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Ode to Sheba

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Sheba was my dad and stepmother’s dog. She was very smart, well trained and behaved, and a lot of fun to have around. She lived to the ripe old age of 14, but unfortunately, due to some serious health problems, had to be put down recently. It’s okay, it was time.

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This is actually a somewhat recent photo that I “stole” from my stepsister’s facebook. Though I know I’ve taken pictures of Sheba, my personal pictures are really unorganized and poorly named and I couldn’t find any that I took of her. If I do come up with other pictures I might add them to this post later.

I never had a dog growing up as a kid, and though Sheba definitely wasn’t “my dog” she is the closest to having a dog of my own that I’ve ever had. (and that’s okay… I’m more of a cat guy) Still, Sheba was a great dog and I loved her about as much as one can reasonably love a pet.

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(I took this one, the day before she was put to sleep)

She will be missed!

 

Written by Jim

October 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Blogging / Writing

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150th Anniversary of the Civil War in Central Pennsylvania

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In my last post I talked about the burning of the Columbia Wrightsville Bridge during the Civil War and an event that was staged to commemorate the 150th anniversary. That was on Friday night, but there were other things going on that weekend in honor of the anniversary, and because of the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

I went back to Wrightsville the following morning to take in more Civil War things that were going on. Family from out of town was visiting and we thought it would be fun to check out some the anniversary events. My mother lives in Wrightsville and her home served as a convenient home base. The morning was supposed to start with a guided tour of a cemetery, which has the resting places of some civil war soldiers (and I assume we would have heard some stories about them), but the tour guide never showed up. The tour had been advertised and there was a sign set up to mark the starting point, but after some time passed it became clear that no one was going to show up.  So we just looked around a bit on our own then walked back. We didn’t see any clearly marked soldier graves, but honestly didn’t look too hard.

Here are some pictures from just walking around in Wrightsville and from the cemetery.
Sorry, not much is civil war-sy.

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I had never seen markers like this before. There was a larger tombstone with all the names and dates on it for a whole family, but there was more than one “sister” listed, so it was hard to tell which one was buried where.

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One of my nephews studying a tombstone:

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There were other things going on in Wrightsville, but across the river in Columbia a Civil War camp had been setup, so we opted to go to that instead.

The camp was pretty neat. There were a lot of very nice and informative reenactors there so it was educational, too. There was a blacksmith, a medical tent, a tent with a gentleman showing different types of ammunition and weapons, another where a gentleman was showing how bullets were made, soldiers who demonstrated different formations and tactics, women dressed in garb from the era, and other general tents, people, and things on display.

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Honest Abe was there too, but I did not get a good picture of him. He was a popular guy, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I wasn’t patient enough to wait around for a good candid shot.

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I liked the camp and thought everyone involved did a good job. Any of the reenactors I heard speaking were very nice and informative, and I thought they succeeded in making the camp interesting and interactive.

I’m not sure when/if I’ll get to Gettysburg to site-see, and there probably won’t be another event like this locally until another major anniversary (maybe in 25 years?) so I’m happy to have had a chance to experience this.

Written by Jim

July 5, 2013 at 11:17 am

150th Anniversary of the Burning of the Columbia Wrightsville Bridge (US Civil War)

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As you may or may not be aware, this week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. I live in Central Pennsylvania not far from Gettysburg and this is a big deal around here. For the weeks and months leading up to this, there have been a ton of articles and stories in the news and on the radio about the Battle of Gettysburg and things that are happening locally to commemorate the anniversary.

I’ve been to Gettysburg lots of times, but I’ve never toured the battlefields. I think that would be fun and interesting to do sometime, but definitely not this week. The area is overrun with tourists on account of the anniversary (Gettysburg is bad every summer, this is just worse than normal) and the crowds, traffic, and hecticness of it all would be too much for me. I’ll go sometime “off season.”

Outside of Gettysburg though, the area is still rich with history from the war. Very close to where I live, the towns of Columbia and Wrightsville share an interesting story from the war. Last Friday, June 28th, marked the 150th anniversary of fighting in this area and the burning of a mile long covered bridge over the Susquehanna River. To observe the anniversary, there were a lot of events over the last weekend.

