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Does Anyone Else Have Spring Fever?


picture of thermometer

Much to the chagrin of the global warming prophets of doom, 2008 was the coldest year since the beginning of the decade. This winter has been downright harsh and cold, not just here in the USA, but also in many other countries. We had several unseasonably warm days last week with record-breaking temperatures, which did nothing but fuel my spring fever. This week, though, we're back to normal temps for this time of year. Brrr!

In my second semester French classes right now we're doing a unit on weather. Part of that involves the students' becoming more familiar with Celsius temperature readings. Here's something that will help them and others understand relative temperatures. Although it lampoons dwellers of various parts of the country, it seems to be particularly hard on Wisconsinites.

(degrees Fahrenheit / Celsius)

+50 / +10
* New York tenants turn on the heat
* Wisconsinites plant gardens
* Airmass too stable for supercells

+40 / +4
* Californians shiver uncontrollably
* Ohioans sunbathe

+35 / +2
* Italian cars don't start

+32 / 0
* Distilled water freezes

+30 / -1
* You can see your breath
* You plan a vacation in Florida
* Politicians begin to say they're worried again about the homeless
* Wisconsinites eat ice cream

+25 / -4
* Boston water freezes
* Californians weep pitiably
* The cat insists on sleeping on your bed with you

+20 / -7
* Cleveland water freezes
* San Franciscans start thinking favorably of LA
* Green Bay Packers fans put on T-shirts

+15 / -10
* You plan a vacation in Acapulco
* The cat insists on sleeping under the covers with you
* Canadians go swimming

+10 / -12
* Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
* Too cold to snow
* You need jumper cables to get the car going

0 / -18
* New York landlords turn on the heat
* Sheboygan residents grill bratwursts on the patio

-5 / -21
* You can hear your breath
* You plan a vacation in Hawaii

-10 / -23
* American cars don't start
* Too cold to skate

-15 / -26
* You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
* Miamians cease to exist
* People in St. Paul lick flagpoles

-20 / -29
* The cat insists on sleeping in your pajamas with you
* Politicians actually do something about the homeless
* People in Buffalo think about taking down screens
* Every other storm chaser thinks air is too stable for supercells

-25 / -32
* Too cold to kiss
* You need jumper cables to get the driver going
* Japanese cars don't start
* Milwaukee Brewers head for spring training

-30 / -34
* You plan a two-week hot bath
* People in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan shovel snow off roof

-38 / -39
* Mercury freezes
* Too cold to think
* Minnesotans button top button

-40 / -40
* Californians disappear
* Now the car insists on sleeping in your bed with you
* Wisconsinites put on sweaters

-50 / -46
* Congressional hot air freezes
* Alaskans close the bathroom window
* Green Bay Packers practice indoors

-60 / -51
* Walruses abandon Aleutians
* Sign on Mount St. Helens: "Closed for the Season"
* North Dakotans put gloves away, take out mittens
* Boy Scouts in Eau Claire start Klondike Derby

-70 / -57
* Glaciers in Central Park
* Hudson residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
* Green Bay snowmobilers organize trans-lake race to Sault Ste. Marie

-80 / -62
* Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
* Girl Scouts in Eau Claire start Klondike Derby

-90 / -68
* Edge of Antarctica reaches Rio de Janeiro
* Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
* Minnesotans migrate to Wisconsin thinking it MUST be warmer

-100 / -73
* Santa Claus abandons North Pole
* North Dakotans pull down earflaps

-173 / -114
* Ethyl alcohol freezes

-297 / -183
* Oxygen precipitates out of atmosphere
* Microbial life survives only on dairy products

-445 / -265
* Superconductivity

-452 / -269
* Helium becomes a liquid

-456 / -271
* Texas drivers drop below 85 MPH on I-35

-458 / -272
* Incumbent politicians renounce campaign contributions

-460 / -273 (Absolute Zero)
* All atomic motion ceases
* Wisconsinites admit it's getting a mite nippy

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In a fit of spring feverishness last week, I decided to begin my project of doubling the size of our garden beside the house. Because of the economy, we would like to raise more vegetables than usual – hopefully with enough to can and/or freeze.

