Highlights of 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

With the year quickly drawing to a close, I would first of all like to thank my God and Savior Jesus Christ for all His blessings, and also to express my gratitude to family, friends, and acquaintances for enhancing the joys of life this year.

Some highlights of the year are listed below in no particular order.

We had 38 concerts and 3 special music engagements this year, most at nursing homes, but others at churches, and 1 at a local bandshell.  I particularly enjoyed the two gospel sings at Whitten Community Church which we, The Johnson Strings, Sugar and Spice, and several other groups participated in.

We also had the pleasure of listening to Journey Bound and the Bontrager Family Singers for the first time, and attending the Shell Rock Gospel Sing.  

Gardening and Chickens
We purchased 33 chicks this spring, since our old hens were slacking off on their egg laying duties.  The latest count of eggs in our refrigerator was slightly over 200.  We're eating full speed ahead, and sharing with friends and neighbors.
One of the hens, Lark, successfully hatched and raised her own brood of 6 more chicks. (Video above shows her dirt-bathing with chicks)
Many long summer hours were spent in the garden as well as in the kitchen, freezing and canning produce.  Now we're eating home-preserved green beans, sweet corn, apple sauce, bean soup, peaches, sauerkraut (not me!), and (how did you guess?) tomatoes.
I also managed to maintain one of my most beautiful flower gardens ever, replete with pansies, irises, roses, cannas, salvia, asylums, cosmos, lilies, flox, dahlias, basil, lavender, rosemary, bachelor buttons and more.
Another thing we grew this year was muscles from mixing concrete!  Our concrete business went full speed ahead, and we made over 1000, 80 lb. concrete pads for propane tanks.  

Papa has been busy in his welding shop, and occasionally I get to weld some rebar for reinforcing the concrete pads.
Throughout the late summer and fall, we picked apples for the local orchard.  It was a lot of fun picking (and eating) apples, and--don't tell anyone--climbing trees!  I very much hope we get the job again next year.

Flooding, a Tornado, Snow Storms, and Fire
May is supposed to be spring, but this year we had a surprisingly heavy snow on May 2nd.  We later had the worst flooding we (or any of our neighbors) have ever seen in our area.  Roads and bridges were washed out and fields were flooded.  

Shortly after the floods, a tornado crossed the field less than a mile from our home as we watched.  It took our southern neighbor's barn and our northern neighbor's trees and shed, but did not cause extensive damage (and thankfully, no one was hurt).  

Fire makes the circle of wind and water complete.  Thankfully it was a controlled--but magnificent--fire started and controlled by several local fire departments to burn our northern neighbor's old barn.

Touring Iowa
We were able to do a lot of sightseeing this year while delivering concrete pads, visiting various places throughout the state which we had never seen over the past nearly 12 years we've lived here.
Neat places we saw this year include:

When we took our trip to Texas a few years ago, we visited every interesting stop along (and out of the way).  Any tourist visiting a new place is sure to try his best to visit all the historical sites, why not visit the cultural treasures around us?  I was so glad Papa consented to take me on the delivery trips; we had fun!

Teaching chess at Hank Anzis and Jose Gatica's annual chess camp for children in Des Moines was one highlight of the year.
We also enjoyed attending the Panther Open.  We participated in a Des Moines Time Odds Blitz, and I had a great time at the Iowa Reserve Championship.  It was a lot of fun to play bughouse after the tournament, and meet some people from FICS in "real life."

Speaking of FICS, TheRejoicingTeam_Legerdemain (which I captain) finished 1st in the Polgar section in Team League.  I also had the opportunity to become a TM (tournament manager) on FICS.

Interesting books I have completed reading this year include Memoirs of the Second World War (Churchill), Leila Ada: The Jewish Covenant, Government Bullies (Rand Paul), and Economic Freedom and Representative Government (F.A. Hayek).

I pray that God blesses you fully with a joyful heart and a Happy New Year!

Keep Shoveling!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A couple years ago our tractor (which we use to clear our driveway) broke down.  We had a snow storm and our driveway and paths to the chicken building and shop were all covered with snow--in some places 4-5 feet deep.  What were we to do?  Sit around and wait for the snow to melt?  No sir!  It was time to get out the shovels!  With six people shoveling, mountains move.  We had already made good progress when a neighbor came and plowed us out.  

