for whomever wanted them up there.  Along with a commercial payload, the company slipped in the Humanity Star and put it in orbit as well.
It was not big, only about three feet wide, with 76 triangular panels and weighed only 18 pounds.  The panels were coated with highly reflective material.  In orbit it was supposed to reflect the sun's light to appear just slightly brighter than most other stars, visible to the unaided eye.  It got mixed reactions. The company's intent was to give humanity something to look up together and see, something that could be seen from anywhere in the world, something to bring mankind together. It had no other purpose than to be seen.  However, some astronomers thought was was littering the sky, interfering with observations, study, and photography.  Some people were pretty vocal about it.  I suspect a great deal of humanity was completely unaware it was up there.

It was supposed to be in orbit for about nine months, orbiting the earth every 90 minutes and be most visible around dawn or dusk.  They made an app you could download that would tell you where it was and when it would next pass over your location so you could take a look.  I thought that was cool so I decided to take a look and downloaded the app.  The first time I tried to see it was the morning of March 1st at dawn.  I got up in time to be out in the yard to watch for it.  Since the app showed where it was I was watching as it approached, off to the east of my location.
Unfortunately, there were clouds off to the east, on the horizon.  I saw a glint, a twinkle or two, between the clouds but  I wasn't entirely sure I was actually seeing the Humanity Star.  I saw a nice sunrise, though.
Not a spectacular sunrise, but a nice one, nonethelesss.
A couple of days later I was out at dusk, trying again.  But with no better results.
Saw a nice full moon, though.
Over the next couple of weeks I would watch the app to see where it was, when it would pass by, and get out either in the morning at dawn or in the evening at dusk.
Sometimes it would go by to the west. Other times to the east.  In theory, that was to facilitate it being right on the horizon and better to be seen.  Always right at dawn or dusk. One evening we all went out southwest of town to see if we could see it.  We saw the Milky Way and some real nice stars but not the Humanity Star.  I tried to get some pictures of the stars but none of them worked.
One evening it went very nearly right over head and I was out there trying to see it.  But nothing.  Getting a chance to try to see it was difficult. It needed to be a time I could get out and look, when there was nothing else going on, and it needed to be clear weather, when there was no cloud cover. That's proved to be a tough combination.
I finally decided that part of the problem was light pollution, from my own community or from those nearby.  So I picked my spot carefully, out of town and away from where the light from neighboring towns would interfere.
It was still pretty cool out so I sat in my car, watching its approach on the app and watching for it in the sky.
Saw another nice sunset.  Then I thought I was seeing something that might have been it.  But after watching it a few minutes I realized it was not moving as fast as shown on the app.  It couldn't have been it.  I thought maybe it was some other satellite or a planet so I checked a different app I have.
It was a star called Alphard.  That surprised me because it was so bright.  The app marked its trajectory and all.  I like this other app I have.  But alas, no Humanity Star.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that the app was getting me out too early or too late to see the satellite.  It was supposed to be only slightly brighter than the other stars in the sky yet the app had me out there looking before any stars were really visible.  I decided I was going to have to watch real close and study the times the app was telling me and try to figure out how to be out there when it was just a little darker.  I don't know, maybe it was as much light pollution as timing.  Unfortunately, before I could make my next attempt I saw a news article that said the Humanity Star was going to fall out of the sky much sooner than anticipated.  Because of its light weight it turned out that they miscalculated how long it was stay in orbit.  If fell from the sky on March 21st and there would no more opportunities to try and see it.  But it was an interesting experience nonetheless.  It was fun trying, even if I was never sure I actually saw it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Open Season!

Knowing that bicycle weather was fast approaching I began fretting about being able to get to my bike.  See, during the winter Schwartzbeere and his family came to stay with us, bringing a lot of their stuff with them.  Most of it went into the garage, which pretty much filled it up and left only a couple of narrow trails through it. Buried the bikes pretty well. This shot is a little dark but if you look close you can see the bikes in this picture, kind of. 
Hint: the white bike in front is not one of them.
See the black hand-truck?  The back tires are just to the right of it.  Yeah, buried in there pretty deep and thorough.
But Schwartzbeere was so good to me.  He dug it out and moved it up front to where I could get to it.  Not as much room as I've always had in the past but it was workable and I was grateful.  Now all I needed was for the weather to cooperate.
Today that happened!  I'm a wuss, I'll admit it.  I don't like to ride if its below 50 degrees or wind over about about 12 miles per hour.  Today it was great!  55 and about 8 mph so as soon as I got home from work I changed clothes and took off. 

First stop was a gas station so I could put some air in my tires.  When the season was ending last year my bike had developed a slow leak and I needed to put air in it every few weeks.  I figured with the whole winter having gone by it might be nearly flat but it wasn't.  I was able to ride to the station.  That was nice.
This early in the season I usually have to stay off the trails because they're still snow packed.  Nobody plows them; the people that ride in the winter use the fat tire bikes and just pack the snow down so they stay snow covered a while.  That, plus as the snow melts it leaves puddles and I don't like getting a stripe up my back so I stick to the streets for the first while.  The street I chose for today's ride didn't have a path or sidewalk along side it for the first 1.5 miles so I was out in the street anyway.  It felt nice to be out again, even though this first stretch was into the wind.  I could sure tell that it has been a while since I was on my bike.  But then, the first ride of the season is usually like that.  So I kept it short.
At about 2.5 miles I turned onto a path, a wide sidewalk, really.  But nicer than out in the street.  This will be much nicer when it greens up a bit more.
Then another mile down the road I turned again and began the return trip.  I like to ride in big circles, no backtracking, although that doesn't always work.  But I try to do that.  Maybe its the OCD in me.  Anyway, the next stretch was along a busy street.  Fortunately, there was still a good, wide sidewalk by the side of the road. This time the wind was pushing me along, or at least not fighting me.  It was much easier going. 
Then a couple of miles later I'm back into quite, neighborhood streets, much less traffic. This was the last leg of the trip.

All in all, this first ride of the season was not quite 6 miles.  Not too bad for a first ride, for me, anyway.  And my average speed was 9.6 mph.  Actually a little faster than my season average from last year.  I thought it was pretty good for the first ride of the season.  The downside is that the weather does not look very promising for as far out as the extended forecast goes. Might be a few days before I can get out again. Bummer.