Sunday, October 31, 2010

Geezer Cars

     In today's Sunday paper Tom a Ray of the Car Guys of NPR had a question from a geezer about a geezer car.   The questioner indicated that his definition of a geezer car was a Buick with slushy steering and suspension.   A soft ride and not too crisp cornering.   He wanted advice on how to get the power windows to go up and down quickly since it was taking miles to get the window down for the toll booth.   Tom and Ray had some good advice and did suggest if the car was really old, maybe it was time to retire it.

   I don't know what others may define as a geezer car but I do know that the driver safety course from the AARP had a suggestion for the appropriate car for seniors.   Their advice was to go for a mid size sedan that had good all round visibility from the windows and mirrors.   We were advised to stay away from the monster boats like the Lincoln Continentals and the Cadillac's etc.   I checked out the parking lot where our class put their cars.   For the most part the geezer guys were driving big boats.  Twenty feet long and seven feet wide.   So much for the instructor's advice.  I doubt if any of them went out the next week to downsize their vehicles.   I think that most geezers grew up aspiring to have a bigger and more pretentious car and with sufficient success their dreams were fulfilled.    My most recent new car has been the mid-size 2009 Toyota Camry sedan.   Both big enough and small enough for this geezer.   And we all know this car has great acceleration!  

    Readers - I would be curious what models you think are geezer cars.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weathering the Storm

Hurricane Tomas
     Storms have a way of disrupting the best laid plans.   Viki and Matt on their way to St. Lucia for the delayed honeymoon are stranded in Atlanta, Georgia awaiting tropical storm/hurricane Tomas to pass the island and head west into the Caribbean.   Needless to say, they are very disappointed and it is our hope that they will be able to get to St. Lucia soon and that the weather will improve.

     One never knows when a storm is going interrupt both ones plans and even your life.   Perhaps Viki could take some comfort in knowing that in the early 1980's a flood from a storm in Dryden, New York brought Nancy and I together as I volunteered to restore her inundated home.   We subsequently courted and married and remarkably we had Viki the recent bride.   Who knows what direction a storm will take you?  It may just be a passing annoyance that depresses you for the moment or it may send you in an altogether new direction.

   This particular problem for Viki has me reflecting on both the natural and personal storms of life that I have experienced.   As a lad on the farm I saw first hand what devastation a storm could wreak on crops.  One early November a hail storm ruined a good portion of our apple crop that was still on the trees.  And even damaged apples in crates in the orchard.   More than once our grain crops were flattened by wind and rain just before harvest.   In the perspective of time, we weathered those losses.

   I can think of some other storms that are welcomed if you are a skier.   A foot or so of new powder from a lingering snowstorm is a boon to the skier.  Not so good for some others though.

    Storms of life come in many other forms than simply natural disasters or annoying disruptions.  Loss of a job, illness, family conflicts and relationships can be very disruptive events for all of us.   I think that a measure of our character is how well we weather those storms.   With the help of friends, family and community I am convinced we can move on to the sunny side of life.  Yes we can!

   Meanwhile we will keep Matt and Viki in our thoughts and prayers and hope that their adventure will turn out all right and next week they will basking on the sunny white sands of St. Lucia.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bounty of Agriculture

Red Empire Apples - Cornell Orchards
    Last night I dreamed about agriculture and the bounty of food production in the U.S.   I suppose that is not unusual since I have deep roots in agriculture through my childhood and later career as an agricultural engineer.    I think U.S. agriculture is truly amazing.   The bounty of food we have on our tables year around is stunning.   And while I applaud U.S. agriculture, I have to acknowledge we are also beneficiaries of the bounty of agriculture many other nations.   As we approach Thanksgiving we should pause to give thanks for our good fortune of the riches of food and fiber produced by agriculturalists world wide.

     In my reflections about agriculture as a follow on to my dream I tried identify all the various crops that I have personally harvested in my lifetime.   During my growing up on the farm these are the crops that I harvested.
Grains -  Wheat, Oats, Buckwheat - Wheat and oats were even harvested with a McCormick binder.

Vegetables - Carrots, Lettuce, Red Beets, Onions, Spinach, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Snap Beans,  Red Kidney Beans, Peas, Cabbage, Pumpkins - During World War II there was a huge demand for vegetables and our farm produced as much as we could with the labor we had available.  Harvesting required significant backbreaking labor.

Fruits - Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tart Cherries, Sweet Cherries, Elderberries, Currants, Grapes - As a general farm we grew a variety of fruits for many different markets.  All these products were harvested by hand labor.