When the prophet Elisha was dying, he was visited by Joash, king of Israel.  Elisha told him to take a bow and arrows, open the window and shoot an arrow to the ground.  Then he told him to take more arrows and smite them to the ground.  Joash did this with three arrows and then stopped.  Elisha was angry with him and said, "Thou shouldest have smitten 5 or 6 times, then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice."

God has great plans for us, and He doesn't want us to settle for anything but the best--His best.  He doesn't want us to be timid in claiming His promises.  He want us to be ambitious.  Hebrews 4:4 says, "Let us...come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

Reject the "I can't" mentality in both your spiritual and temporal life.  Do not let the fear of rejection and failure obstruct your path.  As Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  
Nothing worthwhile in life is easy.  Do not let setbacks discourage you.  

Trust God to work everything out for your good, be ambitious, and keep shoveling!

Interview with Lee Gordon Seebach

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the award-winning artist Lee Gordon Seebach when I competed in a chess tournament he hosted at the public library in Traer, Iowa.  Mr. Seebach is an Iowa native currently residing in Texas.  Besides working as a professional artist, he is a chess player, musician, and insightful political thinker.  He recently graciously consented to an interview for my blog.

Q: How did you become an artist?
A:  I've always enjoyed playing sports, music, and doing art as long as I remember.  They all come naturally to me.  So, when I started thinking about a career, I wanted to be involved in one of these areas.  Having grown up on a farm, I wanted a nice job in an air conditioned office in the city, where I could wear white shirts, and ties. Becoming a “commercial artist” sounded like a good job, so I went to art school.  While there, I learned that I could make a living doing paintings so I followed that path, instead.  I never did end up wearing the shirts and ties, but I never have minded much!

Q:  What is your favorite subject to paint?
A: Mountain streams with rocks, trees, brush, and sunlight.  This subject gives me the chance to work with compositional motifs almost in an abstract way, and be very creative.

Wren in Oak Creek Canyon
Q: Do you have a favorite of your paintings?
A: “Wren In Oak Creek Canyon.”  It’s a watercolor 22”x30” which I made into a limited edition giclee. 

Q:  What is the most difficult thing to paint?
A:  Capturing effects of light.  The subject matter itself isn’t the challenge.  It’s what light does to the subject that is the most challenging to capture.

Q:  What advice would you have for a young artist?
A: 1. Get the best training possible in an professional art school, not a college or university.  No one cares what degree you have when looking at your paintings.  The only thing that matters is whether or not you can draw and paint.  2. Realize that making a living as an artist is very difficult.

Q: What have been the highlights of your painting career?
A:  Since I worked on location (mostly in oil) for many years, the most outstanding highlight is just being outside alone in nature, study and capturing the beauty.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Other than that, I’d have to include being published in books and magazines, plus meeting my collectors and other artists.

Q: Do you have a favorite color?  
A: Violet.

Cerillos, New Mexico
Q:  Do you consider chess as a form of art? 
Absolutely, yes.  As an artist, I do consider it as art form, because it is similar to painting or making music in many ways: chess makes use of imagination, originality, creativity, experience, personal style, and skill.

Q: How did you start playing chess?
A: When I was about 7, I bought a chess set and basic book because I loved to play all sorts of games.  I was fascinated by the chessmen and how they moved. 

Q: What is your playing style?
A: My favorite chess player is Bobby Fischer so I try to do what he did with openings.  His book, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess really helped me in the 70s, and his My 60 Memorable Games is my most prized chess book.

Q: And your technique for improvement?
A:  I’ve used a Radio Shack 1650 computer board since the 1980s for practice, plus I have a small library of good chess books.  I like Jeremy Silman’s books a lot.  I also study master games and recently started using Hiarcs Chess Explorer on my Mac which allows play at a strength of my level and has other features that help, and I go to ideachess.com to solve tactics problems.

When Alexandria Kosteniuk was asked how to become a better chess player, she said, “That's easy: practice!”  I agree.

Q: Do you play in tournaments, clubs, or on chess servers?
A: I’m just an average, hobby player, rated 1373 USCF.  At various times, I’ve done all of these.  I did start a chess club and ran some tournaments but the club fizzled when I had to go back to work at a job.
Jemez River
Q:  Which style of music do you prefer?  How long have you played each of your instruments, and which instrument do you like best?
A: I prefer to play Bluegrass instrumentals - on the banjo, guitar, and fiddle.  For listening, I enjoy Classical music. I’ve played the guitar since I was in high school, the 5-string banjo since 1972 (when I heard “Duelin’ Banjos” I just had to learn how to do that!), and I just started playing the fiddle about a year ago.  I enjoy the banjo most.  I just recently started using GarageBand on my MacBook to make multi-track recordings including my own vocals along with the instruments.

