Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mother of all Tiredness

Forgive me for not posting the last couple of days. I have been helping friends move. They had to be out of their house by tonight, and they have enough stuff for two houses. Their new place is much bigger, but due to their shampooing the carpets the night before the move, most things couldn't be placed where they needed to go, to allow the carpet to dry. So the (way) over-sized garage is packed, the space under the deck is packed, the tiled areas (kitchen, breakfast nook), and the hardwood floor area (dining room) are jammed full of stuff.

We started Friday night, although they had already brought many things from a storage unit, so the garage already seemed fairly full. We hauled one load Friday night: my pick-up, his pick-up and 9-foot trailer, his dad's pick-up, and their car. Saturday we began about 10:00 AM or a little later. We took three loads of those same vehicles plus one other small pick-up. By 9:00 PM we had the beds set up, and I left. Today, after church, we took one load while waiting for help to move the two upright pianos. That finally came, and we moved them on the trailer but in two trips. The extra help then disappeared, and we took one more load of two pick-ups and car. They have one more load of stuff to take out, which they will probably take tomorrow. The landlord can charge them an extra day if he likes, but I doubt he will.

Consequently, I've had no time to blog this weekend, no time to read, not much time to keep up with the writing sites I monitor on the Internet, etc. Plenty of aches and pains to keep me company right now. But tomorrow will be a day of rest. I have a few easy chores to do around the house, then will see what I can do for my writing career. At least I'll post how I did on my August goals, and post some September goals.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Crashed...and likely Fried

I called the computer repair company today and got good news and bad news.

The good news is the hard drive is likely okay.

The bad news is the mother board has is likely about to die.

Which means either a new computer, something we haven't budgeted for, or reversion to the old computer I got from my company, probably manufactured in 1999.

So maybe it wasn't the trojan horses, viruses, and worms that killed it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Learning to Wait

You'd think I'd know about waiting by now, that somewhere in my 56 plus years on this planet the understanding that waiting is sometimes a requirement of life would have sunk in.

I still find it difficult, however, especially as I seek publication. On July 2nd I mailed my Screwtape's Good Advice proposal to the editor who requested it. No word yet. On July 30th I e-mailed the proposal for In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People to the agent who requested it. No word yet.

Eight and four weeks are not long times for the publishing wheels to grind through the process, not by a long shot. It's still difficult to wait, especially when these were requested after a face-to-face interview. Is no news good news? If they were looked at right away and were not rejected out of hand, if the editor and agent are mulling it over and comparing to other proposals in hand or maybe discussing them in committee or with other agents, then no news is good news. If, on the other hand, the proposal sits in the slush pile, despite specifically being requested, then I suppose no news is good news too.

It's all in God's timing, and up to His will through His servants, the editor and the agent. I just wish I could put them so far out of my mind that I could work on other works-in-progress.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle says: It takes a family

Yes, that was the underlying message of Michelle Obama last night at the Democratic party's convention, to the delegates, staff, media, nation, and world: It takes a family to raise a child, and that family consisting of both a father and mother, and if it happens, cooperating siblings, all working on their own initiative, all dedicated to the task at hand, working diligently, loving totally.

I thought the tribute she paid to her dad was touching, how he worked at a "filtration plant"--by which I assume she means a water treatment plant, and how he continued to do so even after he was physically diminished by disease. He altered his routine, taking longer to get ready for work, so that he could continue to support his family, which he saw as his duty, so that his wife could be a stay-at-home mom. Michelle praised he mother for that, and seemed to feel having that mom at home was important to her upbringing.

The relationship between Michelle and her brother (didn't catch his name) also seemed important, based on their dovetailing testimonies. She influenced him to stay with coaching, and he influenced her to pursue public service as opposed to a Big Law partnership. Any parent would be proud to have such children, and feel that they had done something right in their raising.

Look at what was absent in Michelle's speech concerning the influences in her life: neighbors, neighborhood, extended family, government programs. She mentioned her neighborhood, the south side of Chicago, but did so in almost derogatory language. You got the sense that the neighborhood would have pulled her down if the family hadn't propelled her up. It appears, from Michelle's words, that the government had no influence at all, either positive or negative.

