Monday, May 29, 2006

Step One Complete

Way back in the first part of April I mentioned my visit to the Niccum Cemetery outside Danville, Illinois, and my somewhat rash decision to photograph every tombstone. I had been frustrated that this little cemetery full of my relatives had been rather overlooked by the local historians. Before we left Danville, I had managed to snag a listing from the Illiana Genealogical and Historical Society for the known burials through about the mid-1970s. Since getting home, I have been matching that list against the photographs, sizing the photographs for uploading to , and slowly loading the data row by row.

The crushing workload of May has interferred greatly with my project, but today I was able to sit down and complete the entry for this little cemetery. Little? I had no idea that there were more than 500 burials in that little plot of land when I was snapping photos. If I had, I might have backed out of my impulsive plan on the spot. I'm glad I didn't know, because I feel a real sense of accomplishment now that the first round has been completed.

Now I go back and make sure I didn't miss anybody and try again to decipher the handful of stones that did not photograph well. I'm planning to expand the listing I picked up at IGHS to include helpful information that was omitted (like "son of" and "wife of"), correct the typographical errors on that list, and add in information from my personal records for the 50% or so burials that tie into my family. Then I plan to post the information somewhere on the Internet and start spreading the word that Niccum Cemetery has been documented to the best of my ability.

I'm glad I was able to finish the initial phase of the project on Memorial Day. I was not able to get out today to pay visits to the graves of my veteran ancestors, but I was able to leave virtual flowers on the memorials I have entered for them online. I continue to find it very rewarding to memorialize my relatives in this way. I feel like they know what I've been doing and are happy that someone remembers.

Niccum Cemetery


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

My mother's doctor's office ticked me off just before lunch time today. When I get snarly, it helps if I get out of the office and find someplace distracting to spend my lunch hour. Usually I go to a book store, but I've got such a pile of books waiting to be read that I'm trying to avoid Border's and Half-Price Books for awhile. I've got enough clothes, so that let out Foley's and Beall's as possible escape routes. I'm overloaded with craft projects, so scratch Hobby Lobby. I was getting desperate for ideas.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had not been to Tuesday Morning since Christmas, so I headed to Burnet Road.

What was I thinking? I don't need anything that you can find at Tuesday Morning. But I left with two big bags full of stuff. The place is evil. They carry everything. I discovered a need for a summer blanket, some dog toys, a bundt pan, a set of gift boxes, a frame, an audio book. I was amazed to find a matching piece to my set of luggage at a greatly reduced price. My escape lunch ended up being a bit costly. But it was good stuff. (The dogs love the new blanket.)

It's hopeless. For every item I decide to put in the stack of things to take off to charity, I bring in a replacement. I'm a sucker for a bargain and I keep getting in trouble as a result. My closets overfloweth.

So what is a gal to do when she needs to escape her life for a bit and lunch is the only time available? God help me, I'm probably going to end up becoming a Starbuck's lounger, pounding away on my laptop while I ingest enough caffeine to keep my eyes wide open all night.

Which brings up my next confession. I finally caved in and tried a new coffee house on Highway 71. I've never really known what to order at a coffee house and usually opt for cappucino. Today I tried a latte. What bliss! The stuff is sinfully good. I fear it will become a regular stop.

So I did not do well in resisting temptation today. Guess I will just have to try again tomorrow.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Met One, Now I'm Moving On

My grandmother Hodge had a lot of wisdom to impart, but one thing she told me has stood out over the years. She said "In your life you are going to meet a certain number of jackasses. When you do, just say, 'there's one of them', and move along."

I did a stupid thing, to begin with. I left for the grocery store on Sunday afternoon just in time to arrive with the after church crowd. It was wall to wall people, all in a rush and none of them in a mood to be aware of the needs of anyone else.

In the second place, my mood has been pretty sour for several weeks now, not only because of the truckload of work that was dumped on my desk on May 1st, but also because allergies have had my head feeling like one of those Macy's balloons floating above my body.

So I can't say I'm exactly in a forgiving frame of mind these days.

Anyway, as I walked through the door at H.E.B. and began to shop the vegetable aisle, I was startled to have a man brush past me snarling "Lardass!". It was so unexpected, I stopped in my tracks and spun around. We exchanged looks. I realized at that point that his snarl was not directed at me. I'm not sure he realized that he had been heard until he saw my schoolteacher glare. He strode on out the door.

I looked around to see who might have been the intended target. There were several possibilities, including a short woman of the extremely portly persuasion who was slowly choosing vegetables to bag.

Since I spent the next hour waiting for people to shift out of the way so I could shop, I could understand the fellow's frustration. But there was no excuse for his rude behavior. I am as guilty as anybody in slinging rude comments at people. In my head or in the privacy of my car. I try not to make a jackass out of myself by saying them aloud if there's any chance I'll be heard by a complete stranger.