Q:  If you had to sum up in only a few sentences what is wrong with our country and how it can be remedied, what would you say?
A:  Most people--and I mean 99.99%--don’t realize how much of their freedom they’ve lost, and are losing, day by day.  This has happened very gradually ever since the beginning and is now speeding up, and these people have been conditioned to accept it without complaint.  I’m sorry to say that I don’t see any remedy to reverse this trend because the US is far beyond the tipping point.  It would be like trying to reverse the ocean tide.  For these and other reasons, I’ve moved to Texas and joined the Texas Nationalist Movement.  I believe Texas will stand alone as the rest of the country either breaks up into smaller republics or becomes a total police state.

Prickly Pear Blossoms
Q: Do you have any thoughts on how painting relates to your other interests such as chess and music and ultimately the greater spectrum of life?
A:  Painting has helped me appreciate our beautiful world by trying to capture this beauty on canvas and watercolor paper, 

As in every other endeavor, painting, chess, and playing music all require creativity, discipline, hard work, practice, study, etc.  All of these cannot help but bring richness and meaning to life in general.

I know some other artists (and some of my favorite artists of the past) who play music and chess.  For example, John Singer Sargent, whose work I have admired for years, played chess, and was an excellent pianist. 

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes. I believe in the pursuit of truth no matter where it leads.

Joy Cometh in the Morning

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Weeping may endure for a night," the psalmist wrote, "but joy cometh in the morning."  The greatest hope in enduring pain or sorrow is the fact that it is only temporary.  
The agony of frozen extremities on a winter day outside fades 10 minutes later in a warm house with hot cocoa and marshmallows.  A cold or flu is dreadful, but a week or two later it is forgotten. In retrospect, many of the problems which greatly trouble us seem miniscule.  

Imagine God's perspective.  He watched the building of the tower of Babel and destroyed it.  He heard the cries of the children of Israel and delivered them from oppressors.  He saw the Babylonian and Persian empires.  He beheld Hannibal's marching armies, and looked on as Carthage was burned.  He oversaw the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  

Throughout the ages he has been with His people and given them help in their trials.

He does not fail. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Whatever our troubles are, He wants to give us the blessed assurance that This too shall pass.  

Our society may be falling apart.  Corruption and decadence may often be prevalent. Fight it, but "let not your hearts be troubled."  The night of tears will be over when Jesus our Savior returns and reigns at last.

Do not be discouraged.  Troubles great and small are like storms.  They come and they go.  God's faithfulness and truth is constant.  Joy will come in the morning.

 "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."  --Ecclesiastes 3:14

It is Finished

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"It is finished" is a powerful statement, most famous for being the final words of Jesus uttered before he drew his last breath on the cross.  His sufferings were completed and a mighty work was done.

Completion is one of my favorite thoughts.  Many people make New Year's resolutions; what most motivates me most are Old Year resolutions.  Each year is like a present: filled with our days, wrapped with our prayers, and sealed for eternity.  As the days draw nearer for the gift to be closed, I do my best to finish all the loose odds and ends, so it is complete.   

My senior year of high school, I packed in all the scholastic chess tournaments and essay competitions that I could, and tried other scholastic activities, knowing that it was my last chance to do any of it.  I had an awesome year and no regrets--I did my best! 

This month, my humble to-do list which I thought would be a challenge is already mostly completed--with the month just barely halfway through.

It is amazing how much can be done if we make it our goal to complete it.  We are capable of much more than we realize if we only try.  Those "I'll finish someday" projects can be finished today--or they can sit in our closets and garages for the next 50 years.  It's our choice.

Finish the work you set out to do.  Don't leave it for later.   Be faithful in the little things--the smallest of tasks.  Each moment, each day that slips by is a precious treasure; fill it with joy, purpose, and hearty endeavors; do everything as unto the Lord.

Book Review: Leila Ada the Jewish Convert (Part 2)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One of Leila's first goals on returning to England was to meet with other Christians.  She didn't wish to displease her father, so she usually went to a chapel stealthily in the evenings, wearing a heavy veil.  Finally, she decided to confess the Lord publicly, and after meeting with the minister, she was baptized and partook of the Lord's supper.  

