Friday, December 31, 2010

Van Camping and Bird Watching

Gary got me a spotting scope for Christmas, something I be wanting. We got it at Dick's Sporting Goods, and found a no-name one that was about half the price of the name-brand ones. It might not be as good, but we decided it was just fine for a beginner like me.

I want to get the gadget that holds a small digital camera up to a spotting scope so I can do "digiscoping." The above photo of an Eastern Phoebe was taken thru the scope. The originally was badly vignetted, but it looks pretty good after cropping.

We went "van camping" last night at Joe Pool Lake. The weather was very mild, so it was actually quite fun and restful and it gave me a chance to try out my new toy. If you want to see photos of our trip, click here. If you want to see the list of the 24 bird species I saw, click here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All That and a Bag of Chips

Only at my place of work would they walk around handing out free bags of chips. You know, chips delivered to the Center by the boxful, days away from expiration, but still plenty good enough. Missionaries aren't all that picky. At least when it comes to eating.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Bird! Western Osprey

OK, my photos are horrible, but I really think I saw an Osprey while I was having lunch at the Oaisis restaurant at Joe Pool Lake today. I saw a large bird hovering in a stiff wind over a calm little patch of water next to the boat launch. It dove down and came up with a fish in its feet and beat its wings hard to gain altitude, then came around closer to the place I was standing and then off. I didn't have my binoculars with me, but I did have my camera. Like I said, terrible photos, but I think they prove that it was an osprey.

That puts my life list up to 257.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Emergency Edit

Friday mid-afternoon we headed to Granbury for our annual sleepover with three other couples. Always a great time. But this year I asked Gary to leave earlier in the day so that I would not have that low south sun directly in my eyes for the drive. Leaving early was OK, except there was "just one more" thing he had to do. So once we got to Granbury we found a hometown coffee shop that had free wireless internet. I pulled out my netbook and read the two-page proposal to Gary who then edited it and sent it off. He's hoping the proposal gains $37,000 in year-end giving to fund the development of a short documentary about "shellbooks"--a tool for delivery of localized information into the languages of the world. (And by "information," I mean everything from translated scriptures to booklets on health and hygiene.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fish Story

Today I took a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon to run to the nearby city park and talk a walk around the little pond. I found two non-mallard duck species and I saw this guy walking to his van with this 23 lb fish.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Proxy Post--Andrew in Djibouti

I haven't been posting here much. Not much to say at the moment, I guess. I have posted a few things on my family blog, including a post about Andrew visiting Djibouti. Now how many people do you know who have been there?

Friday, December 03, 2010

I Gotta Go

I wonder who got paid to think this up?
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

In honor of our upcoming 35th anniversary, today I ordered a new mattress. Think it was time?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We've Been Called Worse Things

The Economist online rag ran an article recently called God-Loving Linguists. Click the link to read it, I think you'll find it interesting. Joe G., the main linguist talked about in the article, was Gary's Ph.D supervisor at Cornell. The story is mostly about the Ethnologue (of which Gary is the executive editor).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I don't expect Rachel will ever be getting another one of these, so instead of throwing it away, I replaced the cuffs. Well, not exactly "replaced," but I removed the cuffs, remodeled the sleeves and repaired the cuffs, and then put the cuffs back on.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How to Communicate in Writing*

I don't have a degree in English or Communications or Writing or anything like that, but I have learned a few things over the years about how to write things down in order to get your idea across.
  • Know the difference between the forest and the trees. It is very important to start with an Overview that includes the big ideas, without the clutter of details at that point.
  • Sometimes it might be necessary to state assumptions like who the intended audience is (that is, what previous knowledge the audience has that makes them able to learn this new thing).
  • Think hard about the order in which concepts have to be presented--sometimes order is not so important, but usually it is.
  • Present new information at the right rate. Not too fast, and not too slow.
  • Think about the new questions your information is going to provoke, and answer them at the appropriate spot in your discourse. Often a parenthetical comment works well to do this.
  • Put like things together. Group the details such the reader knows what larger concept they are trying to illuminate.
  • Try to put yourself into the place of the reader when you review your work.
  • Assume that only the rare geniuses among us can write something well the first time. The rest of us MUST review, edit, re-read, read out loud and edit again.
*Yeah, since this is my blog, I can give advice even if no one wants it and no one asked for it. :-)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Do You See What I See?