     During my years as a teacher and researcher at Cornell I had the opportunity to mechanize the harvest of many fruits and vegetables.   I participated with a team of engineers and viticulturists in the creation of one of the first grape harvesters.   Other fruit and vegetable harvesting machines that I helped create were, apple harvesters, cabbage harvesters, blueberry harvesters, and lettuce harvesters.   Our cabbage harvester design continues to be the sole design manufactured in the world today.    Some of our work served to reduce the back breaking or stoop labor for the harvest of some crops.

     As we have become a non-agrarian society, most folks have lost all sense of what it takes to produce and provide food for our table.   I think it would be good therapy for everyone to spend a week or two on a working farm carrying out the tasks that are necessary to produce our food.   Meanwhile, be thankful.   Happy Thanksgiving all!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


     Yesterday's devotion in the Upper Room was about being healed.   The scripture dealt with the women that pestered Jesus until he granted her request to heal her daughter.   The accompanying story was authored by a woman whose infant son had suddenly stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital.   In that ensuing crisis she prayed out loud and aggressively as the physicians, EM T's and nurses handled the situation.   She was  probably obnoxious to some.   The good news is that her son revived and was completely all right.  You might say healed.

   This story brought to mind for me a flood of memories of the crisis with our own daughter Victoria.   At 14 months she developed an extraordinary high fever and went into convulsions.   A quick call to emergency services brought the ambulance and a quick trip to Cayuga Medical Center.   Nancy and I certainly were in prayer during this crisis.   We spent several days in anxiety and prayer as the unknown malady took its course.   To our delight within a day or so she woke up one morning showing interest in a toy and as it turned out completely healed!   To us a miracle since there was no evident diagnosis for the cause of the fever.

   I guess that each day there are many folks that are experiencing the joy of being healed.   And probably if we are honest about all of our situations we are all in the process of being healed of something,  Whether it may be emotional or physical trauma.   I am convinced that whatever your faith calling might be, that prayer has the possibility of healing and if not healing easing the pain of the malady.

   Among my group of long term senior friends there are three men that I pray for daily.   All three are in recovery and/or remission of cancer.   I doubt whether they know that I am praying for them, but that is of no matter since I am not the healer, but just a channel for God's grace if I am so honored.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Place Like Home

      Thursday we left for Long Island to visit recently married daughter and her husband at Carle Place, NY.   The visit was both a social time and a work session.  They have moved into their first house and since both of them are working professionals, their days are long and setting up the household takes a lot of extra energy.   So Nancy and I went to work as soon as we arrived.  Viki and Matt had a list of projects for us to do so we had some direction.  However, as veterans of making moves and setting up a new household, we were soon making decisions and storing items where we thought they could bring out later as they made all the many decisions of how they would want to arrange things.    There are 17 steps to the second floor and I think I made at least 50 trips up and down those stairs carrying box after box of stuff for office, bedroom and storage.   A challenge for my geezer back.   Fortunately, Tylenol eases the pain.
An Organized Kitchen in the New House

    As long time New York up-staters we are more accustomed to a slower paced life.   The hyper activity of the metropolitan area is exhausting for us.  Perhaps it is the challenge of navigating the heavy traffic of multi-lanes travelling at 60 to 70 miles per hour to get to our destination.   Although we worked hard, we also took time to enjoy seeing the youngsters and continuing our socialization with Viki's in-laws who we have come to appreciate and enjoy more and more.   We had the pleasure of a great Japanese restaurant on Thursday evening and a great family dinner with the in-laws and Viki and Matt in the somewhat more settled home on Friday.    Viki and Matt will continue to live into making their first house into a home that reflects their personalities and and desires.  Meanwhile we will continue to encourage their efforts and lend a hand when we can muster the energy to visit and work with them.

    Our journey home on Saturday was mostly uneventful in spite of a couple of traffic tie ups in the city and one accident scene on Route 17.   Nancy and I both agree that we are real homebodies.  We love the comfort and familiarity of our home in Cortland and the slower pace of our environs.   We both have the homing instinct and once we start for home from a visit we are much like E.T. in the movie.  We begin to say, "Home, Home, Home" with great yearning in our voices.   Meanwhile, we vow to become more comfortable dealing with the metropolitan area since it is clear our youngest is a big city girl now.

    For everyone there is no place like home wherever it may be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rating Ski Resorts

Snowbasin Utah
       Yesterday I received Ski Magazines issue rating ski resorts.  It was interesting to compare my own impressions of the various resorts I had skied at with the ratings by the magazine.   I think that every skier has a different set of criteria for ski resort that best meet their needs.   The most important thing for me is lots of good snow with enough groomers to give me some relief and a variety of terrain and scenery to enjoy at my leisure.   I was pleased to find that if you are looking for the best snow Utah is the place to go.  I certainly agree with the raters on that one.   After skiing Alta, Snowbird and Snowbasin last year I have no doubt they have the greatest snow on earth.   And for the geezers,  Snowbasin has it all.   It is notable that Snowbasin has the highest rank for food service and I totally agree with that.