"My time is short;" she wrote, "the veil which separates me from eternity may soon be drawn aside.  Indeed, I am not able to repress a serious and solemn foreboding that my days on earth will not be prolonged.  How important that I should prepare...and not be caught unawares."

The Lord filled her with joy and peace, so that she was "happy beyond expression."  She was very nervous about telling her father about her faith in Jesus, because she had never done anything to displease him--and he had never spoken an unkind word to her.  Finally she gained enough strength to write him a long letter telling him in loving words about her new faith in Jesus and the many proofs which showed He is the Messiah.  She left the letter on his dressing table and spent the night in prayer.  

In the morning her father was very sad and told her she could not see him for a week.  After this time, if she persisted in "apostasy" she would be sent away.  When the week was over, she was sent to her uncle, who was a much more devout Jew than her father.  Her uncle was given instructions that she was to be allowed no Christian reading material, and that she could not be allowed out of the house without someone accompanying her to ensure she did not attend the chapel.  

Leila's uncle told her to be quiet about her Christianity, not mention it in his house to "corrupt" any of the family members, and not speak of it to others--as that would embarrass the family.  Leila's aunt had a busy social life and insisted on taking her beautiful niece with her to a myriad of parties and balls.  This was a trial to Leila because she had a very quiet nature.  Finally Leila became tired of her uncle and aunt's rules and resolved not to hide the light of Christ under a bushel.  She replied to an invitation to a ball, declining it and stating that she was a Christian.  This greatly angered her relatives and severely increased her trial.  

The family began to shun her, wouldn't permit her to eat with them, held their clothes back when they passed her in a hall to ensure she would not touch them, argued with her, and scorned her.  Even the servants began insulting her.  Her eldest cousin, Isaac, however, would have none of this.  He used his influence in her favor, was a very careful and thorough thinker, and had many intelligent discussions with her about the New Testament.  When he began to speak openly of his inclination to become a Christian, the family became even more enraged and blamed his "apostasy" on Leila.  

Finally, two rabbis and several Jewish elders were called in one last effort to save Leila from Christianity.  They argued with her for 7 hours, but she was never at a loss for words, giving reference to the scriptures and refusing to recant.  They became very angry, and one rabbi exclaimed, "Wilt thou then deny it, young incorrigible?  Wilt thou put all present to the lie?  Then on God's behalf I smite thee."  He struck her on the cheek and an elder spat in her face.  She was then excommunicated and all the curses of the law of Moses were pronounced against her.  Any Jew (including her father) who would come near her or allow her in their house would be under their anathema.  She was given 3 days to leave.

The next day, Leila left to stay with Christian friends.  She was in bad health, and sent a letter to her father telling of how she was treated and asking if she could come home.  Her father was very angry to hear how the relatives had treated her, and, holding the rabbis' curses in contempt, rode out in his carriage to take her home with him.  He treated her very kindly and let her go to the chapel whenever she wished.
She started regaining strength and could sing, work in the garden, and play the piano; but the revitalization of her frail frame was only temporary.  She knew that she would soon see her Savior, and spent her time writing to friends and relatives about Jesus.  A friend wrote that "It was plain that her thoughts had fled from earth, and joined the hymning circles of bright spirits in heaven." 

Her health again worsened, and she knew she was dying, or as she put it "Immortality is dawning upon me."  It was very painful for her loving father to watch her decline.  And the thought of leaving her father forever without any assurance that he would meet her in heaven was too dreadful for her to bear; her only desire in life was to see him saved; after that, she said, she could die without a single regret.  They had many conversations, and Leila urged him to read the New Testament and trust in Jesus so she could see him again in heaven.  

A Christian friend, Emily, came to stay with her.  Sometimes Leila was in severe pain, but she never complained.  She gave instructions that her Bibles be given to relatives with her dying wishes that they read them.  "Tell them," she said, "that with my latest breath, I testified, Christ is precious."  She said that He was with her in the valley of the shadow of death, and she was victorious through Christ.  The last words she wrote were "Christ is heaven."  

The morning of her death, she called for her father and told him not to grieve, "If you are faithful to God, you will soon be happy again with me in heaven."  "Then, my precious treasure, you are not deceived!  You feel that your religion fully supports you in death?" he asked.  "O yes! O yes!  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." she replied.  Her father told her he had begun to read the New Testament, and had never expected to see a death like hers.  He then confessed to all present that he too would believe in Jesus.  She gave him her Bible.  

