Friday, October 31, 2008

Greetings from Abilene, Texas!

Perhaps to the disappointment of the Ramada Limited (see the comments section of the previous post), we decided to push through to Abilene, instead of stopping in Wichita Falls, tonight. It will cut off a couple of hours of drive time tomorrow, on our way to Alpine, Texas. We will visit with our friend, Eleanor, in Alpine. Another brave soul who welcomes us with our cats!

Last evening, at Aunt Erna's, cousin Dan came by for dinner (and stayed until midnight!). I didn't have a chance to include his picture in last night's entry, but we promised him that we would include it today! Pictured with Dan is our own, Sugar Pants! He spent about 8 hours napping on the back of that chair, and wasn't about to let Dan take it away from him. He was nearly a "head warmer" for Dan! Also, the picture of me with "the flapper" (again, see yesterday's entry) is cousin Rose. She was modeling her Halloween costume for us. She has to dress up for Halloween, for her job, and we had to get a picture of her! Cousin Dan is a mainstay around his mom's house too, and always entertaining to talk to.

Today's drive was fairly uneventful, punctuated with a few very memorable moments. We had seen gas prices as low as $1.98/gal (mind you, we paid $2.79/gal in Illinois when we were leaving). Today we saw it $1.93/gal! Dean and I are hoping that by the time we get to Arizona they will pay us to put gas in the van! Compare this to last July, when we drove the van to Illinois and paid an average of $3.75/gal; and through the summer paying over $4.40/gal locally around St. Charles. Wowser, that's all I can say! That is the first of the 'things of note' today. The second item of note was not as pleasant. While gasing up at one of the oasis' on the turnpike in Oklahoma we witnessed an awful car accident. Dean saw it happen completely, I caught only the last flip of the car. It seems that the driver had gone partially off the road, tried to over correct the error, and rolled his/her car at least twice. I had never seen anything like that happen, and it was awful to witness. Fortunately it did happen next to the oasis, where there were a lot of people around. I was impressed at the number of people who not only stopped, but the number of men from the oasis who ran across the highway to the scene of the accident to help. I had just noticed, not 5 minutes before, a highway sign saying to "Call *55 for roadside emergencies". I grabbed my cell phone from the car and called immediately. I'm sure others called as well, and the police were there within a few minutes - emergency services there before we were ready to leave the oasis. I think seeing that accident happen made Dean and I, both, a little more cautious the rest of the day/evening while driving. The last of the memorable moments was seeing the beautiful sliver of a crescent moon with Venus hanging above it, as it was setting this evening. It was a very nearly perfectly clear sky, so even the tiniest sliver of moon was visible! Venus and Jupiter are so bright right now that I've been tempted to think they're airplanes instead of celestial bodies! Take a look and see how bright they are!

So, we're in Motel 6 - Abilene for the night! We kitty-proofed the room before opening the cages (to prevent Marley for finding a nearly impossible hiding place again), only to have him climb between the base of the bed (which is completely enclosed) and the box spring. We lifted the bed, got him out and locked him in the bathroom until we had it right. So, the kitties are relaxing and beginning to doze. We're fed (ordered pizza, delivered to the motel) and ready to get showers before heading off to sleep too. I may freeze Dean out tonight, though. It has gotten warmer as our trip has progressed. We wore fleecy jackets and sweat shirts when leaving St. Charles, now we are wearing t-shirts and shorts! I was so warm all day that I have had the air conditioning cranked up to "artic" since we checked into our room. It feels so good!

Oh my gosh! How could I forget???!!! Dean finally heard from the head of the mirror lab at U of A today! He had sent an email to him a couple of weeks ago, but had not heard back from him. His plan has been that he would return to work at the Steward Mirror Lab upon our return to Tucson. The University has had a hiring freeze on, however, and it was looking as though he may not be able to go back to work there. He had good news from the boss today, though, and they are hoping to have him back on the payroll. Yea!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

En route to Tucson!

