Happy Memorial Day — Remember the Reason

I have commented before that these days we’ve gotten so ignorant of our values, that we have largely forgotten the reason for our holidays.  Even the president seems to have forgotten, because instead of paying his respects at Arlington, the way his predecessors did, he just went on vacation.  Well, go ahead and enjoy your day off, your picnics and shopping trips, but here’s a reminder to at least take a moment to remember those who gave everything, so that you can live in peace and prosperity.

The Best of My Aldersgate Pictures

Last week, I told you about being on a men’s church retreat in the Kentucky mountains, from May 20 to 22, at a place called Aldersgate.  The ladies, including Leive, went there last summer, so now it was our turn.  Here are the best of the pictures I took over there.

First, they had very nice cabins for us to stay in.  Each cabin had four bedrooms in it, with up to four beds per room, but I don’t think we had to put more than two in each room.  Here is the cabin I used.

My pastor and most of the refreshments were in the other cabin.

The campsite has several hiking trails, and at least two caves.  On Friday afternoon I tried the trails.  The trail I chose was quite steep, and because of all the rain we got in May, it was muddy, too.  Consequently nobody tried going all the way up the mountains to the caves.  Here is the first part of the trail; it was steeper, but better marked than the legs of the journey I saw later on.

I almost stepped on the snake in the above picture.  My hiking partner thought it was a copperhead, but because of the small head, it looked more like a red rat snake to me, so we left it alone after some unsuccessful attempts to scare it off by throwing sticks at it.

The trail we took, the Log Loop Trail, leveled off here, where we saw the last sign.  After that, we weren’t always sure if we were on the trail, because it wasn’t marked, except for a few spray-painted trees.

Another highlight of the hike was the cliffs we followed shortly after the last sign.  They were at least a hundred feet high, and because a trickle of water ran over the edge, they call it a “waterfall.”

I think the closest we got to the top was when the trail skirted this outcropping.

We came to grief when we reached an area where some loggers had ruined the trail by bulldozing down the trees.  In the areas that didn’t have wood or stones, the mud was treacherously deep; I got stuck in it more than once.  We didn’t see any markers to indicate where we should go, and the slope the bulldozers used was even steeper than the one we used to get up there.  In the end we had to go back the way we came, for a hike that took three and a half hours.  Afterwards I joked it was a male bonding experience that lasted too long!  I also found out later that the loggers had come there without the camp’s permission, straying across the property line, so there may be a lawsuit on the way.

On the way back I saw an immature newt, what folks call a red eft.  We don’t have too many salamanders in Florida, so I was pleased to meet this fellow.  The above picture is a close-up; it was only the size of my finger.  I saw another red eft earlier on the hike, so for all I know it could have been the same one.

It took quite a bit of cleaning up after the hike; I felt blessed to have the only room in the cabin with a washing machine.  Anyway, the cafeteria where we took our meals is on the second floor of the above cabin.

Between our cabins and the mess cabin was a run-down barn, which had four goats living inside.  In the field behind it (not shown here) were some llamas and horses.

Who let the goats out?  I found out that evening that the goats are free-range animals; part of the fence around the barn is missing, and they use that gap to go in and out as they please.  One of them came up to me for a pat.

Right after the Civil War, a town was founded here named Fitchburg, to mine and smelt iron ore.  The smelter is currently being restored.  I don’t think there was much iron locally, because the town was abandoned in the 1870s.  Then in the early twentieth century, oil was discovered nearby, so Fitchburg enjoyed a second life until the 1990s, when the last of the oil ran out.

The other main building at Aldersgate is this Methodist chapel; we didn’t go in there, though.

Here are several members of our group around the table, at breakfast on Saturday morning.  Pastor Dave is in the rear center seat.

Finally, here is my in-law Gene King (left), and his brother Roy.  Roy is a pastor in western Kentucky, and he preached two meaningful sermons on the relevance of the David & Goliath story to men.  All in all it was nice to “get away from it all” for a few days and recharge; I wonder what challenges this summer will bring?

Kung Fu Bear

You probably remember the movie “Kung Fu Panda” from a couple years back.  What made it funny was the thought that one of China’s slowest animals could become a martial artist.  The same idea worked for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Now here’s a bear who seems to be inspired by the cartoon panda.  This video came from a Japanese zoo, and I’m guessing it’s a Southeast Asian sun bear, from the patch on its chest.  At any rate, the bear swings a mean bo stick!  It looks to me like the moves are real, but the video was edited a bit to emphasize them.

Lexi at Two Months

Yesterday my grandchild Alexis Laine Sherwood (“Lexi”) had a doctor’s appointment.  She got a clean bill of health; here is what Lindy said about it.  Quote:

“Lexi was all smiles at her appointment till she got her shots…then her face got all red and she cried. It was very sad!! She’s off the charts with her height, and in the 90th percentile with her weight. So she’s healthy and very tall for her age.”

Unquote:  Thanks to Lindy, Adam and Facebook, here are the latest videos of Lexi.  Enjoy!

