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Roller Coaster Rides


One of the neat features of posting to the blog instead of sending the iv's by email is that I can include pictures or even have an almost totally pictorial iv. The way I used to have to send the iv's by email was text only, so pictures were an impossibility.

Today's iv is a series of pictures I received this weekend of one of the roller coasters at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. I grew up about 50 miles from Cedar Point, and going there at least once each summer was just a given in our family. The place has grown and changed immensely since the days of my youth, but it's always been known for roller coasters. I haven't been to Cedar Point in about 10 years, but when I went there last, I loved their roller coaster called the Magnum. As much as I love roller coasters, from the pictures below, I don't know if this grandpa's heart could take the kind of ride delivered by this roller coaster that debuted at Cedar Point in 2003 - the amusement park's 16th roller coaster!

Though it has since been succeeded in 2005 by Kingda Ka in New Jersey as the highest and fastest roller coaster, with an at-that-time record-breaking height of 420 feet and record-breaking speed of 120 mph, Top Thrill Dragster delivers on its promise of thrilling riders at Cedar Point. The last picture in the series below says it all.

Top Thrill Dragster - shot 1

Top Thrill Dragster - shot 2

Top Thrill Dragster - shot 3

Top Thrill Dragster - shot 4

Top Thrill Dragster - shot 5

As promised, this final picture says it all....

picture of that says it all

It's not for certain that that picture is actually of someone who had just been on Top Thrill Dragster, but I'm not sure it's not authentic either. That's what I would probably look like if I rode this roller coaster!

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After the roller coaster our daughter and son-in-law have been on for the past few weeks, we are delighted that Drew was able to go home this afternoon - without even a monitor on him! Grandma and I got to hear him cry on the phone tonight. What a blessing! He goes to see his pediatrician Tuesday morning, and Megan goes to see her doctor Wednesday morning. Her 6-week check-up is already scheduled - it will be two days before her original due date! We are praising the Lord for so many direct answers to prayer! We hope that the roller coaster we've all been on for the past several weeks has finally pulled into the station.

Below is a picture of Drew without tubes!

picture of no tubes!

Below is a picture of Drew in his car seat during a trial run at the hospital the other day...

picture of Drew in his carseat

quotation...

"Can you honestly look at the emptiness of our culture and say 'that's what I want for my life.'?" - Rev. Rick Cross

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up a thousand times the memory.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…


A while back I received an email with what purported to be some winning entries to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC). During my 34 years of teaching French, I've graded my share of student compositions. Some things that students have written, not always intentionally, have made me laugh out loud. The most memorable is what one student wrote in a composition for second semester French - they have to write the first paragraph of a thriller. One student wrote (and I translate) something like "The man and his dog rounded the corner and found the baker lying in the alley behind the bakery with a spoon in his chest." This student had obviously not taken the time to look up the French word for "knife" in the dictionary and gone with her memory. I commented on her paper that that must have been a horribly painful way to die! I still laugh at this one, but the really humorous twist on this is that that student went on to minor in French and is now living in Paris, France, where she's been transferred to work for three years with the Ernst and Young accounting firm.

I did a little research online about this contest. If you go to the Bulwer-Lytton site, be warned that some of what you find may not be to your liking. I trudged through a lot to give you what I'm posting today. 8-) Here's some of what I learned from Wikipedia and from the official site for the BLFC:

Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (May 25, 1803–January 18, 1873) was an English novelist, playwright, and politician. Lord Lytton was a florid, popular writer of his day, who coined such phrases as "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the infamous incipid "It was a dark and stormy night." Despite the popularity in his heyday, today his name is known as a byword for bad writing. Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The first year there were only three entries, but the contest has really taken off since then.

Here's the opening sentence of Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford (1830): "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

(And here I had always attributed "It was a dark and stormy night..." to Snoopy sitting atop his doghouse with his typewriter! Is nothing sacred?! The "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized Bulwer-Lytton for years!)

"Lyttony" of Grand Prize Winners (I'm posting the ones I enjoyed most.)