You know, I keep threatening to write a book called "Only At My Place of Work." It will be a funny book, a tally of the the comical things that happen around here. I'm collecting these tidbits in this blog for safekeeping.

Today I overheard this conversation, which, like so many of my episodes, has to do with the boutique. Today I heard a young woman telling about finding a box of contacts (those disposable kind) in the boutique. Now WHO would put such a thing in the boutique in the first place?? I have no idea! But this student was SO happy because "these contacts are the same brand and the same prescription that I need for my left eye!"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

World Series!!

It was a lot of fun. See my web album for details.
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Food Post

The person who figured out that you can cook sweet corn in the microwave without doing a single thing to it ahead of time was a genius. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, let it cool for a few minutes, and take the husk off. The silks come right off with the husks. Brilliant!

I'm short on things to blog about, so I'm blogging about food. Yes, I guess I am an emotional eater, or whatever they call those people who eat when they're happy, sad, discouraged, encouraged, etc. Homemade pizza which I hardly ever make anymore now that my nest is empty.

I baked a silly cake during the first World Series game, and it didn't help the Rangers at all.

Friday, October 29, 2010


When am I going to learn that if I have zero expectations, I won't be disappointed??

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blogging and Baseball

I've pretty much been neglecting this blog of late. Most of my blogging energies have been on my family blog (see link on right).

Tonight I'm sitting in the living room watching Game 2 of the World Series, swapping Facebook comments about the game with friends, and realizing I could could be blogging on this nifty netbook while watching the game.

I'm too old to be bragging about my kids, but they all had good things to report recently: Andrew scored well on the GRE and really well on the writing section of it. Rachel had a good week getting caught up on things in general. And David emailed us today saying he had won 1st price for his poster at the grad school symposium and that prize actually had $200 attached to it.

Ouch, this game 2 is getting UGLY! I hope the Rangers do better when they get back to Arlington.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tool for Hanging My Birdfeeders


I'm kind of disappointed in how few birds I'm seeing in my back yard these days. But I have hopes I'll see more when it gets a big colder and the leaves have fallen.

I made myself a rod with a hook on the top for putting the feeders up and down. It is mostly made from an old swiffer, and then I added a length to it from another small handled appliance I stole out of the neighbor's garbage can. The two rods were of different diameters, so they wouldn't just screw together. I jerryrigged them with some scrap pieces of wood and some epoxy putty. I'd still like it to be a bit longer, so if I ever see another swiffer at a garage sale, I'll grab it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"New" Computer Bag for 17inch Laptop

Gary took my advice and got a large laptop for his work traveling machine. He really didn't want the extra weight, but I talked him into it based on the fact that he could actually see it better. It recently arrived. Next problem, find a computer bag--one that would hold a large laptop and had wheels.
We decided rather than trying to find another bag, we would try to retrofit a nice carry-on bag that we already owned. The computer pocket inside the bag's outer compartment was intended for around a 12" laptop, so we had to find a way to enlarge it.
I decided to cut the bottom out of the pocket, leaving the sides intact, and then placing a foam bumper at the bottom of the suitcase compartment where the laptop would rest. I cut a piece of foam just the right size,
and then encased it in clear tape to make it both stronger and to keep the little pieces from crumbling.

I do believe we have a winner! Now we just hope Gary actually likes his new computer and doesn't end up wishing he had gotten a littler one.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Boiler Onions

Today I walked down to the small communal kitchen in my office building and found a paper bag that said on the outside: Help Yourself. Inside were a handful of small, dry onions.

Usually it is day-old bread or garbage bags full of old donuts or expired Easter cookies. But not today--today it was onions. So, yes, I took one. One never knows when one might need a boiler onion.