Dean and I left for Tucson on Tuesday, October 28th at 3:15pm. We are towing my Jeep, as planned. We were a little concerned that we had everything properly hitched, so we stopped by the Jeep dealership to have them check it out before we were truly "on the road". That put us officially on the road about 4:30pm. The driving is a little slower than when not towing. The dolly that the Jeep is on states "Do not exceed 45 mph". We are going faster than that, but staying below the normal speedlimit. The van is holding up well, though the hills are a little rough on it. We're keeping a close watch on it's status as it is our workhorse for this trip. So, off we headed! We stopped our first night west of St. Louis. We wanted to get as many miles behind us as we could the first day. We stopped around midnight, staying at a Motel 6. Motel 6 is the only motel chain that seriously welcomes pets. When traveling, like we do with our cats, it's not easy to call people and say, "Hey, can we come stay? We'll be there at midnight...and oh, by the way...we have four cats that aren't particularly happy to be traveling with us! See ya soon!" So, it's nice that Motel 6 not only 'leaves the light on' for us, but also for our kitties. Speaking of the kitties, they are doing fairly well with the trip so far! Annie has had to be pried out of her cage to explore the van while we were traveling. Marley found an area under the sink in the motel where the wall was open (for the pipes to go through) and he quickly climbed into there (requiring Dean to 'go fishin' for him to get him out). Atticus and Sugarpants are born travelers! They love it! After our over night somewhere in the western reaches past St. Louis, we hit the road around 11am, with the next stop planned to be at my Aunt Erna's house in Galena, Kansas. Aunt Erna doesn't care if we bring an elephant with us - as long as we come to visit - so she welcomes, and gets a kick out of, the cats. Cousin Rose is living with Aunt Erna, lately, to give her a hand with the house, etc. Rose raises Shitzu's, so there are little 'dust mop' dogs running around outside, and she is also rescuing a baby cat - who is currently living in the bathroom. It's like being in a domestic animal zoo! But, here we are at present, enjoying the quiet life of Galena, Kansas; enjoying visiting with Aunt Erna! We came through here in July, on our way to St. Charles from Tucson. It's always a treat to visit with Aunt Erna! We we stay here tonight, yet, and then leave tomorrow morning. Next stop is Wichita Falls, Texas - 358 miles from here. We plan to spend the night there tomorrow night. Hopefully we can update from there too!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!

Fall has hit really hard lately. I don't think we've had a hard freeze yet, but it has gotten close. Interestingly, when I've told Melinda the current Tucson temps (highs around 90!) she said she would sort of like to see it snow before we head off. Weather lately has cycled frequently from perfectly blue skies to heavy low overcast. And wouldn't you know, about 3pm this afternoon, we had a blizzard for about 8 minutes! You could barely see across the river! They were huge flakes, aggregates about an inch diameter, perfect for trying to catch on your tongue, as Melinda demonstrates...

Spending any time outside, you hear a lot of honking, and when you look up, more often than not, you see our compatriots heading south.

Time to join them - we hit the road tomorrow!

Exit strategy - target date 10/28/08

The parties are behind us, and now we are getting serious about packing things and preparing to hit the road. One of the tasks is emptying the fridge. Last evening we had Rita and Marty Scobey over for dinner. It was "use up the frozen chicken breasts" night! It was fun to have them here, and nice to share that time with them. The rest of the fridge contents are going today (we want to unplug the fridge and prop the doors open while we're gone) - so dinner tonight is at a restaurant. Actually, Carolyn is taking us out to dinner this evening, which will be fun! Maj is coming over later today to take whatever we can give her from the fridge. I hope she likes jam!

We have reserved/rented a car dolly to tow the Jeep on - behind the van. Mind you, the van is 20 years old and has 307,000 miles on it! It's a total iron horse of a vehicle though! It runs like it's new, and has a lot of power! We talked to the Jeep dealership this morning, to find out if towing the Jeep (4WD) is 'okay' to do. We got the info we needed, and the thumbs up from them. We'll pick up the dolly tomorrow morning. I just pray to God that we have an uneventful trip!