A last impression I got was the positive influence Michelle has on her husband and children. As stable and positive as her raising was, Barack's was turbulent: absent father, mother who seemed unstable, frequent moves, raised by a racist grandmother, experimentation with mind-altering drugs. Maybe Michelle helped her husband settle down and end the wild days of his youth. She is likely having that same influence on their daughters.

So, thank you Michelle, for that positive message, exactly what this nation needs to hear today, and echoing that of Bob Dole in 1996: To raise a child, it doesn't take a village; it takes a family.

By the way, Michelle, have you discussed this with Senator Clinton?

Monday, August 25, 2008


Yes, it finally happened to us. Our main computer, the one that is the server for our home network, crashed Friday night. On Thursday we had the virus/trojan horse problem, and on Friday the worst happened. A cousin was unable to help us via phone on Saturday morning, so I disconnected the offender and took it to the computer shop. After 3-4 day wait, we will see if anything is recoverable.

Actually, that computer is not loaded with data. Lynda does her stock trading from it, and has a few MS Word files she would like, but it's not as big a problem as it would be with my computer, which has all my writing. Most of it I have backed up, either on my assigned computer at work or on off-site sources. I really need to put it on my jump drive. Oh, yes, all our downloaded photos are on Lynda's computer, but we still have those on the camera cards, so nothing should be lost.

But I experienced another crash on Saturday, a physical problem. The day started well enough, after moving a few light boxes to my mother-in-law's new apartment on Friday, I expected no extra tiredness. And Saturday started well. We had a strong rain/wind storm while I was balancing the checkbook and paying bills. And I worked on tightening a small, antique table Lynda picked up at a sale. We then took that computer in and went to buy our weekly groceries, all of which went well. We were supposed to load up a table in my pick-up and deliver it to m-i-l, but after napping first, I woke up and hurt all over. Both my shoulders, my knees, my wrists, and most fingers were extremely painful. No way was I going to lift a table into a pick-up. So the evening was spent doing little but reading, early to bed.

Might this have been a reaction to extra eating I did during the last part of the week, following my annual physical on Tuesday. That was a good report, with all blood work in line except sugar, and more than a token weight loss for the first time in a long time. By the end of the week my weight was up--a short-term gain that will disappear with a few good days of eating. Was it a food allergy? Or maybe just a reaction to two weeks of very light eating during greater-than-normal physical activity? I wish I knew.

Sunday was much better. I took my normal day of rest, attending church and Sunday school, doing little physical labor, foregoing my normal Sunday afternoon walk, and devoting some time to writing. By the end of the day I felt good, and still feel good this morning. Very strange, that reaction.

Friday, August 22, 2008

An evening partly usurped

Last evening I went to writers critique group, the Spavinaw Writers, who meet at the Gravette Public Library every other week. I shared my query letter and two samples articles for Documenting America. They all seemed to love the concept, and I received much good feedback on how to make it better. One other woman shared a chapter from her novel, but no one else had anything. We were the only two that had anything. We had two new writers attend, college age ladies, so we had a full table even with a couple of people missing.

Then, at home, I had to deal with viruses and other malware on my wife's computer. These "popped up" yesterday, causing her Internet Explorer and stock trading programs to either lock up or lose performance. She had run scans and isolated most of the critters, but then the instructions from our free security program of what to do next were not clear. Okay, so they are in the virus vault. Do we delete them, repair them? What happens if we do one thing--or the other? Do we need to repair the repairable, delete then restore the unrepairable, or just dump it? I went to my computer, began my own virus scan, then did some Internet searching for the particular malware she had on her machine. I determined they were pretty bad, but I didn't get all the answers I needed. I searched for and found a primer on computer malware, and began reading.

All this time I kept checking on the status of my scan. It had reached 54 minutes and isolated about 30 to 40 adware cookies or similar relatively innocuous yet unwanted files. I went to click on minimize, guess I had poor mouse control, and so clicked on close and accidentally ended the scan, not having acted on any of the results in progress. I was so upset I closed out of all open programs, went upstairs, read for twenty minutes, couldn't concentrate and so went to bed.