The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails - not for the first time since the journey began - pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil. - Gail Cain, San Francisco, CA (1983 Winner)

The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn't heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn't reacting yet to let you know. - Patricia E. Presutti, Lewiston, NY (1986 Winner)

Professor Frobisher couldn't believe he had missed seeing it for so long - it was, after all, right there under his nose - but in all his years of research into the intricate and mysterious ways of the universe, he had never noticed that the freckles on his upper lip, just below and to the left of the nostril, partially hidden until now by a hairy mole he had just removed a week before, exactly matched the pattern of the stars in the Pleides, down to the angry red zit that had just popped up where he and his colleagues had only today discovered an exploding nova. - Ray C. Gainey, Indianapolis, IN (1989 Winner)

Paul Revere had just discovered that someone in Boston was a spy for the British, and when he saw the young woman believed to be the spy's girlfriend in an Italian restaurant he said to the waiter, "Hold the spumoni - I'm going to follow the chick an' catch a Tory." - John L. Ashman, Houston, TX (1995 Winner)

The moment he laid eyes on the lifeless body of the nude socialite sprawled across the bathroom floor, Detective Leary knew she had committed suicide by grasping the cap on the tamper-proof bottle, pushing down and twisting while she kept her thumb firmly pressed against the spot the arrow pointed to, until she hit the exact spot where the tab clicks into place, allowing her to remove the cap and swallow the entire contents of the bottle, thus ending her life. - Artie Kalemeris, Fairfax, VA (1997 Winner)

The corpse exuded the irresistible aroma of a piquant, ancho chili glaze enticingly enhanced with a hint of fresh cilantro as it lay before him, coyly garnished by a garland of variegated radicchio and caramelized onions, and impishly drizzled with glistening rivulets of vintage balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic oil; yes, as he surveyed the body of the slain food critic slumped on the floor of the cozy, but nearly empty, bistro, a quick inventory of his senses told corpulent Inspector Moreau that this was, in all likelihood, an inside job. - Bob Perry, Milton, MA (1998 Winner)

Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life. - Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, ENGLAND (1999 Winner)

A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona's ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea. - Sera Kirk, Vancouver, BC (2001 Winner)

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight...summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail...though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism...not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein...and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand...and that brought her back to Ramon. - Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, CA (2004 Winner)

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Here are some that weren't chosen as winners, and some were actually given "dishonorable mention!"

It was a day, like any other day, in that Linus got up, faced the sunrise, used his inhaler, applied that special cream between his toes, wrote a quick note and put it in a bottle, and wished he'd been stranded on the island with something other than 40 cases each of inhalers, decorative bottles, and special toe cream. - Chris Harget, Campbell, CA

As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it. - David C. Mortensen, Pocatello, ID

He loved her like no other, their romance developing quickly, like the rapid growth of farm swine which grow from 2 to 4 pounds daily until they're fully grown and put to market for slaughter, or like the rapidly growing cells that produce moose antlers until they fall off in early spring, and suddenly Bill sensed the imminent doom of his romance lying in wait. - Jeremy Perreaux, Sarnia, Ontario

She looked at her hands and saw the desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles, and those dry, dry cuticles - even her "Fatale Crimson" nail color had faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin - and she vowed if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she'd never buy polish on sale at Walgreen's again. - Christin Keck, Kent, OH

The victim said her attacker was nondescript - 5' 10 and 3/4", 163 pounds, with Clairol #83N hair (a hint of #84N at his temples) - and last seen wearing Acuvue2 contacts, a white Hanes 65/35% poly-cotton t-shirt with a 3mm round Grey Poupon stain on the neckband, Levi's 501s missing the second button, and Nike Crosstrainers with muddy aglets. - Linda Fields, Framingham, MA

Lisa moved like a cat, not the kind of cat that moves with a slinky grace but more like the kind that always falls off the book shelf when he's washing himself and then gets all mad at you like it's your fault (which it wasn't although it probably was kind of mean to laugh at him like that), although on the bright side, she hardly ever attacked Ricky's toes in his sleep. - Debra Allen, Wichita Falls, TX

When he heard the woman upstairs scream, the Maytag man's heart thumped in his chest like an off-balance washer full of heavy bath towels. - Linda Shakespeare, Elk Grove, CA (real name? I don't know - that's how it came! Rob adds on 15 Aug., 2007 - if you look at the comments to this post, Linda Shakespeare herself commented on this!)