We have various people lined up (neighbor, sister, property caretaker) to check in on the house, frequently, and feel that all will be well here. We still need to put the feeders away for the winter, as well as other outside tasks that need to be done at this time of year anyway.

I would imagine that I should get myself in gear and get moving on what I need to do today (still need to find one more box, I think, to pack things in)! It's really going to be strange to leave here. I know Dean is looking forward to getting back to Tucson. Every day he tells me (about 10 times a day) what the current temperature is, in Tucson! We'll probably put in another entry tonight - as the clock is ticking on our move!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of sweets, lots of love!

Once again, the NewLife Maternity Center (from Delnor) has done a bang up job of sending someone off! This time, I was the recipient of the party, and the girls outdid themselves! They hosted an 'open house' at our favorite, local, sports pub restaurant - "Rookies" - from 2pm - 6pm yesterday (October 25th). Dean and I arrived just before 2pm and didn't leave until after 8pm! The girls started arriving around 2pm or so, and it seemed that they just kept coming. At the peak of the gathering we had 20 or so (mostly night shift, though some from other shifts). Friend, Laurel, was in charge of bringing "the sweet table"! Seriously! She brought my favorite carrot cake, as well as cupcakes, cookies, and blueberry scones. We all ordered food from the menu, and then had the sweet table for dessert. It was so much fun to spend relaxing time with my friends from work! The gift that the department gave me was quite a surprise! They had a star named after us, and gave us the associated paper work to go with it - as well as two ornaments with the coordinates engraved on the ornaments. Very often the stars you 'purchase' and name are very faint, and difficult to find/see. However, this one is in the constellation Cygnus (the swan - Delnor has two resident swans in it's lake in front of the hospital), and it appears that it's a bright enough star to pick out and find! The paperwork included a star chart to aid in the finding of the star. In addition to that - they also gave me a fluffy travel blanket, and two blankets that have a solar backing on them (for Dean and I) - as they put it "we want you to stay warm when you're out observing!!" Many of the friends brought individual gifts, each as dear as the next (a beautiful candle holder, a collection of picture frames, a handmade Arizona turquoise bracelet, etc. ) and many, many cards! In addition to all of this, included in the card from the department was a generous monetary gift. I always get a bit overwhelmed when faced with being the center of attention and gifts, and I definitely felt that way yesterday! Later in the party my sisters and brother-in-law, Jeff, arrived to join in. Today is sister Maj's birthday and we planned that my going away party would 'morph' into her birthday party. Traditionally, my sisters and I go to Rookies for "all you can crab legs" to celebrate our birthdays. We haven't done that with the last few birthdays that have snuck up on us, and so it was even more important that we do it this time - as I will be missing two birthdays in the next 6 months. So, what started as one party at 2pm, ended as another party about 8pm! Work friends Rita and Wendy (and Wendy's daughters, and Rita's son) stayed for the crab leg frenzie, and we had fun up until the very end!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ketelsen Sibling Visit

Melinda's going-away party is Saturday (25th) and we had invited some of my family to attend, but they were concerned about spending any quality time during a group function, so sisters Linda (with husband Lauren) and Kathy and brother Brian took the day off and drove out to visit for an afternoon. They met us and best friend Carolyn at Rookies for a great lunch before heading out to the cabin in the woods. It was great catching up and talking about the good old days.

Back in the day when I travelled back to visit the folks, I was always amazed when they would sit around the kitchen table and catch everyone up on the latest gossip about the sister of the neighbor, who married cousin Bob and worked down at the bank in town. It seemed like they knew everyone in the county. My eyes would always glaze over, but then today we did the same thing ABOUT PEOPLE I ACTUALLY KNEW!

