Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Howdy

Thought for the day:  Halloween was confusing. All my life, my parents said, "Never take candy from strangers." And then they dressed me up and said, "Go beg for it." I didn't know what to do! I'd knock on people's doors, and go, "Trick or treat!" "No thank you." [Rita Rudner]

Hi-ya. I'm back. Sorta. We're back in town, but I'm not really full tilt boogie on blogger yet. Too many other things to do. (sigh) Really, I've been working my butt off... Oops! Darn. Never mind. I just looked, and it's still there. (Dammit.) Anyhow, I've been restocking the larder, raking a mountain's worth of leaves, washing a mountain of laundry, shampooing carpets... you know, all that fun stuff. And guess what? We even went to the movies! First time in fifteen or twenty years, so talk about sticker shock over the cost of tickets. (But we saw Gravity... in 3-D! Loved it!) Anyhow, I wanted to take a few minutes to wish y'all a Happy Halloween.

So, Happy Halloween!!! (y'all)

Okay, just a few quick pictures, and then I've gotta run...

AR-AR-AR!!! Granddaughter Devyn makes one cute pirate, doesn't she?

But she makes a cute bumblebee, too.
Aaron's our super little man,  Kymber's always a little princess. and (shhh... don't tell him!) I'm not sure about Jaiden's costume. Power Ranger, maybe? Whatever he is, he's a cute one.

And here's three of the Florida grands, modeling some of their costumes while we were in Florida. I do declare, Persephone looks like she stepped right out of the pages of Gone With the Wind, doesn't she?  Ella makes a super duper Jasmine, and Olivia? A delightful pirate lass.

Okay, I'm gonna include a few you've gotta be kidding me pictures of dogs dressed up for Halloween. The poor beagle doesn't look at all happy, does he?

Doggone it, (heh heh) I've really gotta go. But before I do, let me remind y'all to turn those pesky clocks back an hour on Saturday night...

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Know what? I'll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween. (Pssst! Don't forget to practice safe hex!)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kiddie Cuddling Time

Thought for the day:  If I can't "halp" a friend, what good am I?

If you're like me, you already have a HUGE stack of books waiting to be read, and every day, you hear about a couple more you'd like to add to your pile.

So, I'm gonna give a real quick shout-out about a few more (Gee thanks, Susan...) that I think you'd enjoy. Really. Quick. Because then I'm gonna toss a reworked rerun post your way.

 As a widow traveling alone to exotics places, Jo Carroll dared to face her fears and expand her horizons, and in the process, she proved quite handily that a gap year of travel isn't just for young college students. In this down-to-earth account of her adventures, this courageous British mum and grandmother takes her lucky readers along with her.

The latest book by Anne Gallagher is a terrific tale of the bonds forged between teachers in an orphanage during the Napoleonic Wars. Beautifully written as an auctioned prize for a fundraiser at her daughter's school, (neat idea, huh?) this tale is different from her usual regency and contemporary romances. What she offers here is  a touching, and sometimes humorous, account of sacrifice, duty, honor, and love.

 I didn't think I cared much for sci-fi. Not anymore. I read that when I was a kid. Then I bought this first book in Alex's trilogy. I liked it so much, I bought the other two books before I'd finished this one. Yeah. That good.

Um, this one's pretty good, too. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

Okay, I kept that short and sweet, but my enthusiasm for all three (okay, four) of those books is sky high. Check 'em out! Now, for that redone rerun I promised. Hope ya like it!


Thought for the day:  I never use the cell phone in the car. I like to keep my hands free for making gestures.  Maxine

With age comes wisdom. Or so they say. Sometimes it forgets the wisdom, and comes all by itself. And if we're very very lucky, the wrinkly years also  bring ... grandchildren.

Yep, it's that time again. Time for me to venture away from the computer for a couple weeks to spend quality time with some of our grandchildren. This time, I even get to meet our almost three-month-old grandson Atlas (Yes, my kids DO pick some unusual names!) for the first time. Woo HOO! So it'll be awhile before I do any new posting or commenting. But I'll be back, so please hold my spot in the blogosphere, okay?

Life is good. And, no doubt about it, we've been blessed with flipping good luck (many times over) when it comes to grandchildren.

Before I go, I thought I'd share a chuckle with you about another grandmother. This is a laugh-o-licious piece that's been around the Internet a time or two, but I'm hoping it'll be new to some of you. It's supposed to be a letter from an 88-year-old grandma to her granddaughter.

Dear Granddaughter,

The other day I went up to our local Christian book store and saw a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker. I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting. So, I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper. Boy, am I glad I did; what an uplifting experience that followed!

I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good He is, and I didn't notice that the light had changed. It's a good thing someone else loves Jesus, because if he hadn't honked, I'd never have noticed.

