Friday, July 30, 2010

End of an era

Remember these guys?

Well, their goose-stepping days are over. Seems they weren't man enough to handle the high-steppin'.

[sigh] Another noble tradition falls to the remorseless advance of modern degeneracy.

You Keep Using That Word...Dept

This is from a new discovery of mine: the Telegraph has a running feature (been going for more than two years now) where readers send in funny signs -- go here and then just surf their sidebar for over 100 weeks' worth of this stuff.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Probably not going to make my five-star playlist

Granted, this is probably a middle-school beginners' band, but "we're gonna make your ears bleed tonight" a whole new significance.

HT: Failblog, again.

Meanwhile, in the Lance Armstrong section at Borders...

HT: Failblog.

A conversation overheard while waiting for the parking garage elevator

SMALL CHILD [pointing to a gentleman on the other side of the parking garage]: Mama, why is he wearing those funny clothes?

HIS MOM: Those are "scrubs," honey. He's a resident.

CHILD: What's his name?

MOM: I don't know him, honey.

CHILD [with obvious disillusionment]: There are a lot of people you don't know.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An announcement

It is with great pleasure that I announce my intention to fly to Shanghai in September for the purpose of, in person, proposing to the lady with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life. I look forward to introducing all of my friends to Helen Yang (or, to my Chinese friends, 杨姝).

I think every girl deserves a romantic proposal in person if she wants one (and I fairly early ascertained that Helen does in fact strongly prefer to be proposed to in person); so I have not formally proposed. But thanks to United States immigration policy (don't get me started), all of the logistics have to start early and require a great deal of advance cooperation; so romantic surprise is, sadly, not an option (though believe me, I put in a LOT of time trying to figure out how to pull that off before having to give up). The upshot is that while I haven’t officially proposed to Helen, I have told her that I’m coming to Shanghai in September intending to propose to her and marry her and take her on a honeymoon. And she has not accepted my proposal, not having yet received it; but she has told me that, when she is proposed to, she intends to accept, and that she’ll have the preacher and the church ready and the honeymoon booked. This makes her, as best as I can figure, my fiancée-to-be.

But the point is that, assuming I can work out the finances and the logistics, 我要九月去上海和姝结婚 – I’ll go to Shanghai in September to marry Helen.

This will also make me a stepfather to Helen’s cheerful and irrepressible seven-year-old son Kevin (凯程).

A couple of years back

Kai was chosen to be MC at his kindergarten graduation

If you have several hours to spare, swing by and invite me to tell you about the lady. If you do NOT have several hours to spare, then here’s the short version:

  1. She walks around wearing joy the way other people wear clothing – it’s the first thing you notice about her, it seems to me. I don’t know how else to put it.

  2. She has exactly the kind of simple, yet inquisitive, vibrant and deeply pragmatic faith in Christ, and love for God, that my parents have.

  3. If there’s a kinder, sweeter, gentler person alive than Helen, then whoever it is I haven’t met ’em.

  4. She is transparent and honest; what you see is what you get. (Oddly, she seems to think that this is both common and not particularly valuable; I have done my best to explain to her that it is actually not at all common and is very valuable indeed.)

  5. She has the gift my mother has, of finding natural joy in serving and loving other people, whether it’s her kids, or the people at her church, or the children in the school where she teaches English once a week.

  6. She couldn’t be selfish or manipulative if you held a gun to her head.

  7. She has a habitually positive attitude and does not indulge in self-pity.

  8. She is very, very smart; very, very prudent; very, very hard-working; and very, very practical. I strongly suspect that I will never, ever have to ask her to be more careful or less foolish with money, and if anybody gets lazy and tries to get away without carrying their fair share of the load it’ll probably be me, not her.

  9. Here’s what I’ve learned about her just from getting her to explain to me why Kevin’s father doesn’t seem interested in being part of Kevin’s life, an explanation that involved her having to tell me about when her ex-husband walked out to be with his new mistress and left her with no job, no money and a newborn child:

    1. She can pray the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” in perfect safety – I’ve never heard even a shade of anger or bitterness in her voice when she talks about the past.