After chatting a couple hours, impressing them with how well our cats behaved, and really, letting them check out the house for the first time, we gathered everyone in their van and took them out for a walk in the local forest preserve. Fall colors are past their peak, but it was still pretty and not too cold for a bit of an amble. Fortunately it waited for us to finish before some rain moved in. My sister Kathy, always the prepared one, had actually made some apple bars that we enjoyed before they took off for parts west about dark. We're not sure we'll be back this holiday season, so it may be a while till we see them again. We were glad they were able to make the trip out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Status: Currently unemployed

Well, I'm finished at Delnor - and yes, there were tears involved! It started with buddy from PM shift, Scarlet, hugging me good-bye at 11:25pm last evening; and ended with saying "farewell" to Rita (30 year friend who I have worked with every Monday night of my career) in the hallway at 8am this morning. In that time in between there were lots of hugs, plenty of tears, and also some great laughs! It's hard to say good-bye to friends you've been with through all of the ups and downs of their (and your) life - friends who have made each life event even more special by being there to phyiscally support you and who you have been there to help and support during their times of need. I was reminded this morning, by friend Julie ("Jules") of when she had her last child (now out of college). I was her labor and delivery Nurse that night and she said how nice it was to have a friend taking care of her at that crucial time of her life. I distinctly remember Julie's delivery of Kirsten. It's nice to know that she remembers me being there with her, too! "The girls" and I have been through a LOT together - births, deaths, surgeries, cancers, marriages, and divorces. I feel so fortunate to have friends like them, and to have memories so dear! Of course, we'll still keep in contact - but it won't be the same as being sure of seeing Rita every Monday night, or Susan every Sunday and Tuesday. I will get to spend time with most of them, again, this coming Saturday night at the "going away party". I'm sure there will be more tears then, as well. I'm feeling up for a new adventure though, now, and the plans for our departure to Tucson are quickly underway! We've just reserved a "car dolly" to tow the Jeep. We'll pick that up next Tuesday morning, and should be on the road soon thereafter! Now to make some calls and get things squared away here before the exit.....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last night at Delnor

Tonight will be my last night at Delnor, where I have worked since December 18,1978. I went to work there the day after I graduated from Nursing school, having been hired by the most memorable Judy Smith. I could write this entry much like a resume, but instead will say that while I've sometimes had a 'love/hate' relationship with the hospital - it's been a mainstay of my life for many, many years. Not only have I taken care of moms who were born at Delnor when I was just starting, but I work with Nurses who I took care of when they were born there! Oddly, when I first started at Delnor I planned on staying 'a couple of years' and then moving on. It's now time to 'move on'. I'll miss working with the friends that I have there, but we'll still be friends and plan times to get together. Dean asked if I wanted to go out to dinner tomorrow night, to celebrate the end of my working at the hospital. I told him that sounded fine, as long as I had stopped crying by then! I'm sure that tomorrow morning will be 'emotional' - unless we have one of those hellish nights which has always made me want to say "I QUIT!!"
Sisters Susan and Maj, with me at the Special Care Reunion 2003

Theme: "Born in the USA"
artwork: Maj Williams and Melinda Ketelsen

Drs. Oak and Mehta (Neonatologists) with
the first SCN graduate, Eric.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Been An Age!

We were driving back from our Sunday movie (Religulous - Bill Maher's recent effort that equally offends all religions...) and Melinda was taking me on some roads new to me. On a stretch of Army Trail Road about 5 miles east of us, we saw a puddle of green fruit that took me back nearly 40 years! They were Osage Oranges from the tree of the same name, and while knowing exactly what they were, I hadn't seen any since growing up on our farm near Grand Mound, Iowa. At that time, we had I think one or two trees, shrubs, really, that grew along a fence line in the middle of one of our fields. I recalled even then what strange-looking fruit they had, but I recalled their name and stored it away. It was made easier by the fact that there is a county and city named Osage in Iowa, but named for the Indian tribe.

A little Google research showed that the trees are native to the area near the intersection of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, but they've been planted all over the continental US. Because of their insect resistance and thorny brush, they were planted before the advent of barbed wire to restrict livestock. The fine-grained hardwood was also prized for the making of bows. No known use for the unusual looking fruit, however.

