Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sputnik and me

Tonight I watched the movie October Sky, the story of Homer Hickham, a boy from a coal mining town in West Virginia, who grew up to be a rocket scientist at NASA. It is a great and inspiring movie.

The movie begins in 1957, just as news comes that the Soviets have launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik.

I remember Sputnik well. Of course, my father, who loved all things scientific, was excited.

He and I went out the first night to try to see Sputnik as it passed over. We sat on the bank in front of our house, next to the road. He sat on a large tree stump, and next to him I sat on the little concrete elevation market.

When Sputnik passed over, I remember how small, how far away, and how quiet it was.

But most of all, I remember how wonderful it was to sit in the dark talking to my daddy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

At our July 4 family get-together the nephews and niece were talking about a horseback riding episode at Chickasaw State Park when they were about 13. It was so funny I asked them to write it up for me.

Here is my nephew Jay's recounting of his ride on a "bipolar" horse.

by Jay Parchman, 07/27/2004:

Several members of my family and I spent a horrible half-year one afternoon at Chickasaw State Park in Henderson, TN in 1980. The event was "horseback riding". I had always thought the the human being would be in control if riding something, correct? Nope. Here's what my memory says:

Aunt June and her two kids Alvin and April (my first cousins), my cousins Jennifer and Cindy and yours truly were very much looking forward to being one with nature that summer day. We arrived at the park a little after
lunchtime. My initial fears were justified when we learned that we would not be escorted by anyone ... please keep in mind the workers there were doing absolultely NOTHING that day. Ah well, just means it will be only family having fun together the more naive side of me said.

"King" was the name of my horse. Before you question it .. YES, it indeed has been almost a quarter century since then yet I still very much remember that name and vowed to never name a pet of mine the same. Court
Jester, I mean King decided to go slower and slower as we started out. Before I knew it, I was at the back. Then before I knew it, it was a fork in the road and my family was almost out of sight. All half-ton of King
decides to stop. After yanking the rains to no avail, I finally get off the horse and try to manually pull King in the right direction. I'm also yelling at my family to wait up ... my ears only pick up "We're trying but
they won't slow down ..." which faded more and more. At this point, I'm thinking "Jay, be glad your dear sweet Mother is not here ... this dilemma would not be easy on her", grin.

After King's yelling screaming and kicking stubborness refusal to move, I finally regain some valor (this is after I've screamed HELP HELP HELP to no avail and thought ... this HAS to be a movie, haha). King now takes his wrath and starts running full speed in the wrong direction. Keep in mind that you're reading the words of a bona fide child of the suburbs. Years later, I learned that this latest onslaught of "HELP!!!!!" was
indeed again picked up by my cousin Alvin. After going in circles for a while, King does decide to head back to the camp. A worker then spent about three minutes calming this bipolar horse from his now bucking and
kicking. The next question asked to me --- "Do you want to pick up another horse and try to catch up with your family?" Uhhh... 'I think I'd rather be bound, gagged, tied to a chair and forced to watch a 72-hour
marathon of Three's Company reruns in 110 heat' was the first thing that popped to my mind but luckily my tact prevented this from happening. I then politely declined and listened to the Chickasaw horse trainer talk about how King had never been the same since ---". Gee, just what I needed to hear. Maybe King was on the grassy knoll? Couldn't quite remember if they actually said that or not.

Or maybe King was actually trying to show me the location of Jimmy Hoffa. OHHHH if only Lassie had been there as an interpreter! King could scream at Lassie, Lassie could bark back at me ... and of course, like ALL people around Lassie, I would know exactly by the tone of the woof that it meant we needed to walk 30 paces straight ahead followed by 14 more to the right
at a 45 degree angle.

Meanwhile ... my dear family suffered through a longer period of time although what I'm telling you on this part is second hand. April's horse had a tremendous problem with flies that day. Yes, that meant her horse
wanted to buck and ignore her wishes as well. All conveniently without a guide! Aunt June had a "great time" too but the details escape me.