    2. Although she hurts for Kevin and knows she can’t make up for his lack of a father, and although she was completely betrayed by her husband, she has never allowed herself or any member of her family or friends to ever say anything bad about Kevin’s father in front of him, because that’s Kevin’s dad. That means that she understands children well enough to know what it does to them to hear that kind of crap, and that even when she herself was furious with her ex-husband she had enough self-control not to allow herself to relieve her own suffering by passing her own pain on down to her child.

    3. Despite the soft voice and the sweet disposition and the tiny (five-foot-two, 97 pound) frame, she has enormous emotional resources and resiliency – her heart may be as soft as warm butter in its compassion and concern for others, but it’s indomitable in its strength and courage.

    4. She is hilariously bad at being sneaky – no talent for dishonesty whatsoever. (This is a good thing, I assure you. She was telling me one story about how she tried to avoid conflict with her ex-husband by saving up some money for her grandfather without telling her husband, but she hid the money so clumsily that her husband figured it out right away. She kept saying, “I was so stupid,” under the apparent impression that she was making herself look bad. But I was thinking, “Okay, so if that was the best you could do then you have absolutely NO talent or experience at being underhanded…um, this is a very very GOOD thing…”)

  10. She keeps her word.

  11. She has a very sweet and pure singing voice (which is at its best when singing Chinese folk songs a capella), but oddly enough a very rich chuckle with a lot of texture and timbre to it. Wouldn’t have expected both of those out of the same set of pipes but I like them both very much.

  12. She has a lively and sneaky sense of humor (this is the only form of sneakiness she seems to be good at).

  13. She’s very good at business, but is interested in business only as a means to seeing to it that the people she loves have all that they need in order to be happy – and is literally incapable of carrying on business in a dishonest or unethical manner.

  14. She’s rather absurdly modest.

  15. She has an extremely robust sense of responsibility, and whatever she considers her responsibility to be, she does whatever it takes to fulfill it (including staying up late on a second date on a Saturday night…not out singing karaoke and dancing as originally planned, but instead working through a new song for church the next morning, because the church worship leader ignored her pleas and sent along a new song late Saturday evening to be sung for the next morning’s service, despite the fact that he knows perfectly well that Helen, who is the worship team’s lead singer, hasn’t had a chance to learn to read Western musical scores yet…but then you already know that story).

  16. She has just enough occasional air-headedness about her to make her empathize with my habitual absent-mindedness and disorganization, and to be amused by it (but she has a far less advanced case than I do).

  17. She is of an astonishing even temper and calm disposition.

  18. When she smiles at me the world wobbles and my blood catches on fire. Especially if she’s wearing a ponytail. And anything very bright and very red.

There’s much more than that to say but I promised that this would be the short version.

So now you can pray that the BG stock price stays high enough for my stock options to close in the money in September, since that’s how I hope to pay for the plane tickets and the honeymoon and the spousal visa application.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Question of the day

Q: How many divorced men does it take to change a light bulb?
A. [click here for answer]

A: Nobody knows...they never get the house.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maybe you should cut down on the weed a bit, dude

The headline of this post was about the fourth one I came up with, the first three being inappropriate for a family blog. For example, I very badly wanted to make the rainbow say, in tones of intense disgust and disappointment, "Oh, no, don't tell me you're done already" but then I'd have to explain it to the kids... [sigh]

Dude has issues, is all I'm sayin'. Leave it at that.

HT: Sports Guy.

A bit stuck

So, one of my favorite love songs is in Russian (being sung, as it is, by my favorite Kazakhstani band), which makes it kind of hard for me to pass it on to Helen in return for her having sent on to me the quite lovely "I'm Willing" (我愿意, pronounced "Wǒ yuàn yì").

Problem is, "The Love-River" is very elliptical and poetic, and while the words and music are intensely evocative of a particular mood, it's bloody hard for me to get it into English...because in parts I'm not even 100% sure what it means, exactly. So here are the words, and my translation, and if anybody who knows Russian better than I is willing to help me out, I'd appreciate the help.