This computer malware is an awful thing. I guess we'll have to bite the bullet and go with a paid security program. It's a shame we must outlay our money to protect ourselves from evil.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Olympics (sigh)

For the first time ever for the summer Olympics, I'm not interested. What a change in me. I've been watching the Olympics since 1964, when they were in Tokyo, when Bob Hayes won the 100 meter dash to become the world's fastest man. The 1968 Olympics resulted in my two sharpest memories, good and bad: Bob Beamon setting a record in the long jump that stood for decades, and the raised fist protest on the medal stand by American 400 meter runners.

What is it now that drives my lack of interest? Oh, I've watched some. Saw the tape-delayed 100 and 200 meter records/wins for Usain Bolt of Jamaica, the US sweep in the men's 400 meter hurdles, some gymnastics, some swimming, some volleyball. But overall, if my wife hadn't turned on the TV, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

So again, what drives my lack of interest? Maybe it's just my competing interests. In past Olympiads I wasn't so into trying to be a writer. Now every minute I spend with eyes on the television puts me further behind on writing projects, with consequences down the road. Also, I have this small spike in genealogy interest happening right now, also taking me away from writing but also requiring a lot of concentration. It's hard to watch a balance beam routine when trying to type a family group sheet, or add proper citations to an "events in the life of" document. Then there's all the work of moving my mother-in-law from her house to an apartment. That has gone well, the move is mostly complete (though with boxes yet unpacked), and now remains the sale of excess items and of the house.

Two other things which are consuming time, either now or scheduled for the next 10 days, are trying to get healthier through better eating and much walking for exercise, and helping a best friend move by August 31st.

I think I just answered my question, though, in the last paragraph. It's time. I realize the Olympics come around only every four years (or every two years including the winter version), but it's a question of whether watching them is a good use of my time when I have so many other things I need to do. I keep plugging away at a little writing, a little genealogy, a little reading for pleasure, a lot of walking, and a lot of moving (with much, much more of that the next ten days).

The Olympics? How soon is the closing ceremony? I missed the opening one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Praise God with one heart

I continue to gain, in these busy days, much enjoyment from reading the letters of John Wesley. I take about twenty minutes in them in the morning at my desk at work, after I have finished devotions and poured a cup of coffee. I'm currently reading in Volume 2, in the letters from the year 1745. I found this jewel a couple of days ago.

It is evidently one work with what we have seen here. Why should we not all praise God with one heart?

Whoever agrees with us in that account of practical religion...I regard not what his other opinions are, the same is my brother and sister and mother. I am more assured that love is of God than that any opinion whatsoever is so. Herein may we increase more and more.

In reading Wesley's letters, I've found out what a combative fellow he was at this point of his ministry. Of course, since he was calling men to live by faith, and to put that faith into practice through subsequent works, he spoke contrary to the State church, which practiced, regardless of what their printed doctrine might say, that salvation was by attention to the means of grace administered by the church. So for Wesley to say that salvation had nothing to do with the church rubbed a bunch of clergymen the wrong way.

But the common man responded to him, and he preached to thousands in churches and tens of thousands in fields after the churches were closed to him. Was it to some extent jealousy that caused the clergy to oppose Wesley so vigorously? Their own parishioners wouldn't sit in their churches, but would stand outside for an hour and drink in what Wesley said.

In this letter, Wesley writes to Lord Grange, thanking him for a copy of a letter, which apparently "shows a truly Christian spirit." This all had something to do with the work being done in other places possibly including in America by Jonathan Edwards and Gilbert Tennent. The letter was apparently a breath of fresh air for Wesley, who had seen mostly opposition.

In Wesley's reply, I find my own breath of fresh air. Today the church seems more divided than ever, not just by denominations but also by worship practices, end times beliefs, and politics. We spend way too much time focusing on our differences and not enough on what binds us together. Wesley was able to see that, regardless of his doctrinal disagreements with George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, et. al., they were all engaged in "one work", so "why should we not all praise God with one heart?"

Wesley goes on to note that "love is of God", but opinions may not be. And he says, concerning love, "Herein may we increase more and more." May it always be so.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cyrene, I think I know you

My genealogy work last week was mainly concerning Cyrene Snyder, my wife's great-great-grandmother. She was a puzzle for a while. I thought her maiden name was Whitaker, but eventually learned of her previous marriage.