I went back and rescued a couple fruit for closer examination on Monday. They have a unique, not unpleasant odor, and exude a sticky liquid when the skin is punctured. They are considerably heavier than apples, and when sliced open, have an interesting radial structure. It is said that squirrels love them, but so far, after a day of sitting out, our population is ignoring them. It was certainly interesting how something like that sticks in your head after decades of sitting there unused.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Addition of Clear Sky Charts

Did anyone notice the Clear Sky Charts located at the bottom of our page? They are a new addition to the blog - but "what the heck is that???" Clear Sky Charts give astronomers a fairly accurate picture of what the sky will be like when they plan to stay up all night observing. There are plenty of people who have planned to go out and observe all night, get their equipment set up, and are ultimately disappointed when the clouds roll in and there is nary a star in sight. Those people could have avoided their frustration had they checked a Clear Sky Chart for their area! If you click on the pretty blue boxes you will see that they take you to a larger, more detailed, chart that can tell you what the weather/seeing will be over the next 24-36 hours. It will tell you how clear the sky will be, how much the image distortion will be, as well humidity and temperature ranges. You will also notice the difference between the two Clear Sky Charts that I've included on this blog.

The Peck Farm chart is for Peck Farm in Geneva, IL - the home base of the Fox Valley Astronomical Society. While the colored blocks are 'pretty' in the grid - the dark blue blocks are the ones that tell us at a glance that the skies will be dark and clear. The Peck Farm chart has very few of those - as it doesn't have very dark skies at that sight, and we have lots of clouds and humidity in the Midwest. This translates into not being able to see as many pretty things in the sky, which is the goal afterall, right?!

Conversely, the Kitt Peak chart (located southwest of Tucson) is almost always dark blue blocks. That is why there is a National Observatory there - great, dark, cloudless, night skies! While professional astronomers may complain that there is too much light pollution even in the Kitt Peak area, for those of us from the "Peck Farm Park region" of the country - we have never seen such glorious sights!

Do click on the rows of blocks at the bottom of the page, and see the comparison yourself!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

One Positive ID and a Mystery

I'm still working on getting some closeups of Bruce our groundhog before he disappears for the winter. Last week after he scurried down his hole, he came out after I sat quietly for a few minutes. Today with the scope along he wouldn't come back out and I gave up after sitting for a half hour. But I had better luck with a woodpecker that has been hanging around, and I also got a couple bad shots of a mystery bird that only stayed for moment...

This fellow is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that has been feeding at our feeder the last couple weeks. He is pretty good sized and with the red color is always a striking sight. While waiting for Bruce to make his appearance, he made a systematic search for insects in a couple cracks in the cabin next to ours, so was easy to compose, focus and get a few good shots.

This fellow was a lot shyer and only stopped twice for a few seconds, so all I got was a couple out-of-focus grabs. It is a lot darker than the hairy woodpecker I shot earlier in the summer (click here for that shot)... From the descriptions in our bird book, it may be a female Ladderback Woodpecker (it does have the black cap), but it's range does not extend east of the Mississippi or north of Oklahoma... Will have to continue hunting and see if it hangs around...

Sunday in the woods

We're getting a late start of the day today, both of us having slept later than usual this morning.

Last evening we enjoyed having our cousins, Lisa and Dan Miller, and dear friend Carolyn Hines, over for dinner. I had to work Friday night, so had to get some sleep yesterday. Dean did all of the work for our little 'dinner party', including the cleanup! He grilled pork loin on the grill (it's really the best way to cook it), and we had side dishes of glazed carrots, grilled asparagus, and potatoes au gratin. For dessert it was Dean's home made chocolate cheesecake. All was as good as it sounds, and we had a fun evening! We even had a fire in the fireplace, which always adds to the coziness. Lisa and Dan have two dogs (we blogged about them earlier in the summer, when we had dinner at their house), but enjoyed the concept of "dinner and a show" (cats screaming and brawling at various times through the evening) here.