"Любовь-река" (А-Студио, pronounced "Ah-Studio")

Краешком неба
Где облака
Мы с тобой ходим
В руке рука
Белые стаи
В синей дали
Нам рассказали (нам рассказали)
О любви

Только птицы знают
Видят свысока
В небеса впадает
Мы с тобою сами
Словно берега
И течет над нами

Кто не умеет
Просто любить
Тем эту реку (эту реку)
Не переплыть
Если мы вместе
Мне подари
Тихую песню
О любви

Только птицы знают
Видят свысока
В небеса впадает (впадает)
Мы с тобою сами
Словно берега
И течет под нами

Только птицы знают
Видят свысока
В небеса впадает (впадает)
Мы с тобою сами
Словно берега
И течет под нами

Which is to say, um, more or less...

"The Love-River"

The edge of the sky
Where the clouds are
There you and I stroll
Hand in hand

White flocks
In blue distances
Tell us stories (they tell us)
About love

Only the birds know
They watch haughtily
Into the heavens flows (it flows)
A love-river
You and I ourselves
Are like the riverbanks
And it flows over us
The love-river

He who doesn't how
Simply to love
Over that river (that river)
Cannot cross
When we're together
Then present to me
A soft song
About love

Only the birds know
They watch haughtily
Into the heavens flows (it flows)
A love-river
You and I ourselves
Are like the riverbanks
And it flows over us
The love-river

Only the birds know
They watch haughtily
Into the heavens flows (it flows)
A love-river
You and I ourselves
Are like the riverbanks
And it flows over us
The love-river

So there you have it...oh, if you want the lyrics for the Wáng Fēi song that Helen likes so much, well, I wouldn't want anybody to say I wasn't helpful.

"我愿意" (王菲, pronounced Wáng Fēi)

我无力抗拒 特别是夜里
恨不能立即 朝你狂奔去

我愿意为你 忘记我姓名
就算多一秒 停在你怀里
我愿意为你 被放逐天际
只要你真心 拿爱与我回应

我无力抗拒 特别是夜里
恨不能立即 朝你狂奔去

我愿意为你 忘记我姓名
就算多一秒 停在你怀里
我愿意为你 被放逐天际
只要你真心 拿爱与我回应


So, um, there you go.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A lesson in formal rhetoric, with assistance from Johnny Cash

"Papa, what is a metaphor?"

"A metaphor, my child, is where you draw a comparison between two apparently unlike objects without using the words 'like' or 'as.'"


"Would you like some examples?"

[nods vigorously] "Yes, please, Papa."

"No problem..." [begins to sing in a rich Southern-accented bass voice...]

From the backdoor of your life you swept me out, dear
In the breadline of your dreams I lost my place
At the table of your love I got the brush-off
At the Indianapolis of your heart I lost the race

I’ve been washed down the sink of your conscience
In the theater of your love I lost my part
And now you say you’ve got me out of your conscience
I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart

In the garbage disposal of your dreams I’ve been ground up, dear
On the river of your plans I’m up the creek
Up the elevator of your future I’ve been shafted
On the calendar of your events I’m last week

I’ve been washed down the sink of your conscience
In the theater of your love I lost my part
And now you say you’ve got me out of your conscience
I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart

Who knew a single building could have THAT much affect on the weather??

BUILDING [to rain]: You...shall...not...pass!

(As the kindergarten teacher said to the twelve-year-old Aggie)

Good news, bad news

The good news is, thanks to modern videoconferencing technology, I can start entertaining my seven-year-old future stepson by making silly faces at him -- even while he's still eleven time zones away in Shanghai.

The bad news is, thanks to modern videoconferencing image capture technology, his mom can...well...

...capture the image.

Too bad it isn't true

Just ran across the following nugget:

Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, is famous throughout the entertainment industry for being more than just a little self-righteous.

At a recent U2 concert in Glasgow, Scotland, he asked the audience for total quiet.

Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, 'Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.'

From the front of the crowd a voice with a broad Scottish accent pierced the quiet ...