Cyrene was born 1839 in Brown County, Ohio, to Adam Snyder and Mary M. __________, the fifth of six children born to this couple. They moved to Van Buren County, Iowa, between 1850 and 1856. There Cyrene, when she was 19, married Thomas Whitaker. Thomas was a music teacher (which seems kind of strange for that part of the country in that era), and had attended a Bible college in Weableau, Hickory County, Missouri, north of Springfield. Thomas was not well, suffering from a lung ailment that may have been tuberculosis. Yet he was able to travel, making two trips to the west coast, once to look for gold, and once "for his health", boarding a ship there and sailing to Central America, making the crossing, then up to the east coast and eventually back to Iowa. Cyrene was pregnant when he began this last trip, and delivered their third child while he was away.

Thomas died around 1870, and Cyrene spent time with his relatives and with her brother (either Hiram or Peter, I haven't yet determined). Thomas had given her a lot of instability. Her children were all born in different locations, her first in a covered wagon miles away from any family. She may have been looking for stability when she married Walter Thompson in Appanoose County, Iowa in 1872. Walter was recently widowed, and had seven children, four still in the home. He was about 24 years older than Cyrene, but he seems to have given her the stability she did not have with Thomas Whitaker. I think the Thompsons lived in the same place for the next 15 or so years.

Walter and Cyrene had three sons, including my wife's great-grandfather. This meant the blended family--his, hers, and theirs--was 14 children in all. Tracking down this brood and their descendants has been difficult, but a picture is beginning to emerge. Still much more to go, but I think I can find many of Cyrene's descendants.

Walter passed away sometime between 1885 and 1889, at which time Cyrene married John Bailey in Sullivan County, Missouri. I have not yet been able to learn how many children he brought to the mix. Photos show him to be a learned, refined person. They resided in Green City, Missouri, where Cyrene had at least five of her children near her most of the time. Once daughter, Florence Whitaker Schnelle, moved with her family to Sharon, Barber County in southwestern Kansas in 1900. Cyrene paid her a visit in Oct-Nov 1902 and died there of "dropsy of the heart" on November 8, 1902, age 64. Her obituary says she "came home a corpse" on the day she had intended to return.

All of this is of no interest to almost anyone in the world, save me and a couple of Lynda's cousins who are also working on this line. But I find Cyrene's life fascinating. Much data exists from which to piece together her biography. I like her; I like what she stands for. Her family was not in the first wave of emigrants to the west. They followed the pioneers, always a state behind the frontier. Yet they were pioneers in their own way, and did much to build America.

Last night I filed most of the papers generated from last week's research. I have one more night to go, of filing and maybe drawing a few charts, after which I will return to writing with renewed vigor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Joy of Genealogy

Returning from the trip to Florida, rather than jump right back into writing stuff I have worked on genealogy the last two days. Shortly before the trip I received an e-mail from one of my wife's cousins about their joint lineage, but had to put off doing much with it due to the trip. The relationship is her husband is my wife's half-second cousin once removed. I wrote to this woman some years ago, but we never established a sharing dialog. Now we have.

She has come into a treasure trove of pictures she is willing to share, and I have some information on the common line I'm willing to share. She will also have some info on that line that I was not able to dig out of archives. So this will be mutually beneficial. And, the next time we go to Meade, Kansas we will spend time with a "new" cousin. I say new because these folks and my wife's family lived in Meade for years and were not aware of the relationship.

I think genealogy is even more enjoyable to me than writing, if that's possible. It's like detective work and history fused together. I've always loved history, and have found, in this decade of genealogy research, that I love detective work. What joy I experience in finding a new ancestor, or debunking a family myth, or finding long-lost cousins, or corresponding with like-minded people even if it turns out we are not related. Meeting those living, breathing cousins makes up for all the time the genealogist spends with dead people.

I don't know how long I will do this, maybe only another day or so. The writing self-imposed deadlines are waiting, and should any of my proposals meet with acceptance I will find myself inundated. But for now, Cyrene (Snyder) Whitaker Thompson Bailey, b. 1839 d. 1902, you have my almost undivided attention.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


We are home again, 2,600+ miles and ten days later. On Friday the 1st, we headed out, driving to Orlando for the conference I presented a paper at. We went south via New Orleans, just driving through on the Interstate, but still seeing areas that were devastated in Hurricane Katrina. Our route took us through new States, more for Lynda than for me.

