Saturday, July 29, 2006

Last Day on the Rivers: The Two-hearted

From a bluff overlooking the Two-hearted. This picture is from my 2005 trip down this river.

Unless you have been on it, you would not know that the river is even more beautiful than its name. And as others have said, its name is pure poetry. The Two-hearted! The name enchanted Hemingway and he used as a title of a short story he based on a fishing expedition on the Fox River. As far as anyone knows, Hemingway only saw the Two-hearted on a map. If that’s the case, he missed a treat.

I’ve paddle a lot of rivers, but this river has become my favorite (its closest rival being the Waccamaw River in Southeastern North Carolina). The stream meanderers back and forth through a thick forest, it’s bottom alternates between gravel and sand, and at places its banks rise high where the stream has cut into an ancient sand dune. Fishing is good. We put in at the Reed and Green Bridge (not to be confused with the Red Green Show). A few bends downriver, I cast a small spinner up off the bank. After only a few cranks on the reel, a trout took it and immediately jumped, doing a dance across the top of the water. He was too big to be a Brook Trout, but he got off before I could get him into the boat. A few minutes later, J. caught a Rainbow. It would be the first of many we would catch that day. Most were two small, under the 10 inch limit size, but we did catch more than enough large ones for our evening meal.

The best fishing along the river was around the confluence of the East Branch of the Two-hearted. The East Branch, with its noticeably colder water, came into the main branch on a sharp curve. We beached the boat on a sandbar on the west bank, just upstream, and fished down toward the confluence. Both of us caught large trout just above East Branch and placed them into the cooler. As we were walking back toward the confluence, we each picked out a hole just below it to fish. As a canoer first, a fisherman second, I’d been using light tackle including my pack rod. J. was also light line, but his spin-casting rod is 10 ½ feet long, longer than my largest fly rod! With 4 pound test line, a rod this long can reach out and touch anything. It also creates problems as J. is constantly tangled up in branches and there were many places with low hanging trees making it durn-near impossible to cast that pole. As we were walking over toward these holes, J jokingly cast over his long line out into my hole and immediately a trout takes his spinner. It’s the largest fish we catch of the day. But he’s stole my fish, and in fishing that’s the unpardonable sin.

However, there are plenty of fish to be caught. And below the confluence, the river widened and there were some small rapids and I pull out my fly rod and continue to successfully tempt the fish. But by this time it’s getting late in the day and we have to start paddling. When I had paddled this river before, you could hear the waves of Lake Superior several miles before the river arrived at the lake. However, the day was calm and we don’t hear any waves till right before we got off the river at 8 P.M. We quickly select a campsite at the river’s edge, locked up my canoe, drive back to the bridge to retrieve my truck. After watching the sunset across Lake Superior, under the light of a lantern, we fixed another trout dinner accompanied with fried potatoes and onions and dark coffee. The next morning, I drive south, crossing over the Big Mac and back home.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

An Update, Two Reviews and a Promised Picture

I’m spending this week with the family at a friend’s cottage on a nearby lake. As there is no internet access, I haven’t been online as much, only when I’ve been into the office. Since it’s a slow week, and a 25 minute drive to the office, I’m not around much. Actually, I’m not going to be around a lot for the next month, as I’ll be back at home for a week, then we’ll take off for two weeks down south. Anyway, it’s beautiful here. This evening I set out on the patio watching the sun sink, wondering if the winds might calm down enough for me to take the canoe and fly rod out. The winds never did calm that much, but in order to get a better view, I paddled to the lee side of an island where I watched the sun sink behind distant clouds as I cast out a “spider” upon the waters. For a few minutes, the bluegills couldn’t leave it alone and I caught six. But once the sun was completely gone and darkness began to descend, they stopped biting and I paddled back.

I’ve read an interesting book and a watched an interesting movie this week. They couldn’t be more dissimilar. Back in May I wrote about hearing Tom Mullen, a Quaker pastor, writer and professor, speak at a conference at Calvin College. His presentation was wonderful as he kept us all in stitches. Shortly after that event, I found a copy of his book Where Two or Three are Gathered Together, Someone Spills the Milk. This was published back in the 70s and is a little dated and a little silly, but it was light reading and the chapters short which made it perfect to read right before bed (a short chapter a night). Although that first book was so-so, I highly recommend the second book I read by him. It’s titled A Very Good Marriage and tells the story of his 41 year marriage to his wife who died in December 1998. Mullen breaks apart the traditional marriage vows and devotes a chapter to each (I take thee Nancy…, From this day forward…, For better or worse…, etc).