Well, I guess in hindsight, it was all worth it. We've all received a lot of laugh mileage from that day. And I hope that maybe King is still with us and enjoying a leisurely retirement ... hey, maybe he's even just 100
miles south of me near Nags Head, NC running with the wild horses! :-)

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Electronic madness and ignorance

Everyone has some characteristic of which they are proud. Mine is my brain. I have always been smart. I can learn anything. But pride truly goeth before a fall in this case.

I need a new computer so I went to some big box store, I think it was Best Buy. I went in the front door, circled around the main aisle, and exited the front door.

If George Washington had done this, he would have been only a little more confused that I was. Some things I didn't have a clue what they were. Most things I recognized but had no idea why I need it. I found the computers but the descriptions were written in Klingon.

I retreated to Books-a-Million where I purchased books Buying a Computer for Dummies and CD and DVD Recording for Dummies. After my little visit to the electronic store, I thought the titles were appropriate.

Now I have a new vocabulary. I recognize Firewire, USB 2.0, SDRAM, DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, and 48X/24/16X/48X max speed, but I am still not sure if I need them. I will probably buy some expensive computer and never use 90% of its capacity.

But I don't know if I can even bring myself to enter another store.

Frankly, I still don't understand such elementary things as DVDs and CDs. Which do I need to put my grandchildren's pictures on? Do I need RW or can I get away with just R? See, I didn't even know how to phrase that last question.

I see a computer course in my future. Jackson State Community College, here I come.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Miss Manners (Washington Post) weighs in today with her opinion on blogs and especially bloggers. She essentially considers them (us?) narcissistic bores. She suggests we keep locked diaries instead.

I started my blog as a way for me to inform my friends and relatives of my doings, such as they are. It also makes me feel good to write. I have so many opinions that the world does not seem interested in. (This is one of the reasons for blogs that Miss Manners deplores.)

So I blog on. My readers are far fewer than I had hoped. Miss Manners is not one. But the position of reader is an entirely voluntary one, subject to no supervision, indeed who knows you are reading and who doesn't.

But if you do read my blog, I consider you an unusually intelligent, discerning, discriminating, and altogether worthy and superior being.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Last night for some reason I started thinking about our house in Christchurch, New Zealand. I can still bring back that feeling. The smell, the muffled traffic sounds, the close family feeling.

We lived in University of Canterbury housing. It was on busy Creyke Road. The house was protected from the street by a large, high hedge. It may have been 8 to 10 feet high. This kept the street noise to comfortable levels in most of the house. However, the master bedroom jutted out toward the street and at night motorcycles would speed down the road making a lot of noise for George Rodney and I. We grew used to it.

In back was a garage with an apartment above. A couple from Japan lived there. We visited them when we first got there and enjoyed the conversation. Thereafter we almost never saw them. They never returned the visit.

The front door of the house opened into a hall. Anne spent a lot of time there. Beside the work for her high school in New Zealand, she had to work on correspondence courses from Mississippi State to make up the work she was missing at Starkville High School. We put a table in the front hall and she spent many hours working there.

Opening to the left were the bedrooms of the girls and of the bathroom. The two bedrooms were of wildly different sizes. Beth won the toss and got to use the big bedroom first. It was agreed that in the middle of our stay Anne would move into the big one. However when that time came, Anne had grown to love her room and she stayed there.

Anne's room was tiny. The furniture consisted of a twin bed, a bedside chest, and a chair. The width of the room was the same as that of the bed width and the width of the chest. The lenght was that of the bed length and the width of the chair. The room was approximately twice that of the area of a twin bed.

Beth's room was adequately sized. She had two beds in her room.

Between the girls' rooms was the bathroom. This was literally the bathroom. It contained two fixtures: a lavatory and a bathtub.

The living-dining room was next. It had a large picture window. It had no TV so we rented one. At that time, New Zealand had only two channels, TVNZ 1 and TVNZ 2. One came on mid-morning and the other started broadcasting late afternoon. Both shut down about midnight. Here stations sign off with planes flying and the national anthemn. There they signed off with a cute little cartoon of a kiwi bird turning lights off, taking an elevator to the top of a tower, and going to bed in a satellite dish. Adorable!