Lisa and Dan are both genealogists and have been researching their families. I was able pass along a folder of information from Lisa's mother's side of the family, and was glad that she was happy to receive that information.

Today is "Sunday at the movies". We haven't been for a few weeks, so it will be fun to go be entertained, munch on popcorn, and sip on sodas!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Way We Were...

First the news - Melinda had a job interview over the phone yesterday and after talking to the nursing supervisor for an hour (!), then the personnel people to determine experience and pay grade, she got a call this morning with a job offer! On 10 November she will be working at the University Medical Center NICU (neo-natal intensive care) floor, with a higher base pay than she gets here. The advantages are many - we only live a couple miles away and she will get on-the-job training that will allow her to advance in her field. She has never worked 12 hour shifts, but even working full time, will always get 4 days off per week. Since the University instituted a hiring freeze last week, I may not get back into the Mirror Lab as planned, so it is nice that one of us will be working!

In her recent interviews she has reviewed her nearly 30 years of nursing experience, all at the same hospital (it will be 30 years in December). So to celebrate, presented here is an image of a fresh-faced nursing student graduate who has never been unemployed in her life. Next Wednesday is her last night of work here, and the party is the 25th of October at Rookies, a local sports bar. Stop in from 2-6pm if you are local to St Charles!

And for equal-time coverage, the following year (1979) I moved down to Tucson from Iowa to start work at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. This picture was taken a year later than the above, in the fall of 1979. At that moment, we were living and working nearly 2,000 miles apart, unaware of the convergence and conjunction that would occur 29 years later!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moonlit Foliage

I'm still taking my morning photo of the house across the river, though as I said a couple days ago, there is a gap with a significant change in fall colors over last weekend. Anyway, with the just-past full moon tonight and with my new programmable timer for my XSi just arriving, I thought I would take a moonlit shot for comparison.

So here is this morning's image, followed by one taken just now at 10:30pm (click to enlarge). By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, the night picture has about 120,000 times the exposure (1/160sec@F/10 vs 180secs@F/5), and I had to adjust the brightness a little more to match them, so really the difference in brightness is about 200,000. By the way, it is very calm tonight, thus the river is truly mirror-like. There is also a bit of a mist over the river - there is a freeze warning tonight, and the water is likely much warmer than the air temperature.

Interestingly, while I could see well enough to aim the camera, I really couldn't detect the foliage colors by the moonlight, while the camera could quite readily. This is not because of some magical properties of the camera, but rather, an everyday demonstration of how the eye works under low light levels. While the daytime world is quite colorful to our eyes, at night, we tend to see in shades of grey. We have two types of light detectors in our eyes - rods and cones. The cones are the color sensors, and require a higher illumination levels than the black-and-white sensors, the rods. Thus under low light levels, we tend to see in black and white. Unfortunately, this leads to disappointment sometimes at star parties after people see the magnificent color images from big telescopes and expect to see the same through our scopes. All they see are fuzzy grey blobs. But the colors are there and with exposure, almost any camera can record them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Interesting picture and some ramblings...

Melinda here! I thought I would do the nightly post. This picture is one of Dean's, and I especially like the almost ghostly quality of the Bubble nebula. Perfect for this time of year (nearing Halloween)! Click on the picture to enlarge really is beautiful!

As many are aware, we will be heading off to Tucson in the very near future. We are, of course, 'escaping'/avoiding the winter weather after enjoying the beautiful Fall season in St. Charles. I will be leaving my current job, which I have had for 30 years, and have planned to work for a travel Nurse agency. They haven't been very productive in finding employment for me, however. This has been a source of great anxiety to me, especially in the current state of the economy. Veering off of that plan, I decided to see what I could do to find a job in Tucson. After checking websites of the local hospitals there I applied (on line) to two that I think seem to have what I am looking for. I sent off my applications/resumes last evening and began the 'waiting game'. Lo and behold, I received a phone call this morning from one of the hospitals! They are interested in me, and have set up a telephone interview with me for tomorrow afternoon! My anxiety level is dropping, to say the least. All fingers and toes are crossed for a good interview, and a job offer!
After writing the nightly post I thought I should check to see the status of obtaining my Arizona Nursing license (the key to employment). I received my fingerprint card last week and immediately went to the police department to have them done and sent back to the Arizona Board of Nursing. When I have checked the status, previously, it said that no license had been issued. Tonight, much to my delight, they have issued a temporary license in my name! The permanent license will be issued once my fingerprints have cleared the FBI search. But, with a temporary license I can now work as a Nurse in Arizona! WooHoo!! With each bit of news the anxiety is falling like the leaves from the trees!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