So, I guess the moral of the story is, better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a shithead instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Life Under the Canopy

Last weekend, brother David and I assembled a canopy for the smaller of our decks, to provide a little shade through the day for assorted animals and plants. It has been a big hit. This morning, as I watered plants, I discovered that I was being studied carefully by this little guy.

He kept close watch on me, shifting position as I moved around the deck. I think he's every bit as debonair and suave as that cockney gecko on TV, don't you?

In another area of the deck was a study in concentration. Try as he did, he never did manage to levitate the cat dish into his reach.

Poor Mojo had a rough start to his day. First thing this morning I discovered that he had chewed the top off one of the toes of my chainsaw carved bear in the living room. I was not happy. Mojo had no idea that he could fall from grace with his Mom and it broke his heart. It was, in fact, his second transgression of the day. The first being my discovery that my yard work shoes were full of a certain yellow fluid. The scolding he got hurt far worse than the tiny pop to his butt, and he spent the better part of an hour with his ears drooping and a sad look on his face. He watched me put socks on the bear's feet as a preventive measure (now there's a decorative touch that you won't see anywhere else) and trailed forlornly behind me until he found an opportunity to crawl in my lap and cover me with apologetic kisses. He was one happy little boy when he realized that Mom wasn't going to stay upset with him. What's a one of a kind piece of art balanced against a little boy's heart? A little black paint and nobody else will ever know what happened.

From there we finished repotting and watering plants and washing down the deck. I knew he was back to normal when he started chasing the water, snapping and snarling with puppy delight. Life is back to normal. More or less. I've still got to figure out what to do with my yard shoes.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Going Down for the Third Time

I'm drowning in work this week, so hence the scarce postings. May is a four-letter word for me. It involves statutory requirements that result in my processing as much work in May as I do for January, February, March, April, June, October, November and December put together. I leave out July, August and September, which are their own special kind of work hell, but with less State regulations involved. Let's just say that I earn my salary primarily for the efforts that are exerted in those four months of the year. I earn my ulcers in May.

Yesterday I worked until 11PM trying to make silk data out of sow's ear input. I'm finalizing that particular file as I sit here at 6AM. I want this particular mess off my desk before I hit the office this morning.

I am continually amazed at the bad data that keeps coming my way these days. If what I see is a representative sample of the data that is floating around the world, I wonder how on earth the world keeps functioning. What scares me is that we may be heading for a 1929 panic, not in finance, but in crashed computers. Programmers just don't seem to be able to program their way out of a paper sack anymore. Fast and sloppy is the creed these days. Let the guy on the other end of the data beware.

There was a time when I didn't consider myself to be a real programmer. "I do maintenance programming," was my belief. Hell, at this point I'm light years beyond some of the so-called geniuses that are pulling the big bucks these days. A lot of my time is spent debugging the data of much higher-paid programmers. Who, by the way, are not that pleased to hear that I've located holes in their Swiss-cheesed programs. You're welcome, guys.

I'm a dinosaur who works primarily in COBOL. So I get little respect from the Microsoft certified generation. But how is it that the old dinosaur can spot garbage from a mile off that they work in up close and personal and are convinced smells like roses?

Oh, well. I said all that to lead up to sharing my first grin of the day. My horoscope today: "You probably feel a lack of guidance. You're dealing with the sort of person who'd throw a drowning man both ends of the rope".

That's the way I feel right now. Floating in a pile of sewage and nobody on shore is able to help, except to keep throwing the entire rope at me repeatedly.

Excuse me while I go find a brick wall to bang my head against.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Mini Flashback to 1962

On the way to work yesterday morning, driving down 6th Street and crossing Congress Avenue, I saw one of those cars that sends you instantly back about 40 years. It was a bright red Corvette, circa 1960, gleaming like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. Looked something like this:

So, I naturally flew back in my mind to 1962. I found myself thinking about Route 66, a television show that involved two young men cruising the USA in their Corvette. I always imagined that Corvette as being red, though I later learned that it was blue. Those were the days of black and white tv, when you made up your own color scheme in your mind.

One day in 1962, the production company landed in Austin to film an episode. We were living in Oak Hill at the time. I was quite a fan of the show and was excited to know that the two stars were so nearby. Daddy was taking classes at UT that year and one day he came home and told us about the flurry of activity in downtown Austin. He described all the giggly girls that were rushing around hoping to catch sight of Marty Milner or George Maharis. He asked me if I would be that silly.

Well, I was seven at the time, more star struck than anything. A little too young to have crushes. But I was confident that I would be every bit as excited if I were on the scene.