This book is, at times, humorous, but not in a silly sense. It’s joyous and sad. I found myself admiring the great love Tom and Nancy shared. He still loves her. The two of them shared a “humbleness” that strengthened their bond. “My wife was beautiful, and she thought I as wonderful,” he wrote. “From an outside perspective, we both may have been wrong. Never mind. We formed our own say of saying, ‘I love you.” (page 28) Making the book even more poignant is the fact that both of them have had medical difficulties throughout their lives. She had diabetes from childhood and he later developed the disease. But they didn’t let this get them down; they took care of each other. I’m glad I’ve read this book, although I could have read it decades ago and perhaps learned a few less lessons that I had to learn the hard way. I’m also glad to have read this book because now I have a perfect wedding gift for the couple that already has everything.

This past weekend I watched on DVD the “silent film,” The Battleship Potemkin. The movie was filmed in the Soviet Union in 1925. Most of the silent films I’ve watched have been comedies, but there was nothing funny in this one. This is a serious movie telling the story of the mutiny of a crew of a battleship at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The cause of the mutiny is bad rations. There’s obvious propaganda here. The officers are made to look like elitist fools. The Russian Orthodox priest, who looked old enough to have been a disciple of Jesus, reminds the crew that God is watching and then when the battle between the officers and sailors begins, he pretends to be dead in order to save himself. When the town in which the ship is harbored here of the mutiny, they march in protest and are attacked by Russian soldiers and Cossacks who have complete disregard for life. The movie casts a number of martyrs: the leader of the mutiny who gets shot in the back, the mother whose young boy is shot and then she too is shot when she asks the soldiers for help, and another mother who is killed and whose child in a carriage rolls down steps. There are also some tense moments in which the filming is excellent. The scene in which the battleship charges into a Russian squadron of ships holds your attention. Even without words, the scene builds suspense with the rise in music and showing the sailors at their battle stations. Everyone waits in anticipation of the battle, which is averted when the rest of the ships decide to join the revolution. One of the most interesting scenes came then the town, upon learning of the mutiny, was debating what they should do. There was a mass meeting and everyone was offering suggestions. Then one man yelled out, “Kill the Jews.” The crowd turns on the man and beat him. The film-maker used this scene to show a traditional Czarist way of dealing with problems, create a scapegoat out of the Jews. But when this guy cries out for a pogrom, the people reject the idea in a call for solidarity. Jews supported the revolution in the beginning, as a way to end the pogroms that had been so frequent in Russia; however, under Stalin’s rule just a few years after this film was produced, Jews were again being killed as enemies of the people. It seems to be a human tendency to seek the easy way of having a scapegoat than to deal with real problems. This is a short film (75 minutes long). As a silent film, there is no need for dubbing. For those of us who don’t read Russian, there’s an English translation to the Russian words printed on the screen.

And finally, for those of you who have been wanting to see the house that I participated in building, here it is! The kids did a great job, didn’t they?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Days 2 & 3 on the rivers: The East Branch of the Fox and the Manistique

We’ve caught perch all morning, most too small to bother with even though there is no size limit on perch. I’m using a 4 ½ foot pack rod, an ultra-light reel with 4 pound test line connected to a 1/8th ounce Panther Martin spinner. The combination has worked well. Along the shore I spot a hole carved into the bank and cast the spinner into the middle of it. Bam! Something hits the spinner. This ain’t no perch. Catching a glimpse of a large fish, over two feet long, roll out of the hole, I set the hook and loosen the drag. This guy could easily break this line. He tugs and it’s a give and take. He runs with the line for a bit and I reel in a bit. Slowly, I work him up to the canoe, only to have him take off when he sees me. He’s a Northern Pike, and a big one. I let him take the line, providing just enough tension to tire him out and to keep him from empting the spool. A few minutes later, he again allows me to slowly reel him in toward the boat. This time I bring him along side. He’s big and ugly, with a prehistoric looking face. But he’s not done fighting. No way is he going to consent to be hauled into the boat. Seeing us, he takes off again and I give him plenty of line. J maneuvers the canoe over to the shore and gets out. The fish is too big for the net, but we’re going to try to land him. As I reel him back in, J comes around the boat and stands in knee deep water with the net. As soon as he sees J, he turns and runs again, this time snapping the line. A Great Northern, the one that got away.