While We Were Gone...

I've been taking a daily photo of the house across the river to capture the gradual change of fall colors. This was started in fact before the flood over a month ago when there was the first hint of the earliest maple trees turning. By playing them back as a movie in an animated GIF file, it would be cool to see the color change sped up.

So we were gone for 4 days to South Carolina and wouldn't you know it - the change pretty much happened while we were gone! As we flew into Chicago we were amazed by the colors as we landed in O'Hare. And sure enough, the shots before we left, and this morning's shot shows a huge difference. So much for the careful planning...

The other two shots are a couple taken around the house. The first is of a couple ash trees south of our house. Even though the weather was clear and warm in our absence, a lot of leaves came down carpeting what little lawn would grow in the deep shade there. I haven't heard yet from the boss (Melinda) if we are doing any raking before we leave for Tucson in a couple weeks. My suspicion is that they certainly won't all be down by then, but a leaf fire will add a touch of fall to the air.

The other shot is towards the north, showing the pavilion where we had the wedding reception this summer. Note that just to the right of the cabin on the ground (click photo to enlarge), that is not a rock or yard ornament but Bruce, our resident groundhog! He was out early, posing for me this morning! St Charles is just at about the peak in fall colors right now. It is really stunning to drive around town - something that I've really missed the last few decades in the southwest.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Weekend - Antique Telescopes and Optics

One of the reasons to head off to Columbia, SC this last weekend was that friend Roger Ceragioli had an invitation to do analysis of telescope objectives, some of which approached 2 centuries old. Roger is a bit of an expert when it comes to antique telescopes as well as an expert optician, and there may be some interest in publishing research based partly on some of the examples that are housed in Columbia and environs.

The local telescopes of interest belong to Bob Ariail, who has bequeathed part of his collection to the State Museum there in Columbia. The museum itself is quite the gem. Built into a huge century-old cotton mill 20-some years ago, it is South Carolina's premier display of historical and scientific artifacts, as well as a showcase for traveling exhibits. It really is quite easy to spend a day there. Bob's telescope collection is quite extensive and evidently it is the aim of the museum to be a center of historical research in this area.

Besides the standard permanent display this weekend, they also had a traveling exhibit of working models of some of da Vinci's machines taken from his sketches, and a temporary display of movie artifacts and trivia of films made in South Carolina. They also had an ongoing celebration of the 20th anniversary of their opening with a harvest festival featuring crafts from local artisans, a stage with dancers, music and storytellers, and a "pig pickin'" bar-b-que. So besides visiting family and everything else going on, I really didn't pay much attention to Roger and his efforts, though we stopped and visited once or twice.

This was one of the store rooms far from the public area where some of the telescopes were stored and the location picked for Roger to do his work. You can see several examples of the standard brass-tubed telescope, most dating to the mid-19th century. My favorites, the long binocular-looking telescope, is newer - only about 100 years old, but are made by Zeiss and represent state of the art of the time, which all these scopes do, really.

Here, Bob Ariail (left) and Roger (right)examine a telescope objective, including a set of original eyepieces. Looking on at center is Tom Falvey, staffer at the State Museum, and primary archivist of these telescopes. All of these telescope lenses are actually doublets - two lenses of different glass types were put together with different curves to correct color errors inherent in most lenses. In those days, glass varieties were very limited, so some of the designs used to give good images are of much interest to collectors and fans of these instruments.