'Well, f***in' stop doin it then, ya evil b*****d!'
I'm a big fan of genuinely righteous and compassionate people, but not of poseurs or of people who do their good works with a publicist in tow, and most certainly not of people who want to be "compassionate" with other people's money rather than their own. So I had to relish the preceding "true story"...but being of a skeptical turn of mind, I also had to check it on Snopes, and sure enough it turns out to be false. [resigned sigh]

But it ought to be true...and I'll leave it at that or else next thing you know I be talkin' politics.

By the way, this is one of the rare times that I've seen a joke on the internet and thought the original raconteur had told it sufficiently well that I didn't bother to rewrite it.

Radical feminism, while not having gained world supremacy, may at least congratulate itself on having the Indian Census firmly under its control

But not, alas, the Supreme Court of India, which would appear to be still composed entirely of dead white male chauvinist pigs still in need of Seeing the Light.

Census Groups Housewives with Prostitutes, Beggars

Thanks, Dave.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Public Service Opportunity of the Day

Help BP Learn to Photoshop.

Don't fail to follow the links to the Gizmodo article that shows how genuinely hilariously badly the helicoptor picture has been doctored (I mean, they photoshopped out the helipad visible through the windshield to make it look like the helicopter was flying across the ocean, but forgot to photoshop out the control tower visible through the sun roof!!). And then, in re the photoshopped version of the BP control center, Ameriblog has discovered the original:

Question Of The Day Dept


Boy, did I ever fail to look at THAT VeryDemotivational poster closely enough., very funny, but its family-friendliness does not survive close inspection, which tells you how carefully I inspected it before cheerfully embedding it (originally) on the blog. Sorry about that.

FURTHER UPDATE: OK, I did a little censorship with Paint and now have a version I can post with a clear conscience. Whew!

Yay! English Wins! Dept

The European Commission has just announced an agreement under which English will become the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other candidate.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

-- Danke schön to mein Vater für ze hedz-up

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Priorities, Priorities Dept

HT: Failbook

Monday, July 19, 2010

I don't understand...why is this funny?

[scratches head in innocent puzzlement]

IMPORTANT UPDATE: And now I just made Dave Barry's blog, which means I only owe him, oh, another hundred or so funny items to even the score...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shouldn't the police be more sensitive than this?

I mean, come on, surely you find something different to charge him with than this...

HT: Dave.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Two days in West Virginia

Before I talk about the two days I spent at my parents' house in West Virginia with my parents and Merry and Rusty and Sally, allow me to update my account of my drive up there. You'll remember that I made a disastrous discovery, about Beaumont or so, that the cigarette lighter in the Honda hybrid didn't work, which rendered inoperable both my BlackBerry and my computer-as-iPod-standin-and-Chinese-tutor for the rest of the twenty-some-odd hours up there and twenty-some-odd hours back, much to my frustration. Well, my sister Stephanie (who sold me the Honda in the first place earlier this year) read that post and sent me the following e-mail:


Just read your blog about the WV trip. If you were in the Honda Hybrid…did you realize there was another cigarette lighter in the console between the front seats? That’s the one I always used – I don’t know that I ever even tried the “regular” one.

Sorry ‘bout that,


[tries, but finds nothing to say, and decides to just go on with the story]

Clarksburg, West Virginia is a small town, and so my parents don’t often receive visitors who haven’t already been to their house. But on the rare occasions when somebody does come to my parents’ home for the first time, each such visitor always notices the same thing: the gardens. My parents’ house, you see, is on the side of a very steep hill, halfway up the hillside looking down on the town below. And when they moved in, their front lawn and their back lawn both looked about the same, which is to say, more or less like this:

But that is not what my parents’ yard looks like now; that’s the neighbor’s part of the hillside. If you swing the camera slightly to the left, then you get my parents’ back yard, which looks like this...

That’s not what you see when you first arrive at my parents’ house, though: I only show you those two for the sake of the before-and-after contrast. Here’s what you see as you turn into the cul-de-sac that ends at my parents’ house:

And as you proceed up the cul-de-sac you realize that the front garden extends even further than it appears to at first glance.