Besides the rental fee, we also had to pay to receive the broadcasts. The networks were government owned and were financed by fees paid by viewers. Despite that, there were still a lot of commercials, although each night one of the networks were commercial free.

Programs were from four sources in approximately equal amounts. Local New Zealand produced, American, British, and Australian. Our favorite show was a local one. It was a New Zealand country-western show. They would talk in the usual kiwi accent but then sing a country song and you could not tell it wasn't coming from Nashville.

While we were there a new soap opera from Australia started. We grew addicted to it. Here in the US soap operas proceed at a glacial pace. This one went dizzyingly fast. A boy found out who his true parents were, confronted his father in Sydney, and his mother in Melbourne, all in one episode. When we sat down to watch, George Rodney would tell us to fasten our seatbelts.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

July 4, 2004

We had a great 4th, perhaps the best ever. I don't know what it was, sure wish we could capture it in a bottle and bring it out again.

We got together at Janice's for lunch. Even Mother enjoyed it. Last time we took her to a lunch,the Seaton reunion, we told them at the nursing home not to feed her. Then when we got to the reunion, not one piece of food passed her lips. This time I made sure that she had had her lunch before I picked her up. And. of course, she ate this time. Not a great deal, but a good amount.

She had a good time, too. She usually gets antsy and wants to go home after an hour or so, but this time I only took her back because she needed to take medicine at 4.

Finally Janice and Keith informed us that we had to leave because his family was coming over for supper. So we moved the party to my house.

James and Rene had to go and John was feeling not so good so it was the three older sisters and families. Things went on so late that Julia went to sleep on the floor. June and family spent the night with me.

When Julia got here the next day, we told her we had played Mexican dominos all night. She was so upset, telling us "Why didn't you call me?" Actually we got in no games at all for the weekend. Julia and I will have to go to Arkansas sometime on purpose to play dominos.

Sunday afternoon we watched Gary Cooper movies on tv, Alvin York and then The Pride of the Yankees.

We enjoyed hearing Jay, April, and Alvin telling stories. My favorite one was when they went horseback riding at Chickasaw.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Day 5


I got up late, as usual, and headed east again. I got to Jacksonville in the middle of the afternoon. No problem until I got there. I had just gone from I-10 to I-95 when the bottom of the sky did fall out. It was raining so hard that people on the interstate were going less than thirty. I just told myself Don't panic. I could hardly see. I just concentrated on keeping the car on the road. About 30 minutes later, the rain lessened enough for me to find my exit, known as the JTB. Then it began raining harder than ever. When I got off that onto A1A I stopped at a service station to wait out the rain. I called Beth and found out that I was just a few blocks from the hotel so as soon as it stopped a little bit I drove to the hotel, the Days Inn on the beach.

When I checked in, I asked for a high room and got 810, on the top floor, and exactly the same room I had when I went down in May. All the rooms are oceanfront.

Beth came by to see me when she got off from work and we went to her house for supper. She cooked tacos which Laura, Steve, Beth, and I enjoyed.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Day 3

Anne and Ken had planned to get up at 5:30, load the sleeping kids in the car, and get to Nashville early. Actually you can omit the middle action because they threatened us with waking up and finding they had gone but left the kids.

When I woke up that morning, I wondered if they had really done it because Adam was in the bed with me and George was asleep on the floor. They go off considerably later than they had planned.

Jay gave me directions for when I got to Mobile. They turned out to be invaluable. He gave me lane recommendations, which I need and most people omit.

When I got to Mobile, I obeyed Jay for once. For getting on the interstate, second leftmost lane, turn left, two lanes turn and don't get into leftmost lane, swing around, and then on the interstate. I did ok also going through the tunnel.

Then came the hard part. Passing the Pensacola turnoffs. My Uncle Bob lived there and I miss him very much after his death.

Later in the afternoon when I saw very dark clouds ahead, I stopped early at Marianna, FL, west of Tallahassee. I was afraid of running into those heavy Florida downpours.

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