Monday, December 17, 2018

Tote the Load

Sometimes inspiration hits us in a flash;
We know the very thing that we should do.
But, other times we search for it and nothing comes our way
Until we sink into a fruitless mental stew.

I think that God is teaching us the way that we should go
And it starts with how we must depend on Him,
But, part of how we trust Him is in knowing He is there
In fact and not a feeling or a whim.

When we are in His footsteps we must simply move ahead
And trust that He will always guide our way;
It's not a sense of nearness or, of Him so far away,
It's faith that He is with us every day.

So, when we have those moments when we don't know what to do
We must simply place a foot upon the road
For we have His assurance that He's always by our side
To help us carry many heavy load.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Not So Ordinary Dream of Kenya

I dreamed last night of being in Mombasa.  I have never been to Mombasa, but I have been to Kenya.

The dream, like all dreams, was somewhat disjointed and jumped from scene to scene, but was consistently placed in Mombasa.  It was a chaotic place with people closely packed and the presence of foreigners both common and noticeable.  There were several of us together as part of a group that had been dropped off there after taking a Matatu (bush taxi) from Nairobi.  We were searching for lodging and for some reason, I was the defacto leader of the small group.

We entered into a hotel in the heart of the city.  It was an ancient building -- a remainder of the former British Empire of which Kenya was once a part.  People of many nationalities lounged about, engaged in conversations spoken in many languages.  The dull roar filled the lobby area as I approached the desk before suddenly being transmuted into a different locale within the same city.

In my dream I was suddenly negotiating for something -- I don't know what it was -- with a mixture of gestures and words, both in English and the occasional Swahili which I somehow had picked up in the brief time we had been in the country.  The negotiation ended with a shift of scene to the waterfront where ships of many nations were to be seen in the port.  Many were container ships with familiar metal containers often seen on rail cars in our country.

The dream ended with my waking from the view of the harbor.  I've no idea what might have triggered such a dream.  I record it here merely because I found it interesting...

I pay attention to my dreams.  I believe they are clues to unlocking the desires of our heart.  They are efforts by our mind to store and catalog disparate thoughts into an organized pattern that can be a stimulus for creativity, a well of knowledge to inform behavior, or merely a record of our experiences.  Some, like the dream above, might perhaps be a clue to to something we desire to do.  Visiting Mombasa is now on my bucket list.  Maybe some day....

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Mud is Getting Deep!

We've parked the tractor by the gate
Because the mud is so deep;
Even with the 4-wheel drive
The pickup is not a Jeep.

It's about a half mile to the pens
Where I must feed the hay
And rain keeps falling from the sky
Day after dreary day.

I know I should not complain about
The rain that has no end
Because last summer all my prayers
Were that God, rain would send.

So, I feed the cows some hay
In ever growing muck
So deep that even my mud boots
Off my feet it would suck.

I'm thankful for this rainy spell
And glad that it has come
But, we could use some drying time
And wish to see the sun.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Only the Few

One can easily be lulled
By the sameness of each day
Into lethargy.

The challenge is to break
The numbing, unchanging,
With imagination.

To soar on dreams that define
A pathway from the valley,
So desirable;

To execute the steps that lead
Inevitably toward the prize
Is commendable.

Few are meant to stand
On accolades so dear
In adoration

As the toil of dreary sameness
Is replaced by the fire
Of passion.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Blue Norther

I understand the Panhandle is looking forward a cold front passing through.  Growing up in that part of the world, I am quite familiar with the weather.  Thoughts of experiencing it inspired the following:

As the light begins to rise
I look toward the north
And see a line of darkest blue
Down low, near to the earth.

The breeze which blew from south, then west,
Has settled down to calm;
The period of quietness
Just before the storm.

I watch the low and scudding clouds
As they precede the blow
With swelling gusts and puffs of dirt
From the Arctic start to flow

And then it hits as though a wave
From off the polar ice
Has rolled across the placid Plains
With tumbleweeds as froth.

It's Carhart's, gloves and woolen cap
As temperatures do plunge
And stinging drops which turn to ice
Begin to pelt the earth

Leaving coat of crystal clear
On all that is exposed
To howling winds that bite
The face and chill the toes.

And tiny stinging balls of sleet
That sing of more to come
In form of swirling flakes of snow
That soon begin to pile

Behind each post or clinging plant
Where shelter give it home.
And each long, mounting pile of white
Is pointing to the south,

Accusing that which left behind
Wrapped up in bitter cold
Those who surely know
The Blue Norther passed this way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wood Smoke and Fireplaces

The smell of wood smoke fills the air this time of year.  When you live in an area with abundant trees, I suppose it is to be expected.  To me, it seems barely cold enough for an open fire in the fireplace, although I have always found them to be attractive, both visually and as a way to warm yourself after coming in from the cold outside.

We didn't have a fireplace growing up; instead, we had what I recall as panel-ray wall heaters.  They were natural gas, or propane fueled and mounted in the wall.  They were great to back up to and warm yourself, or as a child, lie on the floor in front of while watching the television.