Now, everywhere that you see garden, used to be hillside like the hillside in that first picture I showed you. All those terraces – plus a service road for the pickup truck -- have been dug out and built up and filled in and reinforced, by hand, by my dad and mom over the last decade or so. I might mention that in September my father will turn seventy-one years old, and while my mom is younger than he is, she was no child bride. Furthermore, as befits my farmboy father’s work ethic, these gardens are meant for function, in several respects.

First of all, what is grown in these gardens is meant to be eaten. A bit of dialogue between Merry and myself as we all ate dinner on Saturday night…by the way, that dinner consisted of venison steak (shot by my mom and field-dressed by my dad out on their mountainside property), venison gravy, a “concoction” of green tomatoes and onions and peppers, two different potato dishes, freshly frenched green beans boiled with new potatoes, steamed Swiss chard, sweet green peas, fresh avocados, Wonder bread, and apple butter, of which only the avocados and the apples and the Wonder bread had been storebought. Merry and Grandmother had cooked, while I think Rusty and Sally had snapped and frenched beans, made the table, etc. Following standard practice, the table held what the table could hold, and if you wanted the stuff that didn’t fit on the table then you got up and went to the stove where the rest of it was sitting:

So, as we’re well into the dinner and everybody’s on about their third plateful, Merry decides it is time to gloat.

MERRY: So, Dad, this is how we’ve been eating every night for the last two weeks. [grins evilly] Jealous?

DAD [responding instantly]: So, Merry, this is how I ate pretty much every night until I was eighteen years old. [matches her evil grin] Jealous?

A roar of laughter goes up from the table, in which Merry joins in; she spends about five seconds searching for a suitable response and then simply raises her hands in surrender: Dad wins this round.

The garden is useful for hospitality, as well. A new neighbour moved in down the street recently, and my parents, who are from the old school when it comes to neighbourly duties, duly dropped by to introduce themselves, fresh vegetables in hand. And their new neighbour started laughing and said, “You know, when I was thinking of buying this house, the real estate agent told me, ‘If you buy this house, the Pierces will give you lots of fresh vegetables from their gardens.’”

Second of all, you will note the extremely high fences. This is because for the first year or two, my parents fought a losing battle against the deer who freely roam the streets of Clarksburg, and who considered that my parents’ gardens were proof that God exists and that He loves deer. But my parents are not accustomed to losing; and so their gardens are all now surrounded by the sort of deer fence that one sees out in South Texas or the Hill Country…though on those giant deer leases the fences are meant to keep the deer in, not out.

Third, my father has had both knees replaced and doesn’t like steps, and besides, he makes heavy use of a old but reliable Troybilt tiller. So each of the terraces slopes downhill from right to left, allowing every part of the garden to be accessible by wheel, if desired:

Fourth, much of the point of these gardens is to save money; but you can run up a big water bill really quickly if you have a dry summer and have to irrigate. So my dad, having taken note of the fact that the rain gutters had a couple of places where they leaked badly, decided to turn the gutters’ weaknesses into strengths. So under the places where the raingutters leak most prodigally, my father has installed huge plastic tubs that hold gallons upon gallons of water…but wait, there’s more. At the bottom of each tub is a faucet, to which one can attach a garden hose. And my father does indeed attach garden hoses to those faucets...

...which hoses run down the hill... more big tubs down in the garden... that when all is said and done my dad collects and stores gallons upon gallons – in the hundreds, actually – of rainwater. And that’s what waters the garden during droughts.

I woke up on Friday morning to find that the rest of the family had been up, doing such useful things as taming butterflies:

My parents were tremendously proud of my kids, because the whole two weeks they were there, my kids joined into the ethic of my parents’ house, in which little or no television is watched, but nobody is ever bored because you get up early in the morning and go find something useful to do. For example, here's Merry with a string of onions she dug up and then braided to be hung up in the garage:

I mentioned the service road my father carved into the hillside for his pickup truck; here’s a picture of it:

Notice the shed on the ridge? That’s new from the last two weeks. My parents had already dug out the space for the concrete-block foundation and set the blocks in place. But then Merry and Rusty and Sally, with appropriate adult supervision of course, set down the flooring layer on the foundation, and then put up the shed, with Merry, who had been appointed straw-boss, deciphering the manufacturer’s instructions.