This is going into the book I'm going to write someday called Only At My Place of Work.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Wrong Person

I have started collecting all the email that I have been receiving for another person of the same name. No, not spam. Real emails about business deals and her child's school. I wish I knew what her REAL email address is because then I could pass on all this misdirected mail I'm getting. My gmail account uses the form and the email I get for the other person comes as But the Gmail help files insist that periods are ignored by their computer, so both forms are equal.

I also suspect, based on the contents of the emails, that this other person may have started with a account and maybe she lived in England. But I"m not sure about that, and the Gmail Help files claim that shouldn't cause the problem either.

But I continue to get her mail. It is annoying, and it makes me wonder if she is getting MY mail.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Wish I had a real live friend to go see the FB movie with. All my friends work too much, live too far away, or else exist only in the cloud. Or are blind--don't want to forget them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I don't really like spiders, but I do have a grudging respect for them. I mean, how can such a little creature build such an amazing web?

This morning was the first cool morning we've had in months, but it was also foggy from yesterday's rain. The weather conditions were just perfect for leaving tiny droplets on all the spiderwebs around.

Can you believe a spider made this single thread from one tree to another? How did he do that?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watching Over You, Part 2

Well, it might in fact be more than part 2!

Yesterday my daughter called me at work, in a panic, saying her work computer wouldn't boot up. She described a computer that had power, but sounded like it was about to die. I went there and tried the hard reboot. No luck. I tried the safe mode boot, and the other types listed on that opening screen. No luck with any of them. I tried about 7 or 8 times. On the 8th time, it booted. In safe mode.

I immediately starting making a back up--you know, the back up she was going to do, oh, 6 weeks ago. Then I went and downloaded the anti-spam software that the IT help desk suggested and let it run. For 1 hour and 7 minutes. It found two items which I said to remove. It said "reboot to complete the process." So I did, or at least I tried to. The next thing was a single beep saying "Fan error." It took its last gasp and died.

So she's still stressed and frustrated and getting further behind with her job, but, on the other hand, she has a backup.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Got Him!

The ruby-throated hummingbird finally stood still long enough for me to take his photo. The male seemed a bit less skittish than the female who is usually at this feeder right outside my computer window.

In other news, if you want to see me when I was skinny and my husband had hair, go take a look at some of the slides I've been scanning:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shopping at Aldi's

They have recently opened an Aldi's grocery store nearby. I think there was a need for such a type of store and it appears to be doing a pretty good business. I had never heard of this grocery chain, but I like it. It is the opposite of an upscale place like Whole Foods--it is just a no-nonsense store with lots of items, but way fewer options with those items. For instance, there will be one brand in one size, rather than multiple brands in multiple sizes. There are some brand name items, but even more of their own store brand. The shelves are stocked with boxes of items, not items lined up nicely by a stocker. Another good thing is how fast the checkers work.

The prices are great. I've been surprised how little I've spent each time I've gone there. A gallon of milk is $1.50 and a dozen eggs went up to $.59 after the come-on price of $.49.

They have some reduced-calorie versions of items, but not all I've come to buy from Tom Thumb. The worst part of the store is their sad produce section. The fruits and veggies that are there are very cheap, but not very fresh looking. I am likely to keep making my weekly trip to Cox Farms Market.

And did I mention how cheap the prices are? That is the best part.

No, I spoke too soon. The best part is how much less time it takes to go shopping when you don't have to decide between so many choices! I know that is not really the American Way, but I'm not so fussy and I like having fewer choices if it means lower prices.

This chain also saves money by making you put a quarter deposit in the shopping cart which you get back when you return it--that saves hiring a cart wrangler. And they make you pay for your grocery bags, so that encourages people like me to use their reusable bags. And it also gives people like me a chance to show off the gifts they got while in the DR recently.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Nest is Even Emptier

White Kitty showed up at our door as a stray the night our oldest child graduated from HS. It took three days of the kids begging before Gary would agree to take her in, and as soon as she came in the house she jumped up on the table and said, "Well, it's about time!"

We knew she was soon to die, but we didn't really think she'd be carried off by a coyote. I thought she'd just die of old age. Sigh.

