Sunday, July 30

Living on the Edge

Having lived 'on the tracks' in Paso Robles, El Paso and now here in Stockton, there hasn't been too much concern about the Big One crashing through the backyard fence and into the bedroom or living room. But there has been a reasonable, non-stressing level of concern. We had heard the story from friends who live on the other side of the tracks about the derailment that happened about 30 years ago in the same area. We knew it might again, but like the inevitable earthquake, you pray you will be spared. Thankfully, we were!

Yesterday's 6 p.m. derailment across the fence took everyone by surprise. We had just left minutes before to attend a baby shower and heard the news later that night as people called wondering if we were okay. There were cars parked on the tracks behind us, but that wasn't unusual. I found out what happened this morning and walked over with my camera to see the damage. What a mess! No one was killed, thankfully, but some people saw it coming and had to run to get out of the way. One woman was working in her backyard when a box car broke through her back fence and landed yards from her, close to her house. Sixteen cars bit the dust. They'll be working into Monday to fix it.

My surmisings: the recent heat wave warped the track just enough to put a wheel over the edge. One of my pictures of the rails in back of the house shows a definite out-of-alignment stretch right where the train jumped the track, although they're using engines and cars on it today (south of the accident) to bring in more bed rock and railroad ties

You can see all the pictures here: Derailment

Guess I should mention that one of the crunched cars was full of sulfuric acid and another full of chlorine gas. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1,2

Saturday, July 29

Riding the Monster

Okay . . . the 'heat' is now history (for a little while anyway) and we're enjoying a day in the 80's and 90's. What a difference! We Californians don't do well in this stuff. Over 150 have died in heat related deaths. But remember the tragedy in Europe a few years ago when 35,000 died.

I rode my first lawn mower this morning, helping out some friends. Tom was diagnosed with bone cancer and can't do ANYTHING, not even lift over 10 lbs. Wow. And this man was the chief maintenance guy for our big church, along with 2 other full timers. Been a real challenge to change his lifestyle.

Anyway, Tom gave me a few minutes 'training' his monster mower after I filled the gas tank. Then it was off to the races. This was a case in which I figured out the right way to do it after I was almost done! Ha! Next time I'll get logistical directions first! My last bit of grass to mow was by their patio. There were four benches to move, so I put the mower in neutral and hopped off, not expecting it to pop back into drive. Crash went the benches before the mower plowed into the table and pinned it against the house! Of course, this is redwood we're talking about, and it's like balsa wood, so two of the legs snapped off in fine fashion before I could yank it into neutral again.

I felt bad and made my apologies. Tom said, don't sweat it, my brother's going to be here this week and he always like to work on a project. This project will be fixing the two legs, among other things!

So at least I didn't run over their dog or a car or any kids or myself! Thank you, Lord, for providential mercies!

And anything exciting to report from your neck of the woods?

Thursday, July 27

Blurred Blessing

Hers is a non-stop world. Today's trip with her Day Camp friends ended at a waterpark about 60 miles from home. She brought back sunburned cheeks and waterslide memories. Not many details from this kid. Prodding helps. "Yeah, I liked the rubber slide that went all the way into the water." Okay.

A new Pac-Man game on the computer came next. Two games. Too hard. A bit blurry and scurry for both of us. The fingers can't navigate those cursor keys with much success. Poor P-Man!

Then it's having to sit still for a few pictures for grandpa. I tell her not to smile. She shares the frustration with her mother and stares at the t.v.

Then it's off to her house. The house without a cat. The house without a dog. But they do have frog and a turtle. Not much blurring going on over there.

Wednesday, July 26

Better Late Than Never

Paso Robles' new waterpark will be open for business in 2007 --- a full year after this summer's blistering heatwave fried Californians as never before. The big question: will it eclipse the glory days of old Resthaven Park? Granted, there were no watery serpentine trails to descend, but there was a trinitarian show-off factor that will never be equalled. The narrow slide, the diving board and twirling tub begged bravado and 'look-at-me'daredeviling.

Looks like trying to show off at this new venue will guarantee a trip to the nearest hospital or worse.