I found that lots of people love Jesus!

While I was sitting there, the guy behind me started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, "For the love of God, go! Go! Go! GO!" What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus! 

Everyone started honking!

I just leaned out my window and started waving and smiling at all those loving people. I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love.

There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a sunny beach. I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. I asked my young grandson in the back seat what that meant, and he said it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.
Well, I have never met anyone from Hawaii, so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back. My grandson burst out laughing. Why, even he was enjoying this religious experience!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment they got out of their cars and started walking toward me. I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed.

So, grinning, I waved at all my new brothers and sisters in Christ, and drove on through the intersection. I noticed I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again, and felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared.

So I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!

Will write again soon.

Love, Grandma

And so I'm off to prepare for some serious kiddie cuddling. (As opposed to kitty cuddling. Alas, our kitties will NOT be amused.)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Once More Around the Track

Thought for the day:  Know how the burglar got into the house? Intru-der window.

Not our house, but it DOES look cozy...
Nobody broke into our house this week, but  stuff crawled in the window, dragged me away from the computer, and made me (gasp!) do other things. So no new post for today. But, hey, come on in, anyway. (You can even use the door.)

What we're gonna do is sit back and relax with an oldie-but-goodie post, first published in 2011 as Vroom! Vroom! Since Smarticus and I are going to an Italian car show tomorrow... and (woo HOO!) meeting up with visiting blogger pal Mr. Charleston there... I figured a little fun something-something having to do with cars would be appropriate. I hope you enjoy it.


Thought for the day: Hey, I'm not old, baby ... I'm classic.

Hot Rod? Yeah ... sleek, classy ... I like it!
Since way back before we were married, my husband called me Hot Rod. Not sure why. Was it my classy chassis? My shiny good looks? Surely, it wasn't my rumbling exhaust system, because I never did that around him until after we were married. And he only wished I was racy ... or fast. 

Maybe it was just because ... he liked me? He sure as heck liked cars. Especially hot rods. Still does, because he's a real deal gearhead. Which means, since we were teenagers, he's been a skilled shade tree mechanic who can pretty much rebuild an engine with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back. Slight exaggeration, but not by much.

Now, as I've explained a few times before,  I come from a long line of wanderers ... y'knowpeople who possess an inordinate ability to get lost. When we were dating, Smarticus would entertain himself for hours by driving somewhere, and then letting me direct him home from the middle of that God-only-knows-where nowhere. So, I suppose it's somewhat understandable that my father was, shall we say, dubious when, in the fall of 1968,  I told him my favorite gearhead and I were going to enter a road rally. With him behind the wheel, and ME (har-de-har-har) as the navigator.

This is the car he drove back then. Big Red, we called her. A 1961 Chevy Impala. Not exactly the kind of car one associates with a road rally, is it?

At registration, each team received multiple pages of instructions. In code. Kinda. It might say something like 2 L after circle S. That meant to take the second left turn, and the circle S turned out to be a monogrammed screen door on one of the houses at the side of the road. Tricky, huh?

We ran into a teensy bit of trouble with one of the directions. It said RT. Right turn, right? That's what I thought, too. But it wasn't. It meant Right AT THE T. So we lost some time getting back on course. Not to worry. We (ahem) made it up quite handily. When we flew over a covered bridge, we pulled a regular yee-HA General Lee kinda maneuver. When Big Red came back to earth, I was sitting under the steering wheel. On his lap. Nice, but not terribly conducive to good driving. (He installed seat belts shortly after that.)

                                                                          Bottom line?

First Place Driver!!!

And if you can believe it, this direction-impaired, can't fold, let alone read a map person?

Holy moly! I won first place, too!!!!

After we moved to Georgia and were raising a family, he was too busy being an engineer at the foreskin of technology, (his words, not mine) to spend much time playing with cars. However, in the seventies, he and a buddy did build an econorail. You know ... a dragster?

That's ME sitting in there. Wow! It felt awesome.

Here's a better look at the champion window-rattler. The only sad thing is, after all the work it took to build her, they never got to race her. Not even once. Turned out the track didn't have proper insurance to cover that class vehicle back then, so they ended up selling her. Bummer!

Now, lo and behold, my happily retired better half is once again enjoying life as a gearhead. His three project cars are a gorgeous banana cream El Camino with a black racing stripe, a Corvette,  and my personal favorite, the Rat Rod:

1930 Model A

He put the original Model A body on an S-10 chassis, which facilitated a lot of modern safety features. How do you like that1958 Mercedes grill? We found it at a car show/swap meet when we went to Florida.

Another shot of his baby.
He took her out for a quick test run last week, and couldn't believe how FAST that girl can go. There's a long way to go before she's finished, but she is gonna be one awesome rat rod.