See more details and photos on my family blog, if you're interested (link is on the right). I'm not overly sentimental, but White Kitty was part of the family.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

One-Tenth Grateful

My personality makes me jump whenever someone personally asks me for help. I just naturally say yes to a live human who has the notion to look me in the eye and ask for something. (On the other hand, I'm quite able to ignore all those impersonal pleas that come from billboards, tv, junk mail and pulpits.) But if a friend or relative directly and personally asks for help, I rarely say no.

I think this is because my love language is Acts of Service:
Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter
So if it is so natural for me to say yes, why do I so often feel taken advantage of? I crave to be appreciated, and to hear that the recipient of my service really understands what I've done and really is grateful. I may intellectually know that they are happy for my help, but yet I want to hear them carefully and specifically acknowledge my work and thank me.

Jesus might have noticed the same thing with the people he helped, but, being sinless, he didn't let it bother him :-) The ten lepers personally asked for help, and Jesus quickly and gladly gave it. But only one recipient of healing expressed his gratitude:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
Luke 17:11-19 NIV

So, if Jesus only got one-tenth of the thanks that he deserved, perhaps I shouldn't expect more.

Friday, August 06, 2010


We had coworkers staying in our apartment this past week as they prepared to leave for Africa with their two teenage daughters. A friend with a pickup came to haul boxes to the airport. May the Lord take them safely and may Kenya be cooler than the 100+ degrees it is here.

While I was waving goodbye to our friends, a big wasp flew up my skirt and stung me on the inside leg--it still hurts!

I have to go to the airport tonight too, to pick up Gary coming in from Holland.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Will...

Have you ever had someone say to you "I will do XYZ" and then he/she/they never does XYZ? Does that annoy you, or do you receive what they say with a grain of salt, not necessarily actually expecting them to do XYZ?

I've observed this so often that I'm beginning to wonder if the phrase "I will X" has joined the category of other polite-(or expected)- speech-that-shouldn't-be-taken-literally? You know what I mean--when I say "how are you?" and you reply "fine, thanks" but really you're not fine at all--you're sick, hungry, and wish I'd leave you alone. And really, I didn't want to know how you are, I was just greeting you in the culturally acceptable way. Has the phrase "I"ll do such-and-such" come to be polite speech only, not to be taken literally?

A couple examples: On Facebook I reconnected with an old college friend of 35 years ago. Turns out, we only live a few miles from each other. We started to make plans to get together for lunch. Then she said, "Oh, I can't do it this week because of XYZ, but I'll call you next week." A year later, she hasn't called and we haven't met for lunch.

What happened there? Did she actually lie to me? Did she change her mind about wanting to see me? Did an emergency come up? Did she forget? Did she get too busy?

I don't think she lied to me, and I think she'd still like to see me. I doubt an emergency came up. More likely, life just got in the way and calling me never got high enough on her to-do list. Given that conclusion, how do I think about her words "I'll call you"?

OK, you are probably thinking of other examples:
  • the guy just met the girl at a party and says "I'll call you."
  • the prospective employer saying to the interviewee, "We'll get back to you."
And then we can broaden it a bit to some related examples:
  • If you need any help, just call me.
  • I'm available anytime you need a ride.
  • I'll pray for you.
  • If you need a place to stay, let me know.
  • I'm here for you.
I like it when people actually mean what they say and consider their own words to be binding unless something akin to an emergency intervenes. But, I'm beginning to wonder if the words "I will do X" have subtly changed in meaning from originally meaning "I fully intend and promise to do X unless something major stops me" to mean something more like "I might do X, I hope to do X if I can, but I certainly haven't made a commitment to do X and you shouldn't think that I have."

Conclusion: I personally wish people would instead say "I hope to do X" or "I'd like to do X if I can" rather than "I will do X"--that just seems more truthful, let alone more polite and kind to the hearer. But maybe the language "I will do X" has changed its meaning in the area of purport. As an armchair linguist I know language (sounds, grammar, meanings) does change over time--am I just observing that change?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Yesterday we temporarily moved the TV to the living room to accommodate our All-Star game watching party. This afternoon I spied a handprint on the bottom of the TV, now noticeable due to the TV's new location and the glare coming from a different window. That handprint almost made me cry--it was Isabella's.