Here, Roger disassembles the lens components. He first uses a tester to examine the color correction of the assembled lens, then measures the curvatures, dimensions and accurate weights of the lenses to better estimate glass types and characteristics.

With the lenses now apart, they can be measured. In this one, the lenses were spaced by postage stamps that look to be from the 1960s or '70s, evidence that the lenses were at least disassembled and possibly worked on in that era. Roger admits that working with the crowd around him and with the wealth of examples, he didn't get as far as he wanted this trip. I suspect there is enough interest and further samples of telescopes to schedule him for a return visit.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And fun was had by all....

We haven't posted in a day or so - and we will catch up with that! We have been, however, enjoying our visit in Columbia. Dean will blog after we return to St. Charles tomorrow, and will include pictures from The State Museum, as well as our day trip to Charleston today. Right now, though, we are getting things packed - relaxing a bit - and readying to head off to bed. I'm including a 'teaser' picture - and the source of our blog title for tonight..... While we were at Patriot Point in Charleston today we toured the aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. Just before heading down the walkway to the ship we enjoyed glimpsing at the joys of being "little" again! No, these children weren't with us - but we enjoyed watching them 'ride the cannon' anyway! Be sure and look for more from Dean tomorrow!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

These Kids Must be Relatives!

One of the maxims that seem to hold for the Ketelsens (at least, the kids of my brothers and sisters) is that the children are most nearly always well-behaved. It might have had to do with growing up on the farm where if you misbehaved there was always a whack waiting for you or there was always extra work waiting to be done. It just seemed that the nieces and nephews occupied themselves quietly, mostly spoke only when spoken to, and generally seemed to avoid any outrageous behaviour in public.

After an uneventful trip from Chicago to Columbia, SC this afternoon, we checked into our hotel and went to visit family-in-law. While niece Shannon and great-niece Hayes had come to our wedding in June, that had been the only time we'd seen them in years. And this was the first time we had met Chooj (aka Cort - Chooj is derived from the Indian word for "boy". In fact, Chooj was born the day Melinda and I got engaged on 1 January, 2007!). After a time relaxing and decompressing in Betty's veranda, we all loaded into the rental minivan for the trip to "Lizard's Thicket", a local restaurant chain. The kids were great - Hayes was telling us stories about their state fair trip that morning, and Chooj occupied his time using the margarine containers as building blocks. No food fights, no fussing, and even Shannon seemed surprised when Hayes ordered a side of green beans. And after eating, the most rambunctious Chooj got was to go to an adjoining booth to play with the margarine containers (we pretty much had the place to ourselves by then). We must be related!

Melinda finally got to bed after being up 25 hours, and Roger had gotten up early to travel from Vancouver, so I don't think we will make the trip with Shannon in the early morning to watch them training purebred racehorses, but we'll see. The South Carolina State Fair and antique telescope lenses await - how much excitement can we stand!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Weekend Approaches!

The forecast for St Charles is for a fantastic weekend - beautiful blue sky and Indian Summer temps approaching 80F. Driving through town you can see preparations going on for the local big fall celebration - The Scarecrow Festival, an orgy of food, entertainment, crafts and carnival rides. Unfortunately, we will miss it all - our plans are to fly southeast to Columbia, South Carolina tomorrow to visit the first in-laws - Vicki's mom Betty, sister Donna, Niece Shannon, nephews Asher (and maybe Eric), great niece Hayes, and great nephew Cort. We are meeting former Tucson friend Roger Ceragioli, who now lives in Vancouver, BC, who will be doing research on some telescope lenses from the 19th century located in museums there. It will be great to see him and all the relatives, and take in some of that southern hospitality. Talking to Betty tonight, she tells us that the South Carolina State Fair started today, so we have a chance to take that in this weekend too. There is also an opportunity to observe with an antique telescope - a 23" refractor from the 1880s located near Greenville, SC, but the weather forecast there looks iffy into the weekend. It will still be a great time!