Here's a picture of the project at the halfway point:

picture of garden widening

Here's a picture after I'd removed all the sod and moved all the border stones:

picture of garden widening

I was able to lift the sod in small squares with my spading fork and move them to a spot in the backyard that was a barren low spot. It was not only great aerobic exercise for me, but it also elevated recycling to an art form. Here's a picture of the sod in place:

picture of sod

This Saturday I plan to till in the topsoil and compost I bought this week. Then I'll cover the garden with a nice layer of mulched up oak leaves. I'll put out pictures of that process next week.

I was pleased that my last blog post drew a comment from Mike the Taxidermist. I e-mailed Kyle the coyote from a link on Mike's website. Here's a link to his comment.

Do any of the rest of you have spring fever? How is it manifesting itself in your life?

quotation...
"Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm." - Blaise Pascal

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

If it's zero degrees outside today and it's supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?


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Oddments


That's an odd title, isn't it? Why oddments? Oddments is a word that means remnants, leftovers, odds and ends, hodgepodge, etc. You get the idea. So... why oddments? What I'm posting today is little bits of stuff, none of which would make a real blog post, but they're things just too good not to share! Mainly it's stuff that I've received or found that has something to do with previous posts on my blog. I'll put a link to the various posts that the oddments are related to. And some of it is simply interesting little oddments I'd like to share, not related to much of anything. Emphasis, I guess, on odd....

A while back I had a post called 10,000 words - 10 really crazy pictures, each worth 1,000 words. I have since learned that one of the pictures actually could/should have been part of a later blog post dangerous hike and freebies. Here's the picture...

outhouse on the Mt. Huashan hike

Here's another outhouse that could have been part of the post nice bathroom humor

double decker outhouse

That's something we could all keep in mind as we go into the elections this fall!

Here's a picture that could have been part of the post sign language The picture is of a martial arts school.

martial arts school signs

I ran across a neat picture that I think could make a great header picture for my blog (if it weren't the wrong size and proportion, let alone all the potential copyright issues). Just think, instead of having an ancient gargoyle looking over the skyline of Paris, I could have Ratatouille looking at it from a different angle....

Ratatouille looking over Paris

My wife found a great recipe online for the ratatouille that Ratatouille made in that animated film. We love this dish and have declared it her recipe find of 2008! If you'd like to try it out, you can find it at http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/07/rat-a-too-ee-for-you-ee

I tried something new in the garden this year - Thai Red-Seeded Long Beans. They're like the green beans we've eaten in China and like the ones in many Chinese buffets here in the USA. The name "long beans" is not an exaggeration! Here's a picture of me measuring several against a yardstick. I don't know if you can make it out in the picture, but the longer of the two beans measures 30 inches - 6 inches longer than they're supposed to be! Just a couple of beans is enough for a meal for the two of us!

30 inch long beans

Recently I've found a couple of neat "toys" online. Anyone who reads my blog finds out pretty quickly that I am a word person. I love puns and other forms of wordplay. Well, here are several visual forms of wordplay. In both them them you can tweak the font and colors to your liking.

The first one is called Wordle. You can create your own "wordle" in several ways - either by pasting in "a bunch of text" (as they say) or by entering a URL. I chose the second, entering the URL of my most recent blog post last Thursday. Here's the wordle of that post...

wordle of my post called English must be difficult

Another word toy I ran across is a text animator called textanim. Here's my little creation from that site...

animated text of ivman's blague

Several weeks ago I had a post called t-shirt slogans. Someone sent me a great video clip on how to fold a t-shirt in seconds. It's in Japanese (I think), but if you watch it a few times, you should be able to do it too. My wife has mastered the technique and says, "This has revolutionized my recreational laundry!" Click in the square below to start the video.