We’re fishing the Manistique River. We’d put in that morning at the launch east of Germfask, off Ten Curve Road, and paddled upstream to the lake. Around one bend, a Great Blue Heron takes off. However, instead of flying away from us as they normally do, this guy comes straight at us, just 20 feet above the surface. We can feel the power of the air moving under his wings. There’s not much current and we fish the river from the lake down. It’s still stormy and a thunderhead passes north of us and thirty minutes later another one goes to our south, but we only get a light drizzle. This river was the site of extensive logging activity and the cut logs that didn’t make the float down to Lake Michigan can be seen lying on the bottom, waiting to snag a hook. At one point, just east of Ten Curve Camp, a set of railroad tracks can be seen, running off the bank and into the water. I wonder if it was a collapsed trestle from the logging days, or if someone used the rail to create a boat launch. Between the camp and the confluence with the Fox River, we’re surprised by a small dam. We now understand why there has been no current. The Manistique is a fairly warm river; as expected, we’ve caught no trout.

Once we join up with the Fox, we’re floating the section of river that we covered at night two days earlier. The storms pass us by; the afternoon is beautiful. Cloudless, the bright sun seems to have taken its toll on the fishing too. We paddle, occasionally casting a line, while picking out a few landmarks from our night float down the river. An osprey swoops down to check us out, before turning and heading for safety in the high trees. It’s a good day even if we’ve not catching any trout.

This is our third day fishing. We didn’t paddle Sunday. After we got up, around 9 A.M., having slept only part of the seven hours we’d been in bed due to servere thunderstorms. We all went out to eat breakfast. The short mile drive into town was enlightening as we had to navigate around broken limbs and pieces of tree. In the diner, we heard that much of the area was without power. B and H decided they were going to head back after breakfast (they were planning on driving back Sunday afternoon). As H said, we got our two days of paddling in; it’s just that we did it in one day.

J and I spend the rest of the day up at Grand Marias, walking around the Picture Rocks, and exploring the East Branch of the Fox River. We do a bit of fishing on the East Branch, wading the river above the M-28 Bridge, but have no luck. The water is muddy and the weather still unsettled. We head back to our camp late in the afternoon and fry up a bunch of potatoes and onions on a griddle and in a frying pan, fry the mess of brook trout. I also fix a pot of dark coffee. It’s a good camp meal. We both get to bed early in order to get a good start on the Manistique in the morning.

The Fox brings in colder water and this section of the Manistique has a rocky bottom with deep holes. There are also plenty of cut logs lying down there, left over from the last log float which occurred in 1935. We’re no longer catching perch. J catches a Walleye. It’s a nice fish, but not quite large enough and releases it. A few minutes later, I hook another Northern. This one is much smaller, maybe 18 inches, a good six inches short of the 24 inch size limit, so I release him. Through this section, we mostly spend our times trying to free lures that’s been snagged on submerged logs. We pull out about 6 P.M. After loading the canoe, we head to Curtis for dinner before driving at twilight up to the Two-hearted River.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Day 1 on the rivers: A long day on the Fox

Reaching out into the dark waters with his paddle and drawing it toward the boat, J pulls the bow out into the river. For a moment, I hold the stern fast against the bank, allowing the current to catch the bow and spin us around and into the fast flowing stream. It’s almost noon. And hot, too hot for being this far north. At first we don’t fish much and make good time, crossing the highway at Seney and a few minutes later the rusty trestle of the Soo Lines. In 1919, when Hemingway visited this river, the line from the ferry at St Ignace on the northern side of the Mackinaw Straits all the way to Duluth, Minnesota. Today, the rusty rails of light iron have been severely amputated and stretch only from the main line at Trout Lake to Munising. There’s not much rail traffic left, mostly logs and shipments to and from a paper mill.

Continuing to paddle, we enter “The Spreads” about a mile below the tracks. Trees disappear and like an artery leaving the heart for the body, which splits into smaller ones, the river splits into numerous deep channels cutting through tall grass. The channels are lined with shrubs, mostly tag elders, providing shade over the deep holes. We dig out the rods. At one of the bends, J, being in the front, pulls a small brook trout out of a hole. I continue to navigate the canoe, getting an occasional chance to fish, but with no luck. After a mile or so, the river comes back together and the banks rise higher. We’re making good time. Tammarks, hemlocks and jack pines first appear. But as the stream draws us deeper into the northwoods, maples dominate the shoreline standing as sentries at guard. Others have fallen prey to the forces of water, creating log dams along the river providing us with both an obstacle and an opportunity.