"I hear the voice, the Master is come, and calleth for thee.  My whole soul responds, Even so come, Lord Jesus.  I am full of glory!" she said.  A little after 8 pm, she told her father, "Farewell, my dear papa, I am going to glory.  Serve Jesus--you will soon be there."  At 8:15 she died at the age of 20 years and 18 days.  Shortly less than a year later her father also died peacefully with an unshaken reliance upon Jesus.

The end of the book was very sad and touching--I couldn't keep from crying.  It doesn't seem like 20 year-olds should have ill health and die, but she accomplished more than some people who live to be 4 times her age accomplish in their lifetimes.  Her writings are filled with interesting insights.  She had a passionate desire that her people, the Jews, would acknowledge the Messiah, and a simple faith, joy, and loving trust in Jesus, her Lord.  The language with which these feelings are expressed is reminiscent of the woodwork in Victorian style houses, the ornate cathedrals of the old world, and the bubbling brook in the meadow.  Newer books, like modern houses,--though they serve their purpose--do not seem to similarly realize the innate elegance of the English language (or the delicate ornateness of architecture).

Reprints of the book are available on Amazon and Ebay, and I would definitely recommend it as a literary feast for all who wish to indulge in a beautifully written Christian life story.  

Book Review: Leila Ada: The Jewish Convert

Monday, December 16, 2013

My grandmother gave me the book Leila Ada, The Jewish Convert: An Authentic Memoir by Osborn W. Trenery Heighway for my birthday this summer.  She found the book, copyrighted in 1853, a few decades ago in my great grandfather's attic.  She loaned the book to several people, and at least 2 Jewish friends were converted after reading it.  

I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the language employed in writing this book and the skill of the authors.  The loveliness of the prose is sufficient to satiate the thirst of any poet--or sesquipedalian such as myself.  

Leila lived in a mansion in England with her father, and was raised as a Jewess.  Her mother--the love and light of her father's life--had died 2 years after her birth.  He lived for Leila, giving her a happy childhood, playing with her, and teaching her how to play the piano.  Leila was beautiful and very intelligent, fluently reading and writing several languages.  She was also thoughtful and reserved.  She started writing a diary at 16, and the contents of the book are mostly taken from her diary.  
Leila was very studious, writing "I strive to occupy every moment well; I do this, not simply because it is my interest, but also, and I hope and believe chiefly, because it is my duty."  She studied the Old Testament and also many Jewish books such as the Talmud, with which she was not impressed.  

When Leila was 18, her father decided to take her on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She was very excited about the trip.  Before leaving, she decided to study the New Testament.  She saw that Christians were a most happy people and wanted to understand why.  At the least, she thought, reading the New Testament would enable her to intelligently argue with them concerning religion.

Her journey to the Holy Land took her through Switzerland where she visited with shepherds, enjoyed snowball fights in the Alps, and visited the glacier of Rosenlaui.  During this time she wrote in her diary her grief at not knowing the way of salvation.  She saw through the scriptures that the Talmud was "altogether a fabrication of man."  And cried to God, "Thou knowest--thou art my witness--how much I desire that my heart may be rightly guided, and entirely subdued to thy service...Nothing but the constant presence of Him who fills the earth and heaven, can content my soul."  

From Switzerland she and her father traveled to Italy, facing a terrible storm in the mountains.  They visited Milan, many beautiful cathedrals, and the amphitheatre in Verona.  What seemed most to impress Leila though, was Venice. "It was a lovely moonlight evening as we approached the Adriatic, and such a moonlight--so soft and yet so bright and dear, as I never saw before--a thorough Italian sky and landscape.  The sparkling eyes of night twinkled like precious brilliants in the liquid azure.  The exquisitely tinted, bluish-roseate mist, hovered over the plains which stretched before and on each side of us; the effect was rendered intensely beautiful--became indeed a feeling--as the silvery light of the moon pierced through it."  They stepped into a gondola as they entered the city, and she was delighted by the exquisite loveliness of the sight.

 From Venice they continued their journey toward Rome, viewing the Velino waterfalls and the battlefield where Hannibal defeated the Romans.  In Rome they saw the ancient ruins and the Coliseum.  The climbed to the roof of St. Peter's, where they enjoyed a view of 400 feet; and visited the Vatican Palace and several castles.  From there they went to Naples, and finally left the country for Greece.  