Saturday, July 22

1 O'Clock And Counting!

Everyone talks about the weather . . . especially the past few weeks when the temps have soared across the country and even here in the Golden State. I just talked to Jack in Paso Robles --- already 105 and it's only 1:00 in the afternoon. They suffered through a 112 degree high there yesterday. Thankfully, we're only supposed to hit 110 here in Stockton today.

It used to get this hot and hotter when I was a kid growing up in the Almond Capitol. Funny that no one called it Global Warming back then. Wow! If we had only known, we could have traded our Chryslers for horses and prevented this mess we're in today. Where were you when we needed you, Al?

I just checked the Wunderground Weather Site: At 1:15 p.m. the offical temp in Paso Robles was 108 degrees, with 106 in Stockton. Both cities are supposed to be 7 to 8 degrees hotter today than yesterday. Let's see, that's about a 119 degree high for Paso Robles and a 113 for Stockton. Guess it's too late the Al Team to help.

Now, if I can just get hold of an air-conditioned horse.

Wednesday, July 19

Ah! 1959

Those early picture taking days were a gift. We didn't have much in the way of money, but always had a camera and sometimes there was film in it. This particular roll was black and white, so I must have bought it myself at The Camera Corner. The camera (I'm guessing) was a Kodak Duaflex IV, a twin-lens relic that suited most families perfectly. Not much of a point and shoot, though. You had to open the viewfinder cover and look straight down to see your subject. I probably got hit in the head with Larry's football while taking this shot on Tucker Avenue! Hey, I wasn't too smart and had only just turned 13!

Moments frozen in time. Fragmented memories of faces, fun and festive occasions are plastered in our picture albums. We get them out once in awhile to strengthen that thread to our past, while calculating the few years in front of us. 1-2-3, Hike! --- and the game is just about over for some of us.

Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Neither in this life nor the next.

Friday, July 14

Still Dancing After 50 Years

Pat and Wilson's 50th wedding anniversary party was an event to remember. The band only played 40's and 50's music. The original wedding pictures, dress and accessories were on display. A pastel theme, great dinner and table talk rounded out the afternoon.

How old will you be when the Big Golden crosses your paths? What year will it be? Will there be a gala celebration or a ho-hum "Let's go out for Chinese?" Will there be old friends behind the microphone, telling the old stories about how you used to get away with the worst shenanigans?

This 50th celebration is in all truth, one of the rarest events on the planet. Fewer and fewer marriages survive that long. And the ones that do aren't guaranteed quiet waters during the voyage. Unspoken mutiny, unforgiven sins, unfulfilled dreams --- too many things can quench that spirit of loving 'no matter what.'

May God help us to renew our love for our spouse and make the last years better than the first.

Saturday, July 8

Ken Lay's Death: Primal, Human and Tragic

The pleasure in dispensing pain varies in each of us. We weigh any predicted anguish our conscience will dog us with and blast away accordingly. Those of us with low thresholds are the nice people. Peggy Noonan had this to say about Ken Lay's death and hurting others.

"Is this Shakespearian in the sense of being towering and tragic? I don't know. I think it's primal and human. And I think if we were more regularly conscious of the fact that death through sadness happens we'd be better to each other. I'm thinking here of a friend who reflected one day years ago, I cannot recall why, on how hard people are on each other, how we're all complicated little pirates and more sensitive, more breakable, than we know.

"He said--I paraphrase--"It's a dangerous thing to deliberately try to hurt someone because it's not possible to calibrate exactly how much hurt you're doing. You can't know in advance the extent of the damage. A snub can leave a wound that lasts a lifetime, a bop on the head with a two-by-four will be laughed off. One must be careful. We'll always hurt others by accident or in a passion but we mustn't do it with deliberation."

And God's Word reminds me: "In the multitude of words, there is no lack of sin: but he who refrains his lips is wise." Proverbs 10:19

"Complicated little pirates" quotes here.

Friday, July 7

Happy Birthday, Miss Angel

These six blinks of an eye --- these few hurried years --- and the little girl is growing into a little lady. She gets two parties --- the second tomorrow where she'll swim, play, eat and open presents.