This is the country Hemingway describes in “The Big Two-hearted River.” High wooded ridges overlooks a river filled with log dams under which deep holes are carved out. Trout hid in these holes. At first, instead of cursing the obstacles, we seize the opportunity. Approaching a jam, we beach the boat upstream in order not to spook the fish, jump out and fish the holes before portaging the boat over the logs and continuing downstream. This works well and by mid-afternoon, we’re approaching our limit of Brook Trout, a small but tasty native specie.

It’s still hot at six o’clock. J and I have caught our limit and, being good friends, offer to help H and B catch up on theirs. They’ve spent most of the day behind us, often forgoing fishing for swimming. However, we are also beginning to realize that these log dams, which have become so frequent that they’re now at almost every bend, are slowing our progress. In order to make miles, we begin to pass up some good holes.

At seven, we stop fishing. We’re still pulling over log dams. We haven’t reached the confluence with the East Branch. The deerflies are nasty, swarming around our heads. I zip the legs onto my pants and pull on a long sleeve shirt. A few minutes later, I pull the mosquito netting down over my face. It makes it difficult to see, especially obstacles right below the water line, but the netting provides relief from these deer flies that seem to have an immunity to Deet. Only my hands are exposed and for the next hour, I chum the river with dead deer flies, on one occasion killing four gnawing flies on one hand with a single slap. We’re making good time, having perfected the art of portaging over the log dam, but the East Branch is still no where to be seen.

In the summer, this far north and west in the time zone, the sun sets at 9:30 P.M. I begin to wonder at what point it will be prudent to pull over and make camp for the evening. I decide not to bring the subject up until after the sun is down, knowing that we’d still have a good half hour to gather firewood, clean fish for dinner, and to make as comfortable of a camp as possible. If we camp then, we’d only have six or seven hours of night, and we could get back on the river at first light. We finally pass the East Branch right around sunset and the water level rises and pace quickens. I know we have four or five more miles to Germfask, probably six or seven to the bridge where we’ve dropped a vehicle. I pitch the idea of camping overnight on the bank, informing everyone that I do have some extra food and a lighter stashed away, but no one wants to quit. I’m concerned that in the dark it will be easy to tip a canoe and although I don’t think we have to worry about drowning, I worry about losing equipment, maybe even boats, in the dark.

A half mile past the East Branch, we join up with the Manistique. The river widens and there are fewer obstacles. We paddle furiously. The canoe guidebook suggested this is a five or six hour trip, with the author bragging that he made it in 4 ½. I wouldn’t buy a used car from the guy. As the light fades, we continue to paddle, but drop our speed in order to be extra careful. Right before dark, J and I split a energy bar. We haven’t eaten since lunch, nearly seven hours earlier, and I’m still not hungry, but need the energy. A few stars begin to appear. We keep close to one another, staying mostly in the middle of the channel. When my paddle hits the bottom of the river, I realize that it has changed from sand to rock. Occasionally we shoot across a rock garden with small waves splashing on the boat. I spot the constellation Scorpios just above the trees on the southern horizon.

At a little after eleven, we spot a fire up on the bank. It’s surrounded by a group of campers. We hail them and they’re surprised. Someone shines a flashlight at a spot where we can easily get the boats to shore. After pulling the boats on shore, we walk over to their campfire and ask if one of them would be willing to drive us to the car. “I’d love to, man,” one of them said, “but we’re all shit-faced, we’ve been drinking all day.” Looking around, it's evident he’s telling the truth. Only a few of them are awake, several more are asleep, or more likely passed out, lying next to the fire. Since B’s vehicle is at the bridge, I suggest he and I hike back to get the car. “Maybe we’ll get a ride,” I suggest. We start walking up to the highway and through the town of Germfask. Only two cars pass us, but no one stops. Coming back, we clock it at 1.7 miles from the bridge to the campground. We quickly load the boats onto B’s trailer, and drive back into Seney. It’s now midnight.