In Orlando, we did a lot less than expected. My work kept me busy almost three days, and Lynda hung out in the hotel room and did her work. We had planned to leave Orlando today, but on Thursday afternoon we made the decision to head home the next day. Rather than make the drive in two days, we took three, a leisurely drive indeed.

On the way there, we stopped in Live Oak, Florida, and saw my cousin Pamela. I last saw her in 1959. I don't remember that, but the family photos exist of us in the same picture in my parent's driveway. That was an enjoyable meeting lasting a few hours. The next day we saw her father, my Uncle Gilbert and his wife and another of his daughters, my cousin Jody Beth and her husband. I hadn't seen them since Dad's funeral in 1997.

So it was a good trip. Back home, I will again turn my thoughts outside of the office to writing, and try to achieve some of the August goals I blogged about a few days ago.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Name for Blog?

Well, my conference is finished. My presentation went well yesterday, with several in the room coming to see me afterwards, and a few stopping me in the exhibit hall even later. Heading home tomorrow, back to the real world. Or maybe this is the real world for me, the world of scholarly engineering with a Christian worldview as a foundation, not the world or authorship and novels, non-fiction, etc.

I'm thinking about changing the name of this blog. When I first created it last December, Todd Blog was just a place holder as I thought about what to name it. I've taken my time, and thought about it much. I'm thinking about re-naming it "An Arrow Through the Air", after the passage in the John Wesley letter I blogged about in April 2008, over several posts. I love what Wesley said:

I am afraid of nothing more than of growing old too soon, of having my body worn out before my soul is past childhood. Would it not be terrible to have the wheels of life stand still, when we had scarce started for the goal; before the work of the day was half done, to have the night come, wherein no one can work? I shiver at the thought of losing my strength before I have found [it]; to have my senses fail ere I have a stock of rational pleasures, my blood cold ere my heart is warmed with virtue! Strange, to look back on a train of years that have passed, 'as an arrow through the air,' without leaving any mark behind them, without our being able to trace them in our improvement!

What better way to describe my current life situation? While I'm much older than Wesley when he wrote this, and am more than half-way done with my life, and thus maturity issues are not a factor. But I feel in my own life the urgency of accomplishment that Wesley so eloquently expressed. I find myself riding a sinusoidal wave between Wesley's arrow and Emerson's "time-enough-for-all-that-i-must-do."

Anyone have any thoughts about the blog name change?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August Writing Goals

My writing goals will be few this month, as I start the month away from home and will have other things to distract me during the month and prevent me from spending as much time on writing as I'd like. Here are my goals.

1. Complete the book proposal, requested by an editor, on the Elijah and Elisha Bible study, and mail it.

2. Complete the planning phase of my next two Bible studies

3. Complete the research I need before undertaking an on-line poetry workshop in September (may start in late August). It is a workshop I will lead at the Absolute Write poetry forum, with a limited scope.

4. Attend one critique group meeting; present the prototype for the Documenting America newspaper column.

5. Read in some writing how-to books.

6. Wait for the editor and agent to respond to the two proposals I have out right now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Yes, I am in Orlando, attending the StormCon 08 conference. I will present a paper tomorrow: "A Water and Wastewater Engineer Retools for Stormwater". It will tell of the differences in the engineering approach to storm water as compared to water and wastewater, and give my 11 step program for how I'm working through the problem.

This is the first engineering paper I have written and prepared since one about wastewater odor control at a conference in Barcelona, Spain in 1990. I co-authored a paper that was presented in August 1990 (actually, I was listed as co-author, but in fact had little to do with the actual writing), but in the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2 of that year I was not able to make the trip to that conference.

It's good to be back on the "conference circuit", I think. Went to this same one last year, in Phoenix, and made lots of good contacts. This year, however, I have more noticed the difference in age, my age compared to the average conference attendee. Very few people here are my age. Possibly this is because storm water treatment is such a new field for engineers, as is low impact development, that this is a young person's game. Then again, perhaps I'm just getting old.

I don't know when I will post again. I doubt much will come from this conference that will be of interest to the typical reader of this blog. And my writing suffers at this time. I expected to be able to write some, but so far not so. Maybe next week.