I wonder what she'll remember from all of this attention and excitement. Her history has been amply recorded by yours truly. That helps jog the memory. But even with the pictures, your memory fails to recall most of your young and wonder-ful years. Mine, at least.

This current generation of kids will be the most photographed of any to this point. They will have a much more detailed link to their forgotten childhood than we had. Will they be more thankful for it?

More importantly, will they remember the loving direction we gave them? Will they remember to love others, to be truthful, to keep their word, to work hard? "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, July 4

4th of July Political Fireworks

Today's a good day to talk politics. We're going to hear from California State Assemblyman, Ray Haynes, who wrote this yesterday in his Monday Morning Memorandum:

Rules? What Rules?

"I have tried on many occasions to explain to people exactly what happens in the legislative process, that is, how committees are organized, how they vote, who influences those committee outcomes, and how the legislative rules actually work. Usually, by the time I am finished explaining how the Legislature really works, most people look at me with a dull, blank stare, and say “that can’t be happening, you must be lying. You are just a partisan hack.”

"I may be a partisan hack, but that doesn’t change reality, and this week demonstrated just how badly the Legislature can use the rules to subvert the will of the majority.

"SB 1437, by Senator Sheila Kuehl, prohibits schools from using textbooks that “discriminate” against homosexuals, and requires that these textbooks “include age-appropriate study of the role and contributions of … people who are [homosexual]…” The bill was referred to both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Education Committee, both of which passed it out. It passed the Senate Floor on a 22-15 votes (all Senate Republicans voting no).

"The bill came to the Assembly, and was similarly referred to the Assembly Education Committee and the Judiciary Committee. The Assembly Education committee passed the bill out on June 15, and sent it on to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which set a June 20 hearing. That June 20 hearing was inexplicably cancelled by Senator Kuehl, and on June 26, the Assembly waived its rules requiring a policy hearing in Judiciary, and sent the bill straight to the floor.

"How unusual is this? It has never happened before in my entire 14 years in the Legislature. A bill referred to a committee is heard by that committee before the floor votes on it. If the committee votes against the bill, it dies, no matter how popular it is with the public. In fact, the committees are designed by the Speaker to kill bills popular with the public, but not popular with Democrat constituency groups, like the trial lawyers. My “red license plate for drunk drivers” was hated by the criminal defense lawyers and the ACLU, so it died.

"SB 1437 did not. It was never heard by the Judiciary committee. Why? The rules require it, but it did not happen, because the Democrat majority just waived the rules. They didn’t waive the rules for anyone else. They don’t do that for Republicans. Only Democrats. In the Legislature, we call it the rule of 41, meaning the party with 41 votes makes the rules up as they go along, mostly to benefit their legislative agenda, and to thwart the Republican agenda.

"I have heard more than one person say they would not vote for this or that Republican candidate because the candidate disagrees with them on one or two issues. However, the power to appoint the committees and to waive the rules determines the outcome of thousands of bills each year. If I am pro-life, or pro-gun, or pro-property rights, or anti-tax, my vote for a Republican Speaker of the Assembly guarantees that I have a fighting chance to promote that agenda. A Democrat Speaker, however, will set up the committees to kill those issues in committee, and, if a bill they want is going to die in committee, as the Kuehl bill was about to do, the majority just waives the rules. The bill will be heard on the floor, not because a majority of Californians agree with the bill, but because the Legislature has a Democrat majority willing to violate its own rules without shame.

"The rule of 41 is an important rule to remember next time you vote. Even if you disagree with a candidate on one or two issues, your failure to vote for that candidate could result in a lot of good bills with which you agree being killed in committee. Like it or not, that is the way it works."

As a follow-up, friend Tom Birks says:

"California is a perfect example of a State out of control. This [Haynes' comments] explains why. The media backs the Democrat's so you will never hear the other side. I am a Registered Independent. New York used to vote the same way as California. Where do people from New York retire? In a Conservative State like Florida because they can't afford to retire in their own State. All of the retirees that moved from California to Oregon and Washington because they couldn't afford to retire in California now find themselves in the same situation because they continued to vote Party Line. Gridlock is good for a government. There is no comparison to my freedom as a young kid and the freedom young people have today. Every new law takes away someone's freedom. Taxes also take away freedom."