Words cannot describe the exquisite loveliness of the brilliant azure sky with its cerulean striations of periwinkle, cornflower, and cyan. - Mary Barberio, Northville, MI

Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor. - John Renfro Davis, Conroe, TX

"This is almost worth the high blood pressure!" he thought as yet another mosquito exploded. - Richard Patching, Calgary, Alberta

Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do. - John Witschey, Alexandria, VA

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Many have been asking how Megan and Drew are doing, so I'll give a quick update. Megan is steadily feeling better and stronger, though she is still anemic. Drew is still in the NICU, but he's gaining an ounce or two a day. Several times in the past few days, he has stopped breathing as he is eating. Each time this happens, it pushes his release from the hospital off by 48 hours. Jim is cheerful but tired - on top of his work schedule, he's got a lot of running around to do since Megan can't drive yet. It's hard to believe the baby is already two weeks old today! Wow! *So much* has happened in the past two weeks!

This week is our annual Bible Conference here on campus. It's been a great time of spiritual refreshment and fellowship. My wife and I have been invited to drop in on several class reunions tomorrow evening. I guess this is all part of our being among the "old timers" now. It's been great to run into people from all over the world and from many decades of my life and teaching!

quotation...

"When was the last time your king heard your voice?" - Dr. Will Senn

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.

The Memory of an Elephant


I'm constantly amazed at what I forget these days and also at what I remember! (It's *not* because I'm now a grandpa, I'm sure!) I sometimes find myself wishing I had the memory that elephants are reputed to have. I received a story this week about an elephant's memory, and I just *loved* it! It might bring a tear to your eye ... it did to mine.

The Memory of an Elephant...

In 1986 Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son, Tapu, were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.

Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs, and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant....

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Becka, Nora, and I had an uneventful trip back to Greenville yesterday, thankful for the opportunity of being with our loved ones in Detroit, for the improvement in the condition of both Megan and Drew, and for our safe arrival here. The baby has gained an ounce a day in the past 2 days. If he continues to do well, he may get to go home by the end of the week. As Megan read her discharge papers from the hospital, she learned that, although the hospital personnel kept talking about preeclampsia and her preeclamptic symptoms, the diagnosis on her release was HELLP Syndrome. Though the two conditions are similar, there are differences, and what she encountered lines up more with the description of HELLP Syndrome. Hmm.

Earlier today I put a few pictures on the blog for those who might be checking for something new. You can see them in the blog post below this one. Here's another picture that Grandma thought should be shared with the blogosphere also - Drew in his first preemie clothes....

picture of Drew in his first preemie clothes

chickadees again...

Some of you might remember that we had a nest of Carolina chickadees in our bird house last spring. There's another nest of chickadees in there this year. If you'd like to check out last year's adventure, click on "birds" in the Tag Cloud in the right sidebar

quotation...

"God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but He expects us to be making steady progress toward what we ought to be." - Dr. Gary Anderson

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.

A Few More Pictures…


For those who check in on the blog more frequently, I thought I'd reward you with a few more pictures. Jim lovingly dubbed Nora the "baby paparazzi" for her picture taking prowess. The first two pictures are from her camera, and the third picture is one of the few there are of the Hawkins family since only two people can go in to see Drew at a time. This picture was while Megan was still in the hospital.

Aunt Nora and Drew...

picture of Nora and Drew

With eyes wide open...

picture of wide-eyed Drew

Presenting the Hawkins family...

picture of the Hawkins family

I'll post the next iv late this evening.

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Oxymorons


In the hall the other day, a former student of mine who is now in grad school said he wanted to show me something funny. For one of his courses one of the textbooks is a book about aesthetics. The strange thing is - it's one of the ugliest books! Hmm... ugly aesthetics?! See below...

picture of ugly aesthetics?

The whole thing seemed rather oxymoronic to me! At that moment I decided to share a list of oxymorons with you. (As Rush Limbaugh would begin an explanation - "for those of you from Rio Linda...") an oxymoron is a combination of incongruous or contradictory terms. Some of them are very commonly used, and we don't even think about what a strange combination of words they actually are until we consider them more carefully.

From all the lists I've seen, here are the best of them.