      In the East I really enjoy Mad River Glen as well as Okemo  though overall they do not rank as high as some of the other resorts.  Mad River Glen is great skiing at at a reasonable cost where the emphasis is on being a great skier in a dedicated family oriented setting.   Okemo is great for groomers and service.

     In the By the Numbers page of the Fall 2010 issue of Ski Magazine I note that New York State has the most ski resorts of any state at 48.  With 473 resorts in the U.S. that means New York has over 10 percent of the ski areas in the nation.   I have skied at eight of the New York areas so far.  I think I will put it on my bucket list to ski all the areas in New York State.   It could be interesting!

      Looking forward to the the 2010-2011 season.    Here's to an early start in upstate New York!! Happy skiing everyone wherever it may be.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Memories - A Patchwork Quilt

 United Methodist Church of Moravia Quilt Momento
     Wednesday night Nancy and I went to see the musical Church Basement Ladies 2 at the Merry Go Round Theater.    A delightful night of laughter and a bit of pathos to go with it.   In one of the scenes in the Second Act the young mother Beverly is presented with a lovely patchwork quilt to use for the christening of her infant daughter Katy.   The quilt had pieces of fabric representing the many stages of her life.  They included part of her recently deceased father's jeans, a blue ribbon she had won at a fair, a piece from her christening garment, etc.   Each piece brought back a poignant memory of her life and relationships to date.   I'll confess I was moved to tears.   Perhaps it was because of  my own flood of memories from my past and the recognition of the many fond memories I have of my life and the events in my children's and grand children's lives.

   As I age I recognize that the memories of the past that come to me are scraps of memories making up a patchwork of events in my life.   A memory here and a memory there that are a pieces of a much larger period of time and events.   As a whole these memories weave together to provide a wonderful collage or mosaic of both good, bad, satisfying and troubling thoughts of the past.   However, in the main I am delighted with my memory quilt.   It has been a good if not exceptional life of love and productivity.  I look forward to adding more memories to my patchwork quilt as these senior years roll on.    As we share with one another, I think it is good for us to share our patchwork quilts of memories.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daily Bravery

     Lots of good news for the Chilean miners today.   As I write this blog 21 miners of the 33 have been rescued.   And the rescue operation seems to be going smoothly.   One has to admire the bravery of these miners.   As a person who is somewhat claustrophobic I can hardly bear to think what it must have been like to be confined deep in the earth for so long.    As one miner put it, "I was down in hell and reached up to God".

      I admire those  individuals that engage in occupations that require a daily bravery.   Among those occupations are  the military personnel, firemen, police officers, miners, and high steel construction workers.   Every day these people put on their gear or uniforms and face the probability of an unexpected hazard.   I salute their dedication.

     Meanwhile the rest of us in more mundane occupations face much lesser obstacles.   But all of us in one way or another have to have some level of daily bravery.  It may be as simple as confronting a conflict in the workplace or as complicated as making an ethical decision.   Although these may not be life threatening issues, these situations require being brave enough to live up to our potential.

   I guess daily bravery comes in all forms.   Staying true to ones self is the goal.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


     I enjoy having projects to work on.  Some projects can be completed in a day and others will go on for months or more.   Yesterday I was working on my plow project.   The plow project is to rehabilitate the Rau Model Plow Collection acquired by the first president of Cornell University Andrew D. White in Germany in 1868.   With the blessing of Ezra Cornell this collection of plow models has resided at Cornell since 1868.   I have been translating the directory from German to English, fixing and photographing the plow models and storing them in protective containers.   The annotated directory with photographs is almost finished and a narrative history of the model plow collection is nearly complete.  At the same time I am writing a narrative of the development of the design of the plow throughout  history.   The project is nearing completion and I will be happy to see the plow models go on display again in Riley-Robb Hall at Cornell University.   (I guess I have been slow at getting this project done, since I have been prodded to get a portion of the collection into the display cabinets.  My geezer prerogative has been to do this project at my pace!)

     Today I completed a physical project employing my practical engineering skills.  At the end of our driveway we have a culvert that  with ends in need some form of retaining wall to beautify them.   So today I cranked up my 75 year old geezer body to move stones, dig soil and lay up a retaining wall on one end of our culvert.   See before and after photos.    Good day for the job since it was relatively cool.
It is nice to have a physical project that has defined boundaries with a beginning and end in one day.