A Ridiculous Law For Every State

There are all kinds of ridiculous laws on the books.  Most of them were made more than a hundred years ago, to deal with an issue that made sense back then, and have not been repealed because they are not enforced; heck, few people even know they exist.  Here is a blog listing some laws so strange that one wonders what folks were thinking when colonial or state governments passed them.  No state gets off scot-free here, so if you don’t want a crazy law for your place, you’d better be living in DC, a US territory, or abroad.  Rather than give details from the article, I’ll just say that the one picked for Florida would have gotten me in trouble almost every day when I lived there, and if the one for Kentucky was enforced, the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t be the same.

50 Stupid Laws From 50 States

Back From Aldersgate, and a New Page Called “Odd History”

I’ve been out of town for two days, leaving on Thursday evening, and coming back Saturday afternoon.  Now I’ve rested up enough to tell you where I’ve been.  The men of my church had a retreat at Aldersgate, a very nice campsite run by the Methodists, in the eastern part of Estill County.  The nearest community is Ravenna, KY, and it is just over an hour’s drive from Lexington.  The link above will give you an idea of what the place looks like, and I plan to post some pictures later this week.

I have also added a brand new page to this blog.  New pages haven’t appeared lately; I believe the previous one went up last September.  Anyway, it’s called “Odd History,” and it provides quick links to the offbeat history lessons I have posted here.  To access it, click on the link below, or go to the tabs at the top of the screen.

Odd History

Even Conservatives Don’t Get It

Last Tuesday we had a handful of primary elections that got more attention than they normally would, because they are seen as a forerunner of what we’ll get on Election Day in November.

1.  In Arkansas, incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln did not defeat all opponents, and is forced into a runoff.

2.  Here in Kentucky, in the Republican race for the Senate seat being vacated by Jim Bunning, Rand Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party activists and son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, defeated Trey Grayson, the choice of establishment Republicans.  It was a blowout where Paul got 64% of the vote.

3.  In Pennsylvania, the Democrats refused to have former Republican Senator Arlen Specter for another term.  I’m probably happiest about this result, not only because Specter’s a turncoat, but because anyone who has been in public office for nearly all my adult life can’t be all good.

4.  Also in PA, District 12 elected a Democrat to replace the late John Murtha.

I expected the mainstream media to get this wrong.  They’re saying, “This isn’t a referendum on Obama, though he did endorse Specter.  Nor is this a vote against health care, or any other policy of the current administration.”  Yeah, right.

What surprised me is that the conservatives I have heard so far are missing the point, too.  They all seem to think the District 12 race in Pennsylvania is the only one that mattered, because they are virtually ignoring the others.  Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh said it’s not so bad that the Republican lost, because the Democrat had to act like a conservative Republican to win, and the district is gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats, anyway.  Meanwhile, in her latest column, Ann Coulter blasted the Republicans for losing a race they could have won, if they hadn’t drawn national attention to it.  Personally I think the District 12 race was the least important of the four mentioned above, because the winner only gets to fill out the last five months of Murtha’s term; the seat is up for election again in November.

Neal Boortz got the election results right, though he’s a Libertarian, so you can’t really call him a conservative, and he’s pessimistic about voters elsewhere being mad enough to throw out incumbents.

For disenfranchised voters (myself included) this is not a contest between Democrats and Republicans so much as it is a  contest between Washington and America.  The folks in DC have ignored us for years, confident that we will always keep them on the take job.  Let this be a wake-up call for them.  In my opinion, anybody in Congress right now is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and the more of them we get rid of this year, the better!

Kentucky’s Cure for the Oil Spill

For the past few weeks we’ve been watching the trouble in the Gulf of Mexico.  First there was the oil rig near Louisiana that blew up and sank; since then BP has been trying to stop oil from gushing out of the ocean floor.  Yesterday I heard about tarballs from the oil spill turning up as far away as Key West, FL, and there is fear that the Gulf Stream current will carry the oil all the way around Florida, to deposit it in the Atlantic.

Yes, this is an awful thing to happen, especially if you live in the affected area on the Gulf coast.  Some folks are panicking, calling this the worst oil spill ever, and (liberal) politicians want to ban new drilling for oil because of it.  Gosh, does anyone else remember when the Democrats thought “offshore drilling” meant sex in a boat?

Anyway, for plugging the leak, I can’t offer a better solution that what they’re trying now.  However, some good old boys have a solution for the oil that has already come out–soak it up with hay.  In the video below they demonstrate; if this works as well as nature as it does in a wok, Kentucky’s bluegrass will save the day!

This solution is all natural, which should please the environmentalists.  Best of all, I don’t think it will be too expensive.  2009 was a bad year for Kentucky’s horse industry, so we’ve still got some old haystacks sitting around on the farms.  And by the end of this month this year’s hay crop will be cut and rolled up, meaning that a lot more hay will be available soon.

Presidential Jeopardy

It’s hard to find good political satire these days, thanks to the hyper-sensitivity of some people and the current polarization of the electorate.  For more about that, see my message from October 11, 2008.  Yesterday, though, I was referred to a goodie, Jay Leno’s “Presidential Jeopardy” game show featuring Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Abraham Lincoln.  He did it a year ago, but you’ll still probably get some laughs from it.  Myself, I found the questions, answers and comments hilariously unexpected, like when Lincoln said he had such a bad stopover in Atlanta that he hopes General Sherman will burn it down again!