I saw that episode several years back on TVLand and enjoyed seeing the familiar Austin locations, caught in a time warp. But the thing that struck me most is how dated the vehicles were. The episode involved an accident where Buz Murdock was blinded and spent time in a blind school until, with the inevitable TV miracle, he recovered and had to leave behind the blind girl he loved. The ambulance was a modified station wagon and the police cars were boxy and black. But that lovely Corvette was every bit as wonderful as it ever was.

Oddly enough, I had a second flash to the early 60s later on in the evening. Since the Thursday prime time schedule is horrible, I was surfing last night and found myself caught by the History Channel. The show that grabbed my attention involved a recreation of the Kennedy assassination by combining all of the photos and movies that had been shot by passersby that day and then reanalyzing the pictures with today's technology. I don't usually watch programs about that particular event, but this was a well done piece.

Again, the vehicles were the things that transported me back in time. I could imagine myself back in time, watching the original newscasts, a fourth grader who was embroiled in her first experience with a national tragedy.

Just as a faint sweet smell of a certain kind of soap can transport me back to the first grade restrooms in Oak Hill, or a song heard on the radio can suddenly transport me to a bus loaded with teenaged girls heading to a basketball tournament, now I find that a glimpse of a sportscar can whisk me back 45 years in an instant. The mind's complicated connections never fail to amaze me.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

1:00 AM and All's Well

Good argument for an alarm system. My guard dog at 1:00 a.m. Didn't even blink when the flash went off. I feel so secure.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Drive Friendly

Bah, humbug.

I am a good driver, thank God. That's all that saved me this afternoon. I was cruising along Highway 71 and had just made the curve where Hwy 71 and Hwy 183 part company, with 183 heading south to Lockhart and 71 heading east to Bastrop.

Some lunatic moron in the far right lane decided that he just had to make the exit on the far left. Zoom, zoom and I found myself staring at his rear bumper. My reflexes kicked in and I made the necessary adjustment to keep from plowing into his vehicle. It was close.

I was livid. Over the years I have managed to tame my inner bitch. Well, I've learned to control her a little better. But she is alive and well, let me tell you. She blasted the S.O.B. with her horn, accelerated and pulled up next to him, laid on the horn continuously when she got even with him and gave him the old one finger salute and a good cussing.

He's probably still laughing at Granny Grunt's little tirade.

I am way tired of incompetent drivers. I've come to the conclusion that about 90% of the drivers on the road should have their licenses revoked and be restricted to riding public transportation. Come to think of it, that would not only clear the road of dangerous, insane drivers, it might even cause gas prices to go down. Excellent idea all around.

I love to drive, but I hate idiots. If that particular idiot had tried that particular maneuver on a less experienced driver, there would have been a traffic jam deluxe while Star Flight and the Jaws of Life made their way to the scene. Next time he may not be so lucky. Hopefully he will only kill himself when the time comes.

Drive friendly, hah. Drive competently and I'll be your friend. Drive like an idiot and I'll put the evil eye on you.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

On the FM Road Again

Today was Frankum reunion day. We alternate locations between West Columbia and Elgin and this year was in West Columbia. It's about a 2-1/2 hour trip from Bastrop to the Bar X Ranch Clubhouse. A good part of the trip is made on a good four-lane highway, but the last hour or so involves Farm-to-Market roads. My favorite kind of driving.

Given the choice between an Interstate and a Farm-to-Market road, I will take the FM road everytime. There's nothing I like better than driving two-lane blacktops through farm land. With all the rain we've had lately, the corn is coming right along. The stalks were about 4 feet high and so thick that it looked like a green lake. It was every bit as pretty as any lake.

I saw deer in pastures along the way. I saw herds of cattle being monitored by huge flocks of snowy white egrets. Occasionally a big flock of the egrets would rise up as my vehicle approached and I would be enveloped by a cloud of white wings.

Just as I left Wharton and headed south to Boling, the skies opened up and rain came down in torrents. For about 10 minutes, the rain was so hard that I was reduced to driving by watching the line in the middle of the road. But afterwards, the fields sparkled and the sight was worth every white knuckled minute of driving that came before.

When I got to the clubhouse, the rain was about 30 minutes behind me. I stood outside and watched the snaky lightning trail across the sky. Try as I did to get a picture of it, I could never hit the shutter release fast enough.

I enjoyed several hours of fellowship with my family and then headed back home. Now the sun was out, the sky a brilliant blue. I detoured long enough to visit the graves of my grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents. Another 90 minutes of driving through the backroads of Texas and I was home.

What more can you ask of a spring day? The opportunity to visit with family, drive through fertile farmland and pay tribute to your ancestors. And, incidentally, pick up a week's supply of breakfast rolls at the bakery in LaGrange. Life is good.