Not feeling up to cooking up fish, we head to Andy’s Seney Bar, the only place open in town. A few patrons sit at the bar, another couple are shooting a game of pool. We asked the bartender if we could get something to eat as we’d just come off the river. He confides that the cook left at 10, but offers to bake us some frozen pizzas. We ordered a couple and some beers. Hearing that we’d just gotten off the river, everyone in the joint begins to ask us about our trip while J. hustles a few games of pool. One guy suggests he’d allow at least 12 hours for paddling the stretch we did. Someone else digs out a fishing guide book, whose author suggested to allow 11 hours for just paddling and that if one wanted to fish, to make it a two day trip. We agreed with that estimation and long to ring the neck of the author of the canoeing guidebook. Now that we're safe, we laugh and enjoy another beer.

About 1 AM, we head back to the campground north of town where we all quickly crash, only to be awaken at 6 AM by a severe thunderstorm. The wind howls, breaking off limbs, and the clouds open up, sending a deluge of rain and providing a spectacular lightning show. It wasn't suppose to rain. It’s a good thing we didn’t spend the night on the river, after all.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cornish Pasties

While I’ve been building houses, canoeing, fishing and in general recreating in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, some of you have been salivating like Pavlov’s dogs over the through of Cornish Pasties. You can buy these pasties all over up there, but I first experienced them in Nevada. It seems that wherever the Cornish went, they left behind the recipe for pasties. These “meat pies” are ideal for a miner’s pail and can be eaten without folks by holding onto the crust. However, most pasties in the UP are served with gravy over them, necessitating a plate, folk and napkin. Interestingly, too, there weren't too many miners from Cornwall in the Eastern UP, they were more in the western UP, up around Marquette, Houghton and Copper Harbor and into Wisconsin where mining was big in the 19th Century. In the east, it was mostly logging and, if my history is correct, settled mostly by Finns, Swedes and Germans.

Yes, I ate a pasty while in the UP, but I preferred our camp dinners of fried brook trout with potatoes and onions and strong Honduran coffee. I’ll try to get another post about my travels by Saturday. Until then, fix yourself some pasties and eat them under the table, without washing up beforehand, imaging that you're taking a break in the bowels of the earth while in search of highgrade ore.

Cornish Pasties

Crust: 1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of shortening
Dash of salt (not very much)
A little cold water

Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture, drop water on the mixture and mix in with a fork, divide into 3 parts, refrigerate

Mix: ½ pound top round steak up into cubes (I’ve substituted lamb)
3 peeled medium potatoes, diced
1 good sized onion, chopped (you can never have too little onion, in my humble opinion)
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped rutabaga

Roll out the crust into a circle approximately 9”. On ½ of the dough, place 1/3 of the mix along with salt and pepper and a pat of butte. Fold the dough over the other half and seal firmly by pressing down on the edges with a fork. Make a small hole in the top for steam and brush with a beaten egg. Place on floured cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees F and continue baking for 90 minutes.

For a slightly different recipe (from where I borrowed the picture of pasties), check out this link for the World Wide Gourmet. If you don’t want to make them, you can even order them from Lawry’s Pasty Shop.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Update from the UP

Update: This isn’t going to be a very polished post, just a bit about the trip so far. I got up here Sunday evening and Monday morning we started building the house (the foundation had been completed prior to our arrival). By quit’en time Monday, we’d build the box on the foundation and set the walls. On Tuesday, we set trusses and sheeted the roof (I got out of sheeting the roof having volunteered to do a Dutch-oven dinner for folks on Tuesday night. Later Tuesday night, we saw the most wonderful sunset over Lake Superior. Wednesday morning, one group did roofing while the rest of us completed things inside and put on foam insulation board. That afternoon we started putting on siding while a group, working with the electrician on our team, ran wires. While this was happening, another group inside insulated the walls. Yesterday, we pretty much finished up the siding and everything except for the ends (we ran out of siding and had to wait till this morning to finish). We then spent much of the afternoon swimming in Lake Superior which was surprisingly warm! This morning, we finished up and cleaned up things. Tomorrow, everyone heads home but me—I’ll meet up with some friends and be on the Fox River by 10:30 AM (if all goes well).