Hmmm, know what? He hasn't called me Hot Rod for quite a while. Shoot, I dunno,  maybe he oughta start calling me Rat Rod, instead.  After all, I may not have much rust, but I could use some extensive body work. And a good paint job. (But I still have plenty of VROOM under my hood!)

Oh, yeah. There IS a moral to my road rally story, if you think about it:

 With the  proper drive(r), you CAN overcome your weaknesses ... and you CAN win.

Still together, after all these years.

                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


A quick update. The rat rod looks even better now than she did two years ago... me? Not so much.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Lucky Day

Thought for the day:  I've done the calculations, and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.  [Fran Lebowitz]

Are you superstitious? Do you stay in bed every Friday the thirteenth and walk a mile out of your way just to avoid a black cat?

Nah, me neither.

How about signs and omens? Believe in them?

Ordinarily, I don't pay them much mind, but sometimes they're so blatant, it's impossible to ignore them. Like last Wednesday.

The notion that it was my lucky day kept smacking me in the head... again and again. Lady Luck kept yelling in my ear, and I'm pretty sure she was telling me to buy a lottery ticket. Or a bookmark, as we call it in our house.

Let me tell you about it.

You know what Wednesday is, don't ya? It's senior discount day, and if you wanta know what I think about that, you can read about it right here. So anyhow, I got all dressed up in a clean tee shirt and cut-offs to go to the bank and grocery store. And whattaya know? There sat a four-leaf clover right there on my dressy flip-flops.

A propitious start to a lucky day, wouldn't you say?

I have no idea how that horseshoe landed in our front yard. But, woo HOO... another good sign! Especially since I didn't break my toes when I smashed into it with my flip-flop-clad foot.

When I limped into the bank, get this! There was no line. None. Nada, zip, zilch, zero. Not another customer in sight. Just me, and a bunch of smiling tellers.

That has NEVER happened to me before. Never.

Spooky, huh?

Then, holy moley, outta the blue, the palm of my hand started itching. Just like that, for no reason. You know what that means, dontcha?

It means money. An itchy palm means you're gonna get some money.

Okay, so technically, I was in the bank to cash a check, so I got some money because of that... but still, it could've been a sign that I should buy a lottery ticket, right?

My teller thought so.

Now this is just scary. In the grocery store, I didn't get run over by a single blue-haired lady. Nobody blocked the aisles, and I (gasp) found everything I was looking for. But here's the clincher: when I paid for the groceries, guess how much change I got? Eight dollars and eighty-eight cents! Three eights! Three lucky eights. (Ask anyone from China...) And my last car tag? It had three eights on it, too.

What? Yeah, yeah, I know I'm not Chinese. Hush. Whose story is this, anyway?

So, natch, when I was driving home, I was considering the string of good omens that had been pummeling me ever since I left the house. Should I buy a lottery ticket?

Then I heard a train whistle.

Dare I say it? Yet another good sign! As I sat beside the train track with my frozen vegetables melting in the trunk, I considered how lucky I was that it was such a fast-moving train. And only one hundred and six cars long.

Kismet kicked me in the keister again. Buy a ticket! it screeched.

Wait, no. It didn't screech. That was the train. When it stopped. But it didn't sit there all that long. Only about fifteen minutes or so. Lucky, right?

I was almost home when I saw it. Not just a rainbow... a double rainbow.

And it wasn't even raining.

So what do you think? Did I buy a ticket and win a kazillion dollars?

After all...
Fortune cannot aid those who do nothing. [Sophocles]

Nah. I went home and had a nice cuppa tea. Hey... that's something. Like somebody smart said, (No, I don't remember who said it... I'm not that smart) The only sure way to double your money is to fold it and stick it back in your pocket.

Euripides said, Fortune truly helps those who are of good judgement. And my judgement was to take Brian Koslow's advice. He said, Forget the lottery. Bet on yourself instead. 

Yep, works for me! Besides, we already have more than enough bookmarks around here.

Know what? A positive attitude can determine what kind of day you have. The way I see it, any day my hubby and I wake up and we're both still here... that's a doggone lucky day in my book. Life is good.

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[Thanks to the fine folks at Wikipedia, morguefileseniorark, and icanhascheezburger for the use of their images.]

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mum's the Word

Thought for the day:  The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.  [Albert Einstein]

Secrets? Yes! Workers who followed orders without knowing what they were doing or why they were doing it? Again, yes, yes, yes! Because absolute secrecy was absolutely essential for the success of a secret project conducted in a secret little town that didn't even appear on maps until after WWII had ended.

I'm talking about the Manhattan Project, and a unique town in Tennessee called Oak Ridge.

I'm talking about the creation of the atom bomb.