In Greece they visited Athens, the Parthenon, olive groves, and Mistra in the Isthmus of Corinth, and viewed the place which had once been Sparta.  Then they took a ship from Greece to Turkey.

In Constantinople, they stayed a few days.  Leila spent hours visiting ancient Turkish cemeteries, and almost got into a lot of trouble when she nearly walked into the mosque of St. Sophia during prayers.  
Shortly before reaching Jerusalem, Leila wrote that she no longer could doubt that Jesus was the Messiah.  The New and Old Testaments agreed.  "I wish to be a Christian, O Lord!  Calm my troubled spirit.  Do of thy loving kindness guide me to thy simple truth.  Let me rest and be at peace beneath the canopy of thy love.  Teach me thy law of liberty, as thou in the word has described; and having taught me thy will, assist me to follow thee, to give up my own, whatever shall happen to my body." 

In Jerusalem she saw the Mount of Olives, the garden of Gethsemane, the bed of the brook Kedron, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and Mount Moriah.  She became severely ill shortly after reaching the city, however, and her father decided to cut short the trip and take her home as soon as she was well enough to travel.  They returned to England after visiting Alexandria, Egypt, taking a steamship to France and quickly reaching home.  

Her adventures reminded me of Hannah Hurnard's Hinds Feet in High Places, because of her many contemplations at each location--the storms, the precipices, illnesses, good influences, times of joy, and lessons she learned.  It also struck me what a good blogger Leila would have made had she lived 150 years later!

Part 2 of this review (Leila Ada's life as a Christian) will be posted tomorrow!

Book Review: Government Bullies

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I've enjoyed reading several of Ron Paul's books, so when I decided it was time to purchase a new book to read on my Kindle, I decided to try his son Senator Rand Paul's 2012 publication, Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds.  

Government Bullies is available in hardcover (320 pages) and paperback formats as well, but the Kindle format is very convenient--no pages blowing in the wind when I read outside, and I can easily carry it in my purse to read anywhere, between rounds at a chess tournament or sitting in the car on a road trip. 

 The format of the book is consistent.  To each part there is an introduction, in-depth stories of grievances, and a section about what can be done to solve the problem.  The style is informal; it's not a literary masterpiece, but is a lot like the way I imagine Senator Paul would talk if he were giving a speech or addressing constituents.  


Part 1 address EPA Bullies.  Paul points out that EPA regulations cost more than 5% of our annual GDP, and is equivalent to the costs of defense and homeland security combined.  People have been sent to jail for 3 years for moving dirt onto their own property.  One woman, her father, and engineer were sent to jail by the EPA for violating wetland laws on her property when her land was so dry it didn't even flood during Hurricane Katrina.  Wetland regulations and the Clean Water Act need to be clarified so that the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers do not abuse property openers.

Part 2 concerns the Lacey Act, a law which has been expanded over it's more than 100 years of existence so that the United States can prosecute people and companies for violating foreign laws.  Gibson Guitars was raided by both the Department of Homeland Security and Fish and Wildlife armed agents and SWAT teams for allegedly using "endangered" wood from Madagascar to make guitars.  Many guitars, materials, and equipment were confiscated.  

In another case, Paul writes that a lobster fisherman's 70,000 lb. shipment of lobsters was confiscated because of a tip from an anonymous caller.  The fisherman was prosecuted by the U.S. government on violating three Honduran regulations: 1. Lobster tails cannot be less than 5.5 inches long (3% of the shipment was), 2.  Lobsters cannot be egg-bearing (7% were), and 3. Cardboard boxes must be used for shipping (he use clear plastic bags.)  No charges were brought against the man in Honduras, and the Honduran government later informed the U.S. that the cardboard box regulation had been repealed in 1995, the egg-bearing regulation had been repealed retroactively, and the lobster tail length regulation was never signed into law.  However, the fisherman in question, dubbed "the ringleader of the smuggling operation" by press releases, was given an 8-year sentence and was still in a federal prison at the time of the publication.  