Now I think you'll agree that my calling this blog post "oddments" (with a heavy emphasis on odd) was appropriate. I'm looking forward to some really odd comments now. 😀

quotation...

"Most problems in our lives go back to a false idea of who God is." - Dr. Chris Barney

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

If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?


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Is Beijing Ready?


logo of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

With the opening of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing a week away, I thought I'd share some pictures of the landscaping that's been going on around China in preparation for visitors from all around the world. Some articles that I've read have called this "greenwashing" - an attempt to purify the image of wide-spread pollution that many have in mind when they think of China. In any case, the results are spectacular and impressive, and the Chinese have shown great ingenuity and creativity in many of the preparations.

Here's the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium...

2008 Olympic stadium

Now on to some of the gardens...

a tribute to the Greek origins

flowers highlighting several sporting events

a floral abacus

playful creatures

a butterfly

dolphin fountains

a hand with a waterfall

Chinese men talking

dragons

Whatever you want to say

At the end of our time of teaching two years ago, we went to Beijing for a long weekend before returning to the USA. You can read about it by going to http://blog.ivman.com/our-final-days-in-beijing At that time we seriously wondered if Beijing was going to be ready for the Olympics, and we weren't thinking about the landscaping! Those three days, we ate only in American chain restaurants - restaurants in which we seldom, if ever, eat here at home - McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Our reasons were not because we craved Western food; it was because we could not read Chinese and could not order without assistance in a Chinese restaurant where no one speaks English. What astounded us was that, even in the American restaurants, no workers could speak English! We pointed at pictures on a menu to place our orders! I'm eager to hear how things go this summer when thousands of tourists arrive, unable to speak or read Chinese.

The question is not only if Beijing is ready for the tourists, but also if the tourists are ready for Beijing. If they want some adventures, they could try some Chinese fast food sold by street vendors (not always the safest option available, from what we heard.) Too bad the food won't be labeled as it is in the pictures.

street vendors selling their wares

fried starfish

various bugs

dog brain soup

seafood and more

goat lungs and red peppers

dog livers and veggies

sea horses

sea snake

grilled snake and silkworms

We ate some interesting stuff in China, but I assure you we ate none of the above - and definitely not from sidewalk vendors! Are any of you game to try any of those delights?

quotation...

"God's small group discipleship program is the family." - Dr. Drew Conley

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

Taste makes waist.


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Kudzu


With the advent of spring my thoughts turn toward this year's garden. It will be nice to have everything greened up again, including the kudzu especially - since it won't go away, it might as well be green! (In the winter, kudzu is a really ugly grayish brown that covers huge areas.)

I was reminded of kudzu last week when my wife Becka and I visited the Upcountry History Museum. There is one room that hosts traveling displays for about three months each. The current display had some cloth woven from kudzu fiber. At the end of this post are several links about kudzu for anyone who'd like to learn more and who would even like to try some kudzu recipes! I can hardly think of anything I might enjoy less at the moment!

The picture to the right shows how pretty the grape-scented kudzu blossoms can be. Below is something I've had in my files for quite some time about our beloved kudzu.

Kudzu (CUD-tsoo) n. an Asian vine (Pueraria lobata) of the legume family that is used for forage and erosion control and is often a serious weed in the southeastern United States.

Here are several pictures of kudzu covering almost everything in its path...

Gardening Tips from Down South
How to Grow Kudzu

All you beginning gardeners out there might want to consider growing kudzu as a fine way to launch out into the great adventure of gardening in the South. Kudzu, for those of you not already familiar with it, is a hardy perennial that can be grown quite well by the beginner who observes these few simple rules:

Choosing a Plot
Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it is with some other finicky plants like strawberries. Although kudzu will grow quite well on cement, for best results you should select an area having at least some dirt. To avoid possible lawsuits, it is advisable to plant well away from your neighbor's house, unless, of course, you don't get along well with your neighbor anyway.

Preparing the Soil
Go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to prepare it for kudzu.