Fishing Update: I got a chance to fish for about 45 minutes on Wednesday. I went over to the Au Train River (really, it’s just a good side creek) and fished just below the falls, where the river tumbles over cliffs. The river is about 6 miles from where we’re building the house. I caught a small brown trout and missed another, using a flyrod and cheating (using a small hook and worm instead of a fly). Hopefully, I'll eat my fill of trout for the next four or five days.

Computer Update: Boy, it was easier to get an internet connection in Honduras than up here in the UP. In the area where we are at, the only connections are dial-up and I didn’t have a phone connection. I came into Munising this afternoon, where there’s a coffee shop with wireless. I hope everyone is doing okay. I’ll be back around next Wednesday or Thursday and will catch up with folks after then. I may even have a few pictures I can bum from folks with digital cameras and upload so that you can at least see the house.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Looking for Nick Adams

I’m out of here tomorrow and will not be online much for the next ten days, heading into the UP (for non-Michiganders, that’s the Upper Peninsula). I’ll spend next week with a group of students helping them behave while building a house for a needy family all while swatting mosquitoes and black flies. Then, next Saturday, I’ll take off to see if I can locate Nick Adams as I join up with a few “older” friends and we float and fish the Fox and Two-hearted Rivers. Hemingway’s inspiration for his classic short-story, “The Big Two-Hearted River,” came from a fishing expedition he and some friends took to the Fox River shortly after the Great War. It’s supposed to be a great trout stream. Last summer, I paddled the lower portion of the “Two-hearted,” but didn’t do any fishing. This summer, we’ll spend two days on the river, paddling the entire stretch that can be navigated. Supposedly, Hemingway liked the name "Two-Hearted" better than "Fox," hence the name of the story. But some suggest that the reason was because he wanted to "hide" a favorite trout stream, but that's probably not the case since for all we know, Hemingway only fished the Fox once.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to get online. I may get a chance to post next week, but once I head to the river, the computer will stay packed up and I’ll be limited to my notebook and a pen. I'll check back in with everyone when I get back home. Stay cool!

Nevada Jack, reporting on the absurd: Of course, Sage could forego actual canoeing and fishing, avoiding sunburns, sore muscles and unpleasant encounters with bugs, by staying at home and going on a virtual canoe trip catching virtual fish with only a risk of encountering a not so virtual case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Did you catch this story on virtual hunting? Some people have just too much time on their hands or too large of wallets (or too much credit). Now, on an entrepreneurial level, maybe a good way to recycle old computer screens is to use them in the mounting of the head of these animals that have been tracked down and killed over the internet. Instead of having an antelope head mounted on a wall, you could have it coming out of a computer screen. Can you imagine that sitting on a living room table? Surely it would become a conversation piece. However, I'll forgo any profits that I might have made and hope other states join Louisiana in outlawing internet hunting.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Murf's Reference for Graduate School

Last week, Murf asked for references for grad school. I've written a lot of references in my day, but this one was particularly fun. I spent my lunch time in a coffee shop thinking of all the endearing things about Murf that I might share with her Inquisitors, (aka, graduate selection committee).

July 6, 2006

To Whom It Will Be a Concern:

I beg you to accept Murf into your graduate school. Put your prejudices aside and ignore the blue coloration of her skin, and give her a chance to study in your hallowed halls. I assure you that you and your school will never be the same and that this will mostly be for the good. I’ve known Murf for nearly a year, although we’ve never met in person (only through the internet). However, the internet provides better insight into her quirky side than you’ll find from other, more normal, references. From my observations, Murf is quick witted. She isn’t afraid to challenge right-winged bloggers and stands tall to all other women, especially those whose dresses are sized in the single digits. She may come across a tad bit jealous, but me thinks this is because she cares deeply and wants to protect her male friends who see better than they think. Sometimes she has a god complex, handing out angel wings (an act of grace) and then retracting them (equivalent to banishing someone in hell) when she thinks the recipient isn’t living up to her standards. Sometimes she’s keeps gnawing on the same bone. This has the capacity to just drive me nuts, but it’s all in her desire to arrive at the “truth.” In general, think of Murf as your “kinder, gentler psychopath.”

Murf is also a great proofreader. I’m sure she’ll turn in a proper, although slightly unorthodox, thesis complete with crossed “t’s”, dotted “i’s” and subjects and verbs in general agreement. It’ll probably be funny which, when you think about it, may mean her thesis will be read instead of collecting dust on the shelves of your hallowed library. She’s also a great teacher, directing me over the phone through the steps necessary to put links into the sidebar of my blog. I would say this showed a humanitarian effort toward a complete computer nincompoop, except that she admitted her fetish for southern accents.