A little history:
The Susquehanna River is a major river that runs through this part of the state, close to where I live it separates Lancaster and York Counties. Wrightsville (York county) and Columbia (Lancaster County) sit on opposite sides of the mile wide river and there is a bridge that connects the two towns.

The current Lincoln Highway Bridge today:

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Back in 1863, there was a wooden covered bridge. In the right of the picture above, you can see the old piers where the bridge once stood. (I’ll note that this bridge has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times over the past 150 years, so I’m not 100% sure if they’re the exact same piers).

A look at them from the current Lincoln Highway Bridge (old photo I took a few years ago):

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During the Civil War, to combat advancing Confederate troops from the Wrightsville side of the river (I’ve read both that they intended to capture the bridge, and that they were just advancing and needed to cross the bridge), Union Troops destroyed the bridge to make it impassable. The initial plan was to blow up the bridge, but the explosions weren’t strong enough to destroy it, so four men actually set fire to it, burning it down completely.

For the anniversary, there was a ceremonial “burning of the bridge” to mark the occasion. The Lincoln Highway Bridge was closed to traffic and opened to the public (well, for the fee of $2 per person) to stand and watch, and people lined the rivers edge where ever possible to watch. The idea was that fires would be lit on top of each of the remaining piers to symbolize the burning of the old bridge. This was all done at night, of course, and capped off with a fireworks display.

A lot of people showed up, several thousand supposedly:

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The whole idea sounded good in theory, but it wasn’t nearly as cool as I was thought it would be. Well, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking of big raging fires on top of the old piers, giving the effect of a burning bridge. In actuality, they were only little bonfires, and they weren’t that impressive. They weren’t small, but in comparison to the size of the piers and the vast expanse of the river, it left a lot to the imagination to picture a whole bridge burning.

This is a look from about half way across. See what I mean about the small fires…

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It took forever, too. They lit them one by one, boating from one pier to the next and starting them by hand, going in the direction the bridge originally burnt. It started at 9:30 PM and when we went home after the fireworks, sometime around 10:30, they were still only half way across. A relative ventured back out well after 11:00, and they were just then finishing up lighting the fires.

I should note that I am not big on ceremony and symbolism. I find the history and story fascinating, but seeing it played out doesn’t do much for me. To put it another way, I’d rather go to a museum than a reenactment, if that makes any sense. So the odds of me being impressed by this were slim to begin with, though I’m sure other people loved it.

A few shots of fireworks going off over the river and the “burning bridge.”

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Perhaps I am being a little too critical. Considering the resources available for these small towns and the conditions (lots of vegetation on the piers – couldn’t have BIG fires) they truly did do the best they could. It was neat, anyway, and I’m sure the majority of people there really did enjoy it. And I don’t believe this is a well known story from the war, so it was neat to learn more about it.

There was another commemorative civil war event that I went to over the weekend, and I’ll do another post shortly about it.

Thanks for reading!

Roadside America

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Recently I went to Roadside America with some family that was visiting from out of town. The idea to go was my father’s; he thought it would be a fun activity to do with his kids and grand kids, and he was right. The children ranged in age from four to 10 and they had a lot of fun, and the adults had a good time too. I was skeptical about going at first, especially since it’s located in Shartlesville, PA and more than an hour away, but I ended up having a really good time and would recommend it to people of all ages who are into this type of thing.

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Roadside America is a miniature village depicting many scenes of American life from different times in the past. It is an over 8,000 square foot display of cities, old-time towns, neighborhoods, industry, leisure and a bunch of other stuff. There are miniature houses, businesses, churches, hotels, bars, a baseball field, a zoo, a circus, tons of cars, trains, an air port, and much more than would be reasonable to list out. The website provides a lot more detail and plenty of (better quality) photos.

Though the website bills it as “An Enchanted Miniature Land of Yesterday and Tomorrow,” I didn’t see anything futuristic about it, or even anything that modern. There were some vehicles from the 90’s, but I didn’t pick up on anything more recent. My dad pointed out a lot of things he remembered from visiting in his childhood; some cars for instance that were really cool to see as a kid (in the 50’s) because they were brand new at the time.