Deciding When to Plant
Kudzu should always be planted at night. If kudzu is planted during daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at you.

Selecting the Proper Fertilizer
The best fertilizer I have discovered for kudzu is 40-weight non-detergent motor oil. Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the motor oil helps to prevent scraping the underside of the tender leaves when the kudzu starts its rapid growth. It also cuts down on the friction and lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really starts to move. Change oil once every thousand feet or every two weeks whichever comes first.

Mulching the Plants
Contrary to what the Extension Service may say, kudzu can profit from a good mulch. I have found that a heavy mulch for the young plants produces a hardier crop. For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks. Although this causes a temporary setback, your kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward you with redoubled determination in the long run.

Organic or Chemical Gardening
Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to use chemicals to ward off garden pests. Kudzu is oblivious to both chemicals and pests. Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any commercial poison directly on your crop. Your decision depends on how much you enjoy killing bugs. The kudzu will not mind either way.

Crop Rotation
Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil. If you desire to change from kudzu to some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations. Right now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your house and lot with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now than they will be later in the year, when it may be difficult for a prospective buyer to realize that underneath those lush green vines stands an adorable three-bedroom house.

History
Kudzu was introduced beginning in 1935 to the early 1950s to prevent erosion. It was also brought to the South in an attempt to provide improved fodder for cattle. It worked ALL TOO WELL. Cattle do love kudzu but not nearly as much as kudzu loves the South. The South provides nearly ideal climate and growing conditions for this rapid growing and hardy perennial (calling kudzu "hardy" is like calling nuclear weapons "explosive"). In 1953 kudzu was recognized as a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture and was removed from its list of permissible cover plants.

People have been known to leave home on vacation down here only to return a week later to find cars and other LARGE objects buried under lush greenery. Kudzu climbs telephone poles and crosses wires. Its eradication is a major expense to utility companies. The city of Atlanta has used bulldozers to dig up the tubers in vacant lots. It's resistant to most "safe" chemicals although the herbicide 2, 4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) has some effect if used frequently enough. It's sometimes call "yard-a-night" down here because that's how fast it seems to grow. The only question seems to be whether the "yard" referred to is that of "3 feet" or that of "front and back." Rumor has it that some of the roads in the more rural areas don't get enough traffic and will be covered by kudzu after a long holiday weekend.

Kudzu is a very pretty vine in early spring and summer. Its broad leaves and flowers are quite attractive until you start to realize that the dead stick, that it's sunning itself on, used to be a huge pine tree. In the winter, the first hard frost turns kudzu into tons of ugly brown leaves and thick vines. It becomes a real eyesore and possibly a potential fire hazard, although who's ever heard of an actual kudzu fire? (see the comments to this post - they have happened!) The plant re-grows new vines from the ground up every year, so you can see its growth rate must be phenomenal.

I understand that the Japanese make a highly regarded form of tofu from kudzu tubers. It is supposed to be prized for its nutty flavor (soy tofu is rather bland). The Japanese cannot produce enough to meet their own demand and think we're nutty for trying to eliminate it. I haven't been able to confirm this use for kudzu, but, if true, they may well be right. We've got plenty of hungry people and LOTS of kudzu!

The existence of kudzu in a neighborhood has been known to adversely affect property values. The threat of planting kudzu in someone's yard is generally considered an extreme case of "fightin' words," potentially followed by "justifiable homicide." Regardless, you can still obtain kudzu seeds from several major seed companies who list it as a "hardy ornamental perennial." If understatement were a crime, they'd be on death row!

Learn more about kudzu on these sites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu

This page may not be accessible through some internet filters since it's on someone's personal page....
http://home.att.net/~ejlinton/kudzu.html

Here in South Carolina we're seeing signs of spring - crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils are beginning to bloom. We're only a few weeks away from the annual Bible Conference on campus, followed by the annual Living Gallery. Some of you had wished you could attend in the past. I hope that many will be able to attend this year.

quotation...