act naturally
advanced BASIC
almost exactly
alone together
assistant supervisor
authentic reproduction
awful good
cardinal sin
Christian rock music
civil war
clearly misunderstood
common sense
congressional ethics
conservative democrat
constant changes
criminal justice (sadly, it has just about come to that...)
cruel kindness
deafening silence
death benefits
decaf espresso
definite maybe
deliberately speeding
diet ice cream
disgustingly beautiful
dressy casual
dry lake
elevated subway
epic mini-series
exact estimate
express mail
extinct life forms
extremely normal
fairly swarthy
first final
forward lateral
found missing
free slaves
freezer burn
fresh frozen
friendly fire
full-time day care
future history
genuine imitation
genuine phony
good grief
government efficiency
government organization
guest host
half full
high negatives
highly depressed
holy terror
holy war
ill health
Internal Revenue Service
intimate strangers
jumbo shrimp
justifiably paranoid
limited lifetime warranty
living dead
live recording
loose tights
loyal opposition
management skills
mandatory options
mercy killing
Microsoft Works
military intelligence
mutual differences
new classic
new retreads
nightly specials
non dairy creamer
open secret
original print
out at home
pagan believers
partial cease-fire
passive aggression
peace force
plastic glasses
political science
postal worker
pretty ugly
pure evil
pure meanness
purely carnal
rap music
raving beauty
real tinsel
resident alien
rolling stop
same difference
sanitary landfill
Senate ethics committee
silent scream
small crowd
soft rock
sports scholarship
standard options
student teacher
sweet sorrow
synthetic natural gas
temporary tax increase
terribly pleased
tight slacks
transparent cover-up
true replica
truly lying
uninvited guest
wicked good (a Yankee expression)
wireless cable
working vacation

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personal update...

Wow, how do I succinctly sum up the past day and a half? I'll give it my best.... Nora and I left at about 5:30 Wednesday evening to drive all night to get to Detroit early Thursday morning. The traffic was blissfully light. It started to rain hard when we were between Cincinnati and Dayton, then almost immediately as we got into Michigan it was a rain/snow mix and finally all snow. We were exhausted, but arrived safe and sound at 4:45 Thursday morning and immediately hit the hay.

At about 7:30 Megan woke Becka and me up. She was having pains in her chest and her blood pressure was high again. This was scary since these were the problems that put her close to death last week and caused the emergency C-section. She had already called the doctor's office and was awaiting a call back when she woke us. When the call back came, they said she should go to the emergency room and have them do tests to determine what was causing the difficulties. Jim came home from work and took her right away to the ER. While we waited for word from them, Nora and I got a little more sleep after our long drive. At lunch time, there was still no word, so we decided to go to the hospital to wait with them. They determined that Megan was dehydrated and that her BP was indeed high. She was on an iv all day, and they did a battery of tests, including a CT scan, trying to rule out things like blood clots in her lungs since her surgery last week. For Meg and Jim it was a frustratingly long day (over 12 hours) of waiting and being put off by their rude nurse. At the end of the day, at least she was re-hydrated and her blood pressure was lower, but there was nothing conclusive discovered and she was released to come home. She was already scheduled for a check up this morning at her doctor's, so we all hope she'll find out more there later this morning. Please pray for her - and for us all. Thanks!

Spending much of the day in the ER and ER waiting room was not without its interesting features for me - I seem to be able to find the humorous in almost any situation - and we were reminded that we were in a big city. As we were gathering up out personal effects after going through security (yes, security - just like in the airport!) on the way into the ER wing, a man and woman stumbled in the door. She told the man in security, "Someone tried to rob him and stabbed him in the back!" Sure enough, the back of his yellow plaid shirt was quite bloody. They didn't even make him go through security! I told Becka that's what we should have done! There was also a homeless woman in the lobby who was trying to move in and gave those of there hours of interesting diversion. I'm very thankful that I've been able to come back up here for these couple of days before Bible Conference begins on campus rather than having to hear about all this from long distance.

Becka, Nora, and I were able at least to go up to visit Drew several times during the day yesterday. He's making such good improvement and is such a little cutie! Here are a few pictures from the past couple of days between my time here last weekend and now. I'll try to have a few more Sony-moments while we're still up here.

Drew under the lights for jaundice...

picture of Drew under the lights

Jim changing Drew's diaper...

picture of Daddy changing Drew's diaper

Megan giving Drew a bottle...

picture of Megan feeds Drew his bottle

Since she was released from the hospital earlier this week, Megan now expresses and saves her milk, and they take it to the hospital for Drew. He knows how to suck her milk out of the bottle, but he doesn't know how to swallow yet. Therefore he still has a feeding tube down his nose. But he no longer has the iv or the oxygen, so he's making great strides and he should soon get the hang of the breathing/swallowing coordination.

added after Megan returned from her check up...

The doctor says her incision looks good. He was not happy about some of the things that happened to Megan yesterday in the ER. She'll be on blood pressure medicine for a while and will see her doctor again next week. She's feeling much better today, especially after her check up.

quotation...

"When you can't see your way clear, obey your way clear." - Matt Olson

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Does freedom of the press means no-iron clothes?