So, I get the idea that nothing overly drastic has changed over the years, but it is still really cool. There is a lot of detail and tons of things to discover. I get the idea one could walk around a number of times and find something new each time. Around the outside edge where you walk there are some signs explaining things and a number of buttons that you can push to operate trains or aspects of scenes that are “interactive.” There are raised levels to look from as well to get different perspectives. All in all it was pretty neat and worth the drive, though I don’t know if it would be worth coming from much further away for unless you are REALLY into miniature villages.

I shot nearly 100 pictures and am posting a number here. There are few captions, I just chose a bunch to show some of the different scenes. I was just shooting on the fly and my point and shoot isn’t too great in limited light, so the quality of these shots isn’t that great. Sorry. Definitely check out the website for more/better pictures and information.

These first two and the one above are from further back to give an idea of the size and scope of it. The rest are closer and a bit more detailed.

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RA 27s (baseball)

RA 31s (airport)

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RA 26s (dance)
A barn dance

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A winter resort high above the main level

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A Pueblo Village

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Where miniature people are laid to rest

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At one point there was an announcement that it would be night time for a little while, then slowly the lights dimmed until the room was dark. The lights in the buildings came on and “stars” came out from the ceiling. It looked pretty cool but my little low-light challenged camera wasn’t able to do it justice. The Star Spangled Banner was also played from what sounded like an old record, as well as a few other songs, while the statue of liberty, a flag blowing in the wind, and a few other things were projected on a wall. That part was a little weird. More so in how everything was done than the content itself. It really had an old time feel to it.

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Oh no, a giant!!!

RA 23s (giant)

Not really, it was just am employee fixing a train.

Written by Jim

January 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Cats

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If for no other reason than to have something to share on here, I thought I’d post some photos of our cats. My wife and I have three kitties: Ari, Sophie, and Linus. They’re regular domestic short hairs, so nothing exotic, though Sophie is a “Grey Tortie” which just means she has a unique coat that is sort of tortoise-shelled.

I won’t get into describing them too much, but they’re a lot of fun and we really enjoy having them. Each is a rescue of one form or another with their own unique personalities. They do a lot of typical cat stuff like sleeping, eating, sleeping, playing and sleeping.

The following are just a selection of pictures taken over the years we’ve had them on an assortment of cameras (mostly point and shoot, though there are a couple of obvious film shots too). When picking these out I realized the vast majority of my pictures of our cats are either of them sleeping or they’re blurry…  You work with what you’ve got, I guess.

(Ari on the left, Linus on right)


(Sophie)

Oh, and sometimes Ari gets important phone calls…

Written by Jim

November 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The Magician Optometrist

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I had a very entertaining eye exam the other day. My normal eye doctor, who I thought I would be seeing and who I like very much, had not come in that day and an older gentleman was filling in for her. I wasn’t excited to hear this when I arrived for the exam. I had never been examined by the substitute doctor before, but I had seen him in the office before and had not been impressed. He is old. I would honestly guess somewhere close to 80 years old. He also seems somewhat slow. Not that he is unintelligent, but he just moves at a slow pace and when speaking comes across as being not altogether there. I am not the discriminatory type and am not proud for passing judgment based on a simple observation, but I did so none the less and was not excited when I was called in for the exam.

The exam didn’t exactly start out smoothly, though I can’t say it started badly either. I tried to tell him about how my eyes had been performing and a change that I thought might have happened, but he didn’t really pay attention to me. He explained what he would be doing, found my file and chart, and spent some time reviewing my information and rehashing some information about my eyes that I had just been telling him.

He did turn out to be a very kind and friendly person though, and I warmed up to him a bit as he started running some tests. It was difficult to be pessimistic with him being so nice and polite. The fun really started when he truly began giving me an eye test.

If you’ve ever had an eye exam before, you’re probably familiar with the routine. The patient sits in a chair, an instrument – a phoropter – is placed in front of their eyes, and the eye doctor will make adjustments while asking a series of questions to examine their eyes and determine the needed prescription. Any eye exam I’ve had has always followed the same routine, and for the most part all doctors have asked their questions in the same manner. They will say something to the effect of, this is number one [with a specific setting set on the phoropter] and this is number two [with a change to the phoropter]. Which is better, one or two? I will provide my answer, the doctor will make an adjustment, then ask again, which is better, one or two? The exam carries on like this, rather monotonously, until the prescription is determined. It is rather boring, but it’s what I have come to accept as normal for eye exams.