Part 3 describes the abuses of the TSA: naked body scanners, intrusive pat-downs, sexual molestation, rampant abuse, humiliation of the elderly and ill, theft and overall corruption.  Paul claims that the TSA doesn't make us completely safe, but rather less free.   Paul recommends an Air Traveler's Bill of Rights to protect against TSA abuses.  But he believes the best solution is to end the TSA and privatize airline screeners.  Airlines have a vital interest in making sure their passengers are safe, and it would be bad business for them if they treated their passengers disrespectfully.  

Rand Paul also decries sending foreign aid to countries which are not friends of the United States or which detain or hurt U.S. citizens.  In fact, he says, borrowing money from the Chinese to give as foreign aid to other countries makes no sense at all.

Part 4 explains that though the FDA and USDA were formed with good intentions and indeed have necessary roles in the government, they too have expanded out of proportion, raiding even small Amish farmers selling "illegal" raw milk.  "Isn't it insane to think that in America someone could be arrested for the 'crime' of drinking milk directly from the cow?" Paul asks.  Another family in Missouri that started a small rabbit business to give entrepreneurial experience to their teenaged son was threatened by the FDA with a $3.9 million fine because they had violated a mysterious law that prohibited selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in one year (they grossed $4,600 which provided a $200 profit which they used to eat out at restaurants a few times).  

The stories presented in Government Bullies will not give you sweet dreams, so I do not recommend the book as bed-time story material.  I do recommend it, however, to anyone who is not aware of the many injustices committed by the government.  Rand Paul's goal in writing the book is to promote liberty activism and inform the public of the outrages happening every day in this country.  For those who already understand the infernal depths of bureaucracy, this book will feed the fires of the soul burning with zeal against the injustices of the government.  

I shall conclude with a friendly reminder--be sure you read the 4,450 federal crimes in U.S. code and 10,000's of regulations before going about your daily tasks.  Otherwise you may find yourself a criminal like the individuals mentioned above, facing years of imprisonment, armed government raids, and multimillion dollar fines for selling milk, bunnies, rosewood guitars, and lobster tails.   

Anyone miss the good ol' days of the Ten Commandments?

Appreciation and Thanksgiving

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

During our trip to Boone, Iowa, we stopped in front of Mamie Doud Eisenhower's birthplace to take a few pictures.  The small beautiful home is open to the public by appointment only.  The public high school is nearby, and the students were walking and driving home, not taking a moment to glance at the historical site, while we "tourists" snapped photos.  

I guess after walking by the First Lady's birthplace for the past 10 years every day, the students must have lost some of their excitement.  

Over time, many of us lose our excitement about and appreciation of the things we see every day. When we lived in Portland, it seldom snowed; so each snow storm was greatly anticipated and greeted with mittened hands creating snowmen, tongues outstretched to lick the falling snowflakes, and sleds rocketing down nearby hills.   Here the first snow can fall in October and the last 6 inches can fall in May, so to say the least, I don't spend all year looking forward to it.  

It's not necessary for us to appreciate what we don't like--be it snowstorms, okra, or beets--just because others who don't have them would love to have them.  But we should refrain from taking all the good things in life for granted.  

We should thank God for heat instead of waiting until a power outage to tell him how much we enjoyed it.  

We should thank our mothers for a nice warm meal instead of waiting till someday when we have cold cereal for supper to reminisce about how good Mother's cooking is.

And we should let our friends know how much we appreciate them instead of waiting until we miss them so much we have to post an ad on Craigslist looking for anyone who will talk with us.*

Be grateful for the little things; be grateful for all of God's blessings.  Take a moment to notice beautiful surroundings, small conveniences, and the people who love and care for you.  Life will be much happier.

"Give thanks unto the Lord: for He is good!"

Boone County Historical Museum

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Boone County Historical Museum was our last stop on our tour of Boone, Iowa.  It was starting to get late, and we had a long trip home; but since we were there we decided to visit the museum anyway.  The admission was $3 per adult and free for anyone under 18--very reasonable!  As soon as we walked in, a smiling museum curator greeted us, gave us a brief introduction to the museum, turned on the lights in various rooms, and told us to let her know if we had any questions. 

The first room we visited was dedicated solely to Kate Shelley, a local heroine who saved the lives of many.  She risked her life crawling across the Honey Creek railroad bridge in the middle of a stormy night brightened with flashes of lightning.  She then ran a half mile to the railroad depot at Moingona to warn an incoming passenger train carrying 200 people that the storm had washed out trestles on the bridge and notify rescue workers that a pusher locomotive had just plunged into the creek.
The museum features the lantern she carried on that stormy night, her sewing machine, and awards she received.  The story is presented in very readable format in posters on the walls.  Kate Shelley was the first woman in the United States to have a bridge named after her.  A train, the Kate Shelley 500, was also her namesake.  