Murf comes from good solid stock and, as they say, “the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree,” which in her case means she lives in the same house she grew up in. However, it’s rumored that she and her husband, in a recent remodel of her childhood home, constructed a black walled playroom in the basement. She got through this project without going to divorce court and while keeping her husband from going no more than 200% over budget (this feat demostrates her managerial abilities). As for the true purpose of this room, I'll leave that to your imagination.

One piece of advice, I’d keep her away from men in uniform, men with balding heads, men from Canada, men who play hockey, and men from the South. Actually, Murf would probably do well at a Catholic girls’ school, except that she hasn’t been able to find any with graduate programs.

Good luck, you’re going to need it if you accept her.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Misc. Stuff

I spent the Fourth of July evening watching the Southwest Michigan Devil Ray’s beat up on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Fireworks followed the game, a decent show except that the finale came during the middle. Don’t exactly know what happened, maybe someone lit the wrong fuse. Actually, the best fireworks came in the bottom of the fourth or fifth, when the Devil Rays got five runs. I tried to spend the rest of the day being lazy, but it didn’t work. I did spend a fair amount of time snoozing and reading in my hammock. Currently reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America and the King Years, 1954-1963. Just reading this book is giving my arms a workout; it must weigh 6 pounds. It’s a fascinating read. But I got to feeling guilty just lying around and reading, so I ended up cleaning out the garage until it was time for us to leave for the ball park.

What a Fourth, to have the Space Shuttle launch and North Korea launching all their rockets. It’s easy to laugh at North Korea’s failures, but it’s no laughing matter as the risk it poses. I’m still upset with Bush over his “Axis of Evil” comments. It seems as if we’re watching a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sooner or later the Koreans will get the missile right and the idea of such technology in such unstable hands is frightening.

China this past week announced their railroad from Golmud to Lhasa (Tibet) is now open. The “Sky Train” is quite a feat, as engineers had to design the train to withstand altitude problems (the tracks reach 16,500 feet above sea level) and issues of permafrost. The railcars are built by Canada’s Bombardier (a bit of the global economy at work) and much of the tracks through the permafrost were built on trestles. It’s now a two day and two nights run from Beijing to Lhasa. A part of me wants to ride it, yet I can also see how the railroad will destroy the culture in Tibet as more foreigners (including the Chinese) flood the country. Still, it’s amazing. I wonder if Paul Theroux plans to travel to China and ride this train.

Enough for now, maybe I’ll try to get another memory story posted by the weekend.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July Folks!

Growing up down South, the 4th was a rite of passage for the summer. It was right around that fourth that we’d start harvesting large ripe tomatoes (that were quickly converted into delicious sandwiches), watermelons so ripe the juice would drip down on my tanned chest (the best watermelon eating was done without a shirt), and heavenly sweet corn that was slathered with butter and gnawed off the cob. But up here, the corn ain't quite waist high, tomatoes still have a few weeks to go, and the only melons available have been imported. Still, it’s a time to celebrate our nation’s birthday and ideals.

I’m a bit of a heretic. I’d like us to change our national anthem to something that can be sung by non-musical buffoons like me. My choice would be “God of the Ages,” the National Hymn, which was penned as “God of our Fathers” in 1876 for our nation’s centennial. It was originally sung to the tune “Russian Hymn” but it got its own tune even before the Bolshevik Revolution. Personally, I like the newer version, “God of the Ages,” which better focuses on the eternal nature of God and not just on our ancestors. This past Sunday, in the church I usually attend, this hymn was sung. A pipe organ, grand piano and trumpet provided the music. It was moving to join with the voices of others, giving thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy.

1. God of the ages, whose almighty hand
leads forth in beauty all the starry band
of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
our grateful songs before thy throne arise.

2. Thy love divine hath led us in the past;
in this free land with thee our lot is cast;
be thou our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay,
thy Word our law, thy paths our chosen way.

3. From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence,
be thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
thy true religion in our hearts increase;
thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

4. Refresh thy people on their toilsome way;
lead us from night to never-ending day;
fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
and glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.

Be sure to keep AI and others who are deployed in hostile areas in your thoughts and prayers today and every day. Have a happy Fourth of July!