This older doctor went about it slightly differently though. Instead of simply asking, which is better, one or two? He did the exam more as a performance.

As he set the phoropter he said, “ah this is fuzzy, isn’t it Jim, but watch what happens when I do THIS,” and he sort of waved his hand in front of my eyes, which were still behind the phoropter so all I could see was his waving hand, and he quickly made an adjustment. My vision cleared up considerably and he said, “it’s better, isn’t it?” I confirmed, and he went to it again.

“Ahh, but watch what happens when I do THIS!” There was another wave of the hand in my field of view, another quick change to the phoropter, and my vision became blurrier. “Things got worse, Jim, didn’t they?” I confirmed, and he made his next change.

The whole exam was like this. Instead of just asking which lens or setting was better, he predicted the outcomes as he made changes, then asked me to confirm. He was very dramatic about it. He never made a change to a setting without flapping his hand in front of my eyes and wiggling his fingers a little bit. It seemed as if he expected his ability to predict how my vision would change and the effects of the phoropter would impress me. It also seemed rather similar to a magician performing his act. This is just an ordinary empty top hat, but watch what happens when I do THIS! [flick of the hand] There’s a RABBIT INSIDE!!!

At first I was troubled by his behavior. I was worried that if he was just answering the questions before asking them I wouldn’t be able to give feedback. I also thought maybe he was a little crazy. But as he went on I found it funnier and funnier. He seemed to exaggerate his delivery as time passed. There were more waves of his hand, more excitement in his voice, and the questions became more open ended to include my feedback as he fine-tuned. I began to smile and quite literally had to bite down on my tongue to keep from laughing till the end of the exam.

At one point he abruptly made a change and said, “oh no, it seems as if you have double vision!” And sure enough, the singular eye chart I had been looking at had become duplicated. He began rolling a control on the phoropter and asked me to tell him when things were better. I remember having to do this during eye exams in the past, but not executed the same way.

When we were done he informed me that my left eye hadn’t changed but my right eye would require a bit more correction. As he ushered me to the door he stopped, did a little dance – stepping forward and back while swinging his arms at his sides – and said, “so we’ll just PUNCH that right eye up a bit,” and he thrust his fist into the air as he said the word “punch,” then he continued, “and you’ll be able to see like a HAWK!”

After initially being reluctant to have him check my eyes I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’m also sure not all patients enjoy his tactics. While children and the light at heart probably get a kick out of it, I can image more serious folk being put off. Since he is older and only works part time as a substitute for other doctors I would hope people don’t give him a hard time. Despite the theatrics, he did seem more than competent. I also doubt I will see him again. No matter, I’m glad I had his special brand of eye test and the experience will give me something to laugh to myself about whenever I have my next one.

I don’t think eye exams will ever be the same for me.

Written by Jim

December 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

every day is craigslist day

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Last night I made $60 selling stuff on craigslist – an antique refrigerator and a fan.  I like craigslist.  I think it’s a good venue for selling and buying stuff if you’re reasonable about expectations, and I find it strangely addicting to search through the for sale ads and see what kinds of deals and different stuff is out there.  If I had more money and more room I could see it turning into a problem for me.

I mostly just use it for selling stuff though and usually have pretty good luck, both things I sold last night didn’t last more than 2 or 3 days and I got my asking prices.  I try to be reasonable with my expectations, stay away from the, erm, questionable areas, ignore the weirdos, and it works out well enough for me.

The fridge that I sold was in our basement when we moved in (5 years ago!) and I originally thought I’d do something with it.  Of course I never did and it just sat in a corner taking up space all these years.  It doesn’t work.  Well, it runs, but it doesn’t pump cold air.  The guy that bought it seemed really cool.  He said he was going to use it as decoration, make a cabinet out of it, try to fix it up, or something.  While we were loading it we talked about tattoos, injuries we had, and other random stuff.  Good times.

He already had a nice big picnic table on the back of his truck when he arrived at my place to get the fridge.  I complimented him on it.  “yep,” he said, “i just picked this up.”  I jokingly asked, was it craigslist day?  He slyly replied, “every day is craigslist day.”

Ha, yeah!

Written by Jim

May 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Blogging / Writing

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