While visiting friends in Tennessee over Labor Day weekend, we visited the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge... the ideal place to learn more about this little town's role in the Manhattan Project.

Before I take you inside, (so to speak) I have to tell on myself. And Kati. See this parabolic dish? It sits outside the museum. Actually, two of them sit outside the museum, facing each other, and separated by a good distance. The point is to whisper into one... and be heard at the other. Cool, huh? Yeah. Well, I must confess, Kati and I stood in front of this one dish... both of us... taking turns whispering into it. Our husbands, meanwhile, were all but rolling on the ground, convulsed with laughter. Yeah, I know. We get no respect. (It was pretty dumb of us, though... musta been something in that wine we drank the night before...)

Okay, ready to go inside now?

This picture depicts the genesis of the Manhattan Project. Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, expressing their concerns about the possibility of Germany working to create an atomic bomb. Einstein urged the U.S. to achieve this goal before the Germans did.

                                                              The government agreed.

In September, 1942, the Corps of Engineers was authorized to acquire 56,000 acres of land in Tennessee, and to spend a total of 3.5 million dollars to do so. Why Tennessee? Because of sparse population, acquisition of land would be affordable. The area was also accessible by both road and rail, and most important, the TVA assured the government it could supply the necessary electrical power.

Approximately 1000 families were displaced, and they were notified by letters, such as the one shown in the picture. They were given no choice, and little time to vacate the premises. In the end, a total of 60,000 acres were acquired, at a total cost of 2.6 millions dollars, or about $47 per acre.

By March, 1943, all pre-existing structures had been demolished, checkpoints had been erected, and the entire area surrounded by fences topped with barbed wire. Within a matter of months, the area became Tennessee's fifth largest city, and at the height of construction, a house was built every thirty minutes. Housing included trailers, dormitories, hutments, and single-family dwellings called cemestos. Three window-less manufacturing plants of unprecedented size were built, as well as schools, businesses, community centers, medical facilities, and shopping centers. It was, in essence, a brand new city, built from the ground up, and at breakneck speed. A city shrouded in sworn secrecy.

When workers were asked for suggestions to name their city, fanciful names like Valhalla and Shangri-La were passed over in favor of Oak Ridge, after a nearby hill. However, the city's name only existed within its fences until after the war's end. Outsiders referred to it as Clinton Engineering Works.

Residential plans were originally designed to accommodate 13,000, but by 1945, Oak Ridge's population peaked at 75,000. Another 40,000 commuted in from surrounding communities to work in the plants. The town-within-a-compound bustled with soldiers and civilians, men, women, and children... all protected by barbed wire, roadblocks and armed guards.

According to Jay Searcy, who lived in Oak Ridge as a child, Nobody, nobody was allowed to talk about what he was doing. There was a war on. The enemy was listening. 

And not just the enemy. Approximately one in four workers was a government informant, and all workers were subjected to periodic lie-detector tests.

Then again, if the truth be known, very few people had any idea what they were doing.

We couldn't train them properly because we couldn't tell them what they were doing... We'd have to say, "On that gauge, when that needle turns to the right, you turn this knob to the left." But we couldn't tell them why.  L.W. Anderson, Union Carbide engineer

We cannot tell you what you are going to do, but we can tell you how to do it and we can only tell you that if our enemies achieve what we are trying to do before we do, God help us!  Gladys Owens, who worked with an electromagnetic separating machine known as a calutron. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was separating uranium atoms.

The three Oak Ridge plants were known as Y-12, K-25, and X-10.  Because of a shortage of copper, almost 15,000 tons of silver were borrowed from the U.S. Treasury to be used as electrical conductors for the electromagnetic coils in the calutrons located in Y-12. (Believe it or not, ALL of this silver was returned to the treasury after the war.) K-25 used another more economical means to separate uranium, and X-10 contained a graphite-moderated nuclear reactor.

Alcohol was strictly forbidden in Oak Ridge, but what can I say? Where there's a will, there's a way. I've seen accounts of liquor being smuggled in past checkpoints inside of dirty diapers, and under women's dresses, clasped between their legs.

Dubbed the Trinity test, the first nuclear device was detonated in July, 1945.

Oak Ridge workers didn't realize what a monumental role they'd played until the atom bombs known as Fat Man and Little Boy were dropped on Japan the following month.

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. [Albert Einstein]

There was so much more to see at this museum, too much to cover in a simple blogpost. Photographs of children playing in a schoolyard, of Girl Scouts laughing, of people dancing and having fun... while living within an enclosed compound with a nuclear reactor and radioactive materials struck me as particularly surreal. But this, this was a page in our history. A fascinating page, where an entire city was built in less time than it takes to build a house nowadays. A secret city. A city where things like Teflon and HEPA filters were used for the first time. A city where the atom bomb was born.

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.