Once they moved to town, Grandma and Grandpa had a fireplace.  They usually didn't light it unless company was coming over.  It was always the first place I'd go after saying my "hellos" to everyone -- over to stand in front of the fire and visit with Grandpa across the room in his recliner.  I think he enjoyed watching the flames dance among the logs.  Sometimes he would have me bring in more wood, or stir the fire to get a better flame going.

When we lived in Nebraska we had a couple of fireplaces.  The house we live in now actually has a couple of fireplaces.  The house was built in 1956, but sometime later, the chimney's were capped and the roof extended over where they once stood so that now, the fireplaces are merely decorative.  I have thought at times it might be good to re-build those chimneys and open up the fireplaces.

Years ago we went to a Shaker Village in Kentucky.  The main hall was a multi-floor building full of fireplaces.  I can't begin to imagine how much wood was required to keep them going all of the time.  Those fireplaces were the only source of heat, but also the location of the cooking activities which went on from before dawn until darkness every day of the year.

No one cooks their food in the fireplace anymore.  Now they are as much for ambiance as anything.  They aren't necessary for heat and in fact often allow more heat to escape when not in use than they produce while burning.  Most of them weren't particularly efficient.

Some places have banned construction of fireplaces in new homes.  Politicians in those places have fully accepted the idea that burning wood is bad for the environment.  I have to admit the smoke can sometimes make breathing a bit unpleasant.  Their concern is for the release of carbon into the atmosphere and the resulting impact toward global warming.  I don't think they quite understand how that particular carbon has been released and recycled for thousands of years in the carbon cycle.  The crazy thing is how those politicians fly around the country in their jets which release carbon from fossil fuels which is carbon that has been taken out of the carbon cycle until released back in by those flights.  I just shake my head at their behavior.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Data and More Data

Last night was one of those nights where I slept poorly.  They don't happen frequently, but for some reason I kept thinking about work-related items.

This morning I awoke to an e-mail that is going to require extensive research before I can respond.  Somehow, on a subconscious level, I suspect I expected the e-mail and that is why I couldn't sleep.  My thoughts during the night and what was requested are much too similar for there to be any other explanation.

Years ago I determined that graduate school was not my thing.  I started down that path but, became disenchanted with the political aspects of it.  It's funny how through the years I have probably researched and written the equivalent of a good number of thesis -- maybe even the equivalent of a dissertation or two.  Perhaps it's God's way of pulling a joke on me...

This past weekend was spent organizing and evaluating a fairly large data set.  Yesterday was spent in analyzing it.  Today will be spent in supplementing it.  Oh, well, it give me something to do....

Monday, December 10, 2018

Checkbooks and a Gold Standard

I grew up "old school" when it comes to managing your checking account.  I balance everything to the penny.  I learned how to reconcile my bank statement against my check ledger when my first account was opened.  It was very important when the money never seemed to go as far as the needs and you had the issue of "float" to deal with.

Today, it seems many people don't worry about balancing their check register or reconciling it against their bank statement.  They just look online to see what they currently have available at any given moment.  Their paycheck is deposited electronically and most of their payments are handled electronically.  Checks are something to be avoided and what isn't automated is handled with plastic -- either by debit or credit card.

I know such ways of doing business are time saving and convenient, but I haven't adopted them for the most part.  We do use a credit card for most purchases, but it is because we get "points" by doing so that can then be used in exchange for other things.  Our preferred is with Cabela's/Bass Pro.  With the credit card purchases, though, we save every receipt and reconcile them against the statement when it comes in.  We don't carry a balance on the card because interest on consumer items makes no sense at all.  For other purchases we write a check, record it in the ledger and reconcile it against the monthly statement.

Occasionally there is a surprise.  Occasionally a number is transposed or recorded incorrectly and the balance has to be corrected after reconciliation.  A worse surprise to me are the items like an auto-renewal on the anti-virus subscription for our computers.  It happens annually and isn't like a regular monthly item that you know to expect.  At least they e-mail you a receipt.

Banking has changed a lot in the past few years.  Almost everything is done electronically.  Even checks are turned into electronic images.  Trade between businesses is done electronically as is transfer of funds between countries.

Once upon a few centuries ago, it was a matter of lugging around bags of gold and silver coins.  In the case of large transactions, it might require a chest or two.  Eventually that became paper which represented the gold and silver.  Now the paper represents something more nebulous -- it represents a theoretical value established by the marketplace.

The U.S. Gross Domestic Product -- the value of annual goods and services produced by this country in 2018 is expected to be $19.4 Trillion.  There has only been $7.5 Trillion worth of gold mined in the history of the world at the current price of $1,250/ounce.  It's a good thing we aren't still trading in gold coins.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Cold Rain and Muddy Cattle

Yesterday there were lots of photos across social media of snow -- especially from those of my acquaintance in the area where I grew up.  Most of them were of scenes around their homes with snow piled on cars or in the yard, but some were from the farmers and ranchers who were out working in it, feeding cattle, or other livestock.