    Being engaged in projects is a good way to be upbeat about each day and to look forward to tomorrow.   And I get my wife Nancy to admire my handiwork too!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Heritage Stories

The Battle Positions
   We are visiting friends in Rock Hill, South Carolina.   I guess you might call it the deep South where cotton still grows  and folks are more tuned into our national heritage than we are in the North.  Today  we had an interesting visit to Kings Mountain National Park of Kings Mountain, South Carolina.  By chance for us our visit occurred on  the 230th anniversary of the battle of Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War.   Enactors of the battle in period clothing were present and there was a special ceremony honoring the patriots and Tories that died in this battle.  We walked around the battleground to view the terrain and the positions of the opposing forces.   In this part of the country the Tories and patriots often could be neighbors  who had taken different sides in the conflict.   And as stated by the historical markers, the fighters even changed sides during the battle.  The Tories had only a few Redcoat members so this conflict was much different than the battle of Lexington and Concord.  In spite of the disadvantage of terrain and battle position the patriots prevailed.   And even brutally slayed many of the Tory survivors of the battle in retaliation for the brutal loss of patriot lives in a previous battle.   Brutality begetting brutality.   No different today in our current wars.

Hand to Hand Fighting
All of this has caused me to reflect on the tipping points on the development of the United States.   It seems our great nation have survived manifold crises in its history.   The Kings Mountain battle was considered one of the turning points in the Revolutionary War and was helpful in bringing an end to the Revolutionary War in 1783.   England could have sent more troops and pursued the war more forcefully but chose not to and thus the patriots prevailed.   I guess I had not appreciated how differently the Revolutionary War played out in the South.

Again I am surprised how much our cultural conditioning influences our view of history and the world.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When is Data, Data?

     The other day I was discussing the poverty situation in the United States with a friend and I quoted some statistics from a newspaper article showing that over the past 20 or so years the wealth in the United States has been more and more distributed to the wealthy.  In fact we are at a point where there is the largest disparity in wealth distribution in history.  According to the article we are becoming a third world like nation of haves and have-nots.   My friend challenged this claim by saying that he was suspicious of the data.    Perhaps he has a point.   However, I remember a book written by Bartlett and Steele who were  reporters with  the Philadelphia Enquirer about 20 years ago where through tax return data they demonstrated the migration of wealth from the lower wage earners to the wealthy.   I would expect others could do the same thing.   When  we get into policy arguments or political arguments we often simply pick the data that supports our point of view.    Wouldn't it be useful if we could agree on the validity of a set of data and then argue policy from that point on?

     Today I heard  the Toxic Assets Relief Program is likely to recover all but 50 billion of the bailout dollars.   Although 700 Billion was allocated only about 375 billion was distributed and now only 160 Billion is outstanding.   Some even say there is a possibility that the government might make money on this deal.   However, on the street, the view is there was  a 700 billion dollar give away.   I get discouraged with the mentality that says, "Don't confuse me with the data (facts), my mind is made up".  I would prefer to argue the merits of  TARP from this data regardless of ones political persuasion.

     I served on the Moravia Central School Board of Education from 2000 to 2003.   We had our share of sensitive issues to deal with and the accompanying controversies.  In some cases we were able to resolve the issues with a focus on the data.   It was my mantra when things got hot and heavy.   I would try to remind my colleagues, parents and community to look first at the data.   After I left the Board I am pleased to say my advice was remembered by many of my fellow board members.  Probably that legacy has died out by 2011 but I still think the approach is fundamental.

       I guess I still look for the better day when our decision makers will look at the data and commit to finding the truth rather than twisting the information to their particular advantage.  Will they ever focus on really serving the people who elected them?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oak Trees

     On Friday I walked down Tower Road on Cornell Campus in the shade of some magnificent oak trees that hover over the side walk on the the north side of the road.   Acorns were crunching under my feet to remind me that from acorns mighty oak trees grow.   I first walked down this sidewalk in the Fall of 1953 as a transfer student to Cornell from a disastrous year at Syracuse U.   The oaks at that time were probably only six or so inches in diameter.   However, now some of these trees 57 years later are over three feet in diameter.   I like to think of these oaks as geezer trees.  A metaphor for aging with magnificence.   However, not all these trees are healthy.    On the north side of the road the environmental condition is one of good soil, protection from the road salt.  On the south side, the same age oaks are scraggly, and stunted with many dead limbs.   They are simply struggling to survive.   For years head in parking on the south side has ruined the soil with winter salt baths and compaction of the soil.    It is a regrettable situation.

So if these trees are a metaphor for aging into geezerhood perhaps it has a message about how to survive with honor.   Geezers need a healthy environment that protects us from the ravages of bad elements.    Over time if we let the bad stuff creep in, we will suffer just like the oaks in the salt bath.   Meanwhile, if we have cultivated good life and surrounded ourselves with supportive family, followed a healthy diet and life style we can reign like the mighty oaks.   And we will enjoy the success of the acorns we produced developing into human trees making a difference in the future society.