The purpose of the shed is to house the firewood that goes into my parents’ wood stove to heat the house during the winter, and part of what the kids had spent their two weeks on, had been trying to learn to split wood. Merry and Sally hadn’t had much luck, but Rusty had gotten to where with the help of a wedge and sledgehammer he could actually work his way through a reasonable quantity of logs, though his most recent attempt had left the wedge stuck in a log where he could neither finish splitting the log nor get the wedge out:

Well, it’s been a long, long time since I split any firewood, but it’s a very satisfying thing to do...when you wind up and swing the splitting maul down on the end of the log with your whole body providing leverage, and the maul drives through the log and buries itself in the stump you’re using as a splitting platform, and the two halves of the log jump three or four feet to the right and left respectively, that just feels good. So I wandered down to the garage and retrieved a pair of gloves and a sledgehammer, as well as a hat that I fear betrays that I’ve allowed some Texas influence to creep into my Okie wardrobe:

And then I proceeded to do something I very rarely get to do: I impressed my children. My dad knows how to split wood, but then he’s 70 and these days he leaves it up to the kids. So when the kids, who had spent two weeks hacking away at that firewood, saw me swing that maul and split one log after another with one stroke…well, I got lots of awed, “Oooooo, DAD!!!!” And any dad will tell you, you don’t let opportunities like THAT go to waste…they don’t come around that often.

From there we headed out to the mountainside property my parents own outside town. The kids had been going out there pretty much every day, learning to drive the pickup truck...

...and my dad’s small tractor with its backhoe and front-end loader...

Actually, Sally’s legs, to her frustration, aren’t long enough for her to drive either the truck or the tractor; but she can dig up the mountainside with the backhoe like a champ.

Today, however, there was a new item on the agenda: learning to shoot a .22 rifle.

Even I got in on the act for a couple of shots (at slightly longer range than the kids were working from), though I left most of the bullets for the kids’ use...I hadn’t pulled a trigger in ten years and wasn’t happy with the steadiness (or lack thereof) of my left hand, but it was a nice feeling to have the rifle butt nestled up against my shoulder again – that particular .22 rifle and I are old, old friends, as a few pots of squirrel’n’dumplings could have born witness back in the day.

One thing that struck me out there on that West Virginia mountainside is that, while I can provide plenty of pictures of that deep green forest light...

...what I can’t blog is the distinctive smell of the forest, of the leaves and the ferns and the underbrush.

Merry had climbed my mom’s deer stand...

…when it started to rain. So Rusty drove the truck back down to the main road, and we closed the gate.

By the time we got home the rain was coming down hard. I settled in on the front porch, where I like to spend a lot of my time when at my parents, because when you sit in the rocking chair on my parents’ front porch, you are looking out over the following scene (you’ll forgive the cheap-camera-imposed necessity of photographing it in sections):

But as I’ve told Helen, one of my very favourite ways to spend a day is sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch watching a soft rain fall; and by the time we got back the sunshine of the morning had given way to exactly the kind of rainfall I love in the mountains, where you can tell how far away the different parts of the landscape are by how blurred and indistinct they appear:

(And it's even better at night when you have moonlight and the clouds are drifting so low that they get all tangled up with the mountaintops, though a cheap camera like the one I was using can't do it justice.)

The kids, however, could think of a lot of things to do with the rain besides sit on a porch and watch it like an Aged Person such as their dad:

As the rain slackened off, Merry and Granddaddy went down to check the progress of the tomatoes...

...and the corn Rusty had requested this spring back when Granddaddy and Grandmother were asking what the kids wanted to eat from the garden in the summertime...

...and the squash and zucchini that Sally eats in astonishingly huge quantities, Sally having originally requested that Granddaddy and Grandmother plant “pumpkins” under the mistaken impression that pumpkins are rather small and oblong and come in yellow and green.