In the front room was what looked like a large chest of very small drawers.  Each drawer was labeled and contained a glass display.  In these displays were presidential campaign buttons from the election of 1896 to the present.
McKinley vs Bryan, 1896
F.D.R. vs Landon
Reagan vs Carter, 1980
In other drawers were coin collections and various medals.  

These tools are barbed wire makers.  Between them is a sample of the barbed wire.   Imagine how much work it must have been to make enough barbed wire to fence a pasture!  

The next room we visited contained a selection of animals native to Iowa.
On display there were pheasants, Canadian geese, a badger, red fox, chipmunk, coyote, a woodchuck, and several other species.

The mountain lion looked like it had seen better days, but the Snowy Owl was beautiful.  There was a selection of birds, a wooly mammoth tusk found in Boone County in 1905 and arrow heads.  

Northern Pike and Paddlefish, like these, are supposedly fish of the Des Moines River; I was a bit shocked considering I have never caught anything more interesting than a catfish in Iowa--and I have a sad feeling I may never reel in any beauties like this.   

Old hunting guns, a few uniforms, and an autographed picture of Abraham Lincoln completed our tour of the downstairs, and we proceeded to the next floor.

Since the museum is currently under renovation, not everything was perfectly ordered, but I thought the format for the upstairs was fascinating.  The large open room featured a display on each decade of the 20th century, complete with period dress, political slogans, popular devices and inventions, and a historical summary of the time.
Here are a few interesting pieces from the other displays.  I'll let you guess the years.
This is what a washing machine used to look like.
A radio and a couple toasters

Isn't the dress beautiful?

What people used to *rake* their carpets.

What lovely ladies wore in another era
And this, my dear friends, is what a portable computer (laptop?) used to look like.
The Boone County Historical Museum was fascinating!  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about United States History while visiting Boone, Iowa.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Museum

Friday, November 29, 2013

With renewed strength for the journey, we drove to our next stop, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Museum.  Admission was $8 per person which seemed quite pricey to me, considering the State Historical Museum has more than 3 times as much interesting content and is "free"--though I guess we pay for that sooner or later in taxes (few things in life are really free).  The museum workers seemed bored, sitting around talking to each other and offering no guidance, interesting stories, or information on the museum.  So we were on our own!
In the photo above, you can see part of the layout of the museum.  The first items we looked at were the conductors' uniforms.  The manikin modeling one of the uniforms was so life-like both my sister and I did double-takes more than once.  

There was a lot of telegraph equipment, lanterns, and assorted paraphernalia.

Some of the railroad advertisements and promotional materials are show above.  Various train companies promoted their businesses with pocket knives, First Aid Kits, insect repellent, and rulers.  
Railroad Badges
Have you ever seen a Bible "Read and Return" rack on a train?  
The above Bible rack was a courtesy provided on Pullman Cars.

The 4 Wheel Velocipede or Railroad Bicycle  was built for railroad inspectors to ride while inspecting the tracks.  Also featured at the museum is a 3 Wheel Velocipede used by inspectors, and various other vehicles used when making repairs or inspecting.
There were throw switches like the ones shown above, and a large collection of insulators.

Railroad china and silver were on display.

Toward the back of the building there was a telegraph office/train station replica.

Railroad pocket watches are pictured above.  Railroad companies agreed on a standardized time in the United States after several trains collided because watches were not synchronized; ultimately "railroad time" became official in spite of resistance by locals who wanted to keep their own local time, resenting the idea of having to "eat, sleep, work...and marry by railroad time."

Railroad Signal Lights

A Fairmont Motor Car
There were also model trains, old telephones and typewriters, and surveyor tools.  In a separate room there was a small library filled with books about the railroad.

The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad still operates, giving visitors a chance to ride through the scenic countryside and over the Kate Shelley Bridge.  Outside, we could see the tracks and various locomotives and cars.

One of the working trains.

An old steam engine on display in front of the museum.
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Museum was interesting.  A true railroad buff might consider it fascinating, but I was personally more impressed by our next stop, the Boone County Historical Museum.

Part 3: Boone County Historical Museum is coming soon!