I remember feeding cattle in the snow a few times.  I also remember getting stuck in drifts and the wind blowing the snow to the point you couldn't see.  I remember having to walk to a phone to get someone with a tractor to help me get unstuck.  I remember breaking ice so thick you needed an axe or, a sledgehammer to get through it.  It isn't much fun for the folks having to take care of the animals in such weather.

Grandpa always told me that he'd rather deal with a snow storm than a cold rain.  His reason was that the cattle would form a crust of snow on their hair that acted like additional insulation for them.  They might look like they were freezing, but it probably wasn't nearly as bad as it looked -- especially if they could find some shelter out of the wind.

While the snow fell in the western part of the state, we got cold rain.  The temperatures hovered in the upper 30's to low 40's and a steady light rain fell for almost 3 full days.  On top of the already saturated ground, the additional moisture turned the land to the consistency of cake batter.  It isn't much fun feeding hay in those conditions.

It's hard on the cattle.  The rain soaks into their hair and they are wet to the skin.  Fortunately, there has been almost no wind to accompany the rain, but it is obvious that the cattle are feeling it.  They gather around the hay bales with less than their normal enthusiasm and stand all humped up.  I'm just thankful calving season hasn't started yet.  We are still about a month away from the beginning of that.

The hay lot is a muddy mess as is the trap where we feed.  Water is standing in many places.  Fortunately, the mud isn't too deep.  The topsoil is thin and a layer of clay lies under it.  That adds to the soupiness of the topsoil because the water is unable to percolate quickly into the ground, but instead sits on top of that clay layer for days.

Sigh, I guess we will be dealing with the mud for awhile.  I know, I shouldn't complain.  It seems like only a short time ago I was complaining about drought....

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Little Science Fiction

I love to read science fiction/fantasy.  Through the years I have tried my hand at writing some.  Below is an excerpt from a fanciful piece I started once upon a time....yes, in a galaxy far, far away.

Beidercats don’t bite.  In reality, they aren’t cats at all.  Why they call them cats is a mystery to me but, that is definitely a Beidercat looking me in the eye.  Do you suppose they actually spit venom from their eyes like some people say?  I hope not.  If they do, this isn’t going to end pretty.

This planet was certainly full of surprises.  First, it was the landing.  Those gravity shifts are tricky.  Skipping a landing craft like a smooth pebble on a pond was definitely a new experience for me.  Both of my shoulders ache from jolting against the harness.  Once is expected but, seven times?  I think that must be a record.

The jammed door was no surprise, but, the static should have been discharged through the grounding mechanism.  Fortunately, rubber steps kept me from being fried.  I could have used those boots though.  If I could just find something to replace the melted soles I might make use of them yet.  Oh, well.  At least it was the serpent and not me that fried.  I was lucky the steps landed on him when I opened the door otherwise, I would have taken the full charge.  I think I’ll file a complaint with the Galactic Rocket Company.  Redundancy should be required – even on economy models!

I headed directly for the nearest settlement.  At least that’s what I thought.  The powers that be at Colonial Birthright, Inc. swore there was one about three degrees north of my landing site.  They’re the ones that hired me.  They should know.  I should have reached it about thirty minutes ago.  My Triangulator picked up their ping almost immediately upon landing.  My course has held true and my suit display immediately laid in the proper course.  The problem is, as I walk forward, it recedes.  There is no way a colony can move.  After all, it is supposed to contain at least forty colonists.  It has to be a glitch in my nav system that isn't responding properly to the shifting grav field.

But, enough of the past.  I need to focus on the now.  What do I do with a Biedercat staring at me?  Shooting them is out of the question.  They phase shift.  I could fire a dozen times with my Enerjet 40 and it would just be wasting juice.  They only partially exist in this reality.  That’s why they don’t bite.  They feed on energy.  That is what the so-called venom is supposed to be – a jet of pure energy.  So, I froze.  I just didn’t move.  I tried my best not to shiver with the fear coursing through me.  I know that animals sense fear.  I wondered if that applied to an animal that was partially phase-shifted into another dimension….

Slowly, he lowered his head.  It had to be the position he would take in order to shoot the venom.  I was on the verge of panic.  Suddenly I felt heat.  It was becoming unbearably hot in a very short time.  A vibration seemed to surround me.  Then, a rush of….something….I don’t know what….passed me and the Biedercat was blurred by what looked like heat waves shimmering in the desert.  It was another predator.  It had to be a Velocishifter; the only known enemy of the Biedercat.  It could shift dimensions too.  Suddenly, a brilliant flash of light and I was alone again.  A smell like burned metal filled the air and I sighed with relief.  When in hunting mode, the Velocishifter sees only the rifts in the fabric of this reality.  I was fortunate that it was hunting.  Otherwise, it may have noticed me....