"Missions should not be a spectator sport."- Dr. Tim Keesee

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

What do you do when you see an endangered animal that eats only endangered plants?


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“What would you like on your Tombstone?”


Two weeks ago I posted something that falls in the "thought-provoking" category. That blog post, "the dash and the jar," looked at the quality of the life represented by the dash between the dates of birth and death.

Today's iv is a much lighter look at this topic - epitaphs on tombstones. I have no way of knowing if they are all for real, but some of them are quite humorous. They range from puns on the name of the deceased, to insights into how the person lived or died, to insights into "those left behind" whose task or joy it was to write the epitaphs.

The following are reported to be actual epitaphs on tombstones:

Here lies Ann Mann;
She lived an old maid
And she died an old Mann.
(Bath Abbey, England)

Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les
No Moore
(Tombstone, Arizona)

Here lies Johnny Yeast.
Pardon me
For not rising.
(Ruidoso, New Mexico)

In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June
- Jonathan Fiddle -
Went out of tune.

Here under this sod and under these trees
Is buried the body of Solomon Pease.
But here in his hole lies only his pod
His soul is shelled out and gone up to God.
(Falkirk, Scotland)

Someone punned on the name of Owen Moore in England:
Gone away
Owin' more
Than he could pay.

Underneath this pile of stones
Lies all that's left of Sally Jones
Her name was Briggs,
It was not Jones,
But Jones was used to rhyme with stones.
(Skaneateles, New York)

Sacred to the memory of Anthony Drake,
Who died for peace and quietness sake
His wife was constantly scolding and scoffin',
So he sought for repose in a twelve dollar coffin.
(Burlington, Massachusetts)

Beneath this stone, a lump of clay
Lies Arabella Young
Who on the 21st of May
Began to hold her tongue.
(Hatfield, Mass.)

Shoot-em-up-Jake
Ran for sheriff, 1872
Ran for sheriff, 1876
Buried, 1876.
(Dodge City, Kansas)

Anna Wallace:
The children of Israel wanted bread,
And the Lord sent them manna.
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
(Ribbesford, England)

Margaret Daniels:
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
(Richmond, Virginia)

Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake.
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
(Uniontown, Pennsylvania)

Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont:
I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Of yours.

Beneath this stone
lies Dr. John Bigelow,
an atheist all dressed up
with no place to go.
(Thurmont, Maryland)

Here lies my wife,
I bid her goodbye.
She rests in peace
and now so do I.

Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102
The Good Die Young.
(East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia)

Beneath this stone, this lump of clay
Lies uncle Peter Daniels,
Who too early in the month of May
Took off his winter flannels.
(Medway, Mass.)

A widow wrote this epitaph in a Vermont cemetery:
Sacred to the memory of
my husband John Barnes
who died January 3, 1803
His comely young widow, aged 23, has
many qualifications of a good wife, and
yearns to be comforted.

Sir John Strange.
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
(England)

He called Bill Smith a liar.
(Cripplecreek, Colorado)

She lived with her husband
50 years and died
in the confident hope
of a better life

William Jones
Beloved husband of Elizabeth Jones
Rest in peace until I come

In a cemetery in England:
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shall you be.
Remember this and follow me.

To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent
Until I know which way you went.

A popular pizza commercial asks, "What would you like on your Tombstone?" If your life were to be summed up in an epitaph, how would it read?

I doubt that the apostle Paul had a tombstone, but if I had had to write it, I think I would have just recorded what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

That pretty well sums up Paul's life. The question is, does that sum up my life?

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In a blog post in early June I included pictures of a flower box I built. Below is a picture of what it looks like now - the zinnias and lantana are doing great, the trailing petunias are not, and the pansies and Johnny Jump-Ups ... well, they've not yet appeared.

the flower box in full bloom

quotation...

"Don't live for anything less than God." - Dr. Drew Conley

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

"My greatest fear in life is that no one will remember me after I'm dead and gone." - some dead guy


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