So, that tells you a couple things:
  • I miss my grandbaby.
  • I haven't cleaned the TV since January.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hard to Forgive

Today I was at a party and someone walked in that I had not seen in many years. As soon as I recognized him, I felt a little ill. Many years ago he had treated one of my children in an inappropriate way. I still, apparently, have not forgiven him.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Point Of View

When you look at something from another's point of view, not only do you see things differently, you see different things.

Friday, July 09, 2010


About a month ago I went to Michigan to both visit my mom and to attend my college reunion. (See my other blog if you actually want to know any more about it or see photos.) Actually "college" isn't really the right word--it was a 3-year Bible institute which I attended straight after HS and after which I transferred to a Christian college to finish getting a bachelor's degree.

Anyway, while at my reunion, I met a woman whose married name is the same as my maiden name. She told me that she had written to our Bible institute to request a transcript so she could go on to further studies and when she got the transcript she looked at it and said, "Wow, I don't remember getting grades this good!" :-)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

How To Be a Guest and How to Be a Host

Some days I'm such a bossy know-it-all that I think I should have been Miss Manners' understudy. Aside from that, someone recently remarked that not everybody in fact actually knows all the societal rules of etiquette. Therefore, these guidelines might bear repeating for any who have ears to hear, or occasion to read, as a way to make overnight visits more comfortable for both sides.

Responsibilities of the Guest:

  • Make plans well ahead of time and remember the arrangements (write them down).
  • Stick to the plan or advise the host immediately of the plan changes.
  • Clean up your mess before leaving and don't make unnecessary work for the host.
  • Offer to help with food costs or take the host out to eat.
  • If in doubt about your boundaries, ask the host first.
  • Ask the host if they have clean sheets in order to make up the bed before leaving.
  • Carefully remove all belongings so the host doesn’t have to deal with them later.
  • Thank the host.

Responsibilities of the Host:
  • Make note of the plans and don't forget them (write them down) .
  • Make physical preparations before the guest arrives for sleeping, eating, and a place for the guest to put their belongings.
  • Ask the guest if they need anything, knowing that the guest may not feel comfortable to ask.
  • Tell the guest directly to help themselves to X or Y (like the frig, the TV, etc), realizing they may not feel comfortable to really“make themselves at home” without being specifically told.
  • Tell the guest where you are if you leave and the best way to contact you if needed.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another New Bird

Today I had to get up early to drive Rachel to Ft. Worth. I had about 3-4 hours to kill, so I found a parking spot at the nearby Trinity Park. Lots of joggers and bicyclists about, and it was a nice day for them since the recent rains have cooled it down to the mid 80s.

I forgot my hat, camera and birdbook, but I did have my binoculars so I spent an hour birdwatching along a little tributary of the river between 8 and 9am. It seemed to be the perfect hangout for herons/egrets--I saw 6 different ones as I walked along a quarter-mile stretch: great blue heron, little blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, green heron, and--a new one for my life list--a pair of yellow-crowned night herons. (photo below stolen from the internet)

I observed 17 species at the park today. My Birdstack Life List is up to 238. It seems like I added two new life birds today, but that is due to the split in Mallards to include Mexican Ducks. I decided these were Mexican Ducks because they were speaking Spanish.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another DIY

Replacing the cane seat on our old rocker was this time's Do-It-Yourself. Click here to see the detailed process. I like the way it turned out. Removing the old seat was the hardest part of the project.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Ice Water for White Kitty

My cat prefers water straight out of the running tap, but can sometimes be persuaded to drink ice water these hot days.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Interesting/Funny Photos from Our Trip, part 2

The tiny town of Tofino was busy with our conference, but they were also shooting a major motion picture with real movie stars.

The Canadians take their dogs very seriously, as well as their ecology. Every little park had a supply of plastic bags to encourage owners to clean up after their dogs. And there were a lot of people who had dogs.

My what big teeth you have! I think this was a gray whale, or maybe a killer whale.

No offense, but syncretism is alive and well. Or, in this case, not alive.