(Okay, I admit that that’s actually one of the cantaloupe beds...I forgot to take a picture of Sally’s yellow squash.)

And by the time the sun went down, we were dressing up a little bit for a venison-and-vegetables dinner, courtesy of Merry and Grandmother with some help from Sally, very much like the one that Merry tried to use the next night to make me envious.

You don’t get many days better than that one.

But the next day wasn’t too bad, either. I wanted to get out and do some driving in the West Virginia woods, on the tiny little mountain roads that are only big enough for your car but that’s all right because you won’t meet anybody else on them anyway -- you know, the tiny little “country roads” that John Denver had in mind when longing to be taken home. Roads like this one, which I might add I photographed shortly after noon on a bright sunshiny day:

Roads that take you through woods where the dappled sunlight causes brown-rock-strewn creek and earth and trees and leaves to blend all together as if Jackson Pollock were in charge rather than God (yes, there’s a creek in that picture if you look closely enough):

And even roads that have, apparently randomly, places where you would presumably get a ticket if you insisted on parking there and a policeman were to happen along:

So I suppose now you and I, Gentle Reader, have both seen a forest fire hydrant.

While Rusty and Grandmother and I were out getting me my mountain fix, Granddaddy and the girls had their own project going on out at the “farm” (that is, the mountain property where my parents farm…well, venison, I guess, is the primary crop). Here’s a shot I took of grandparents and grandkids all gathered around the pickup truck:

Did you notice, at first glance, the newly installed freezer? (The point of having an old freezer out in the middle of the woods, is so that you can have a deerproof and waterproof place to keep the feed corn with which you stock your deer feeder so that the deer will learn to call “home” that part of your property that is within easy range of your .30-.30 and far enough away from your neighbor’s fence that you won’t have to go onto your neighbor’s property to retrieve the venison if the deer runs a few strides before giving up the ghost.) I imagine the old freezer wasn’t the first thing that struck your eye. Try it from this perspective:

You’ll note that Merry and Sally ran out of paint before they were able to finish camouflaging it. You’ll also note how easy it is to see the unpainted side, compared to the camouflaged top and side – both of which are just as much in view, and just as much in the light, as is the back.

That was Merry’s and Sally’s project for the day: camouflaging the deer-corn freezer. And you have to admit that until they ran out of paint they were doing a heckuva job.

And dinner that night was more of the same…so, you know, another really, really good day. Which made Rusty and Merry and Sally about fourteen of fourteen on “really, really good days” since they hit West Virginia. What a successful two weeks that was, from the perspective of everybody involved.

I might add that I sent pictures across the water to Helen and Kai and Helen’s parents, including pictures of the kids playing in the rain and the wood-splitting and the gardens and the tractor – and one picture of myself aiming a rifle. These pictures elicited the following initial reactions:

1. Helen was startled, and somewhat alarmed, to discover that my family not only doesn’t think guns should be outlawed, but owns them and uses them both for amusement and for Bambi-killing. So THAT wound up being productive of an interesting conversation.

2. Helen’s mom thought it was all fascinating but (a) she didn’t like the guns either, and (b) she thought the woods looked awfully dark, and she wanted to know whether or not there were snakes and spiders and other venomous critters.

3. But Kai’s reaction: “West Virginia looks like FUN!!!!”

At one point Helen called my cell phone while the gun lessons were going on, and, since I was helping out with the instruction, I handed her over to my mom, and they talked for half an hour or so. The more Helen and my parents talk to and write to each other the more they like each other, and later in the day Helen spent some time talking to each of the kids as well, and then of course she saw more pictures…and in my last conversation with her before I went to bed on Saturday night, before getting up at 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning to start the twenty-three-hour drive back to Houston, she warned me, “So, Kenny, will it be all right if Kai and I move to West Virginia and live with your parents, and you come see us on weekends?”

And I’m not sure but what she wasn’t half-serious. So maybe next summer, as I watch the tractor moving slowly away from me in low-’n’-slow gear with a load full of happy kids and my dad strolling alongside to keep everything under control, there will be a couple